As the world’s premier flat racing event, Royal Ascot has long captivated racing enthusiasts with its unparalleled spectacle and fierce competition. Year after year, the finest equine athletes and their skilled handlers converge on this hallowed ground, vying for the coveted trophies and the glory that comes with emerging victorious. At the heart of this electrifying atmosphere lies a persistent question: can the favorites maintain their dominance, or will the underdogs spring a surprise?

Analyzing the Favorites’ Track Record

Delving into the data, it becomes evident that the favorites have indeed enjoyed a remarkable run of success at Royal Ascot. Over the past five years, a staggering 43 outright favorites have emerged victorious, along with an additional 5 joint favorites, accounting for a remarkable 26.37% of the total races. This trend is particularly pronounced in the non-handicap events, where the favorites have won an impressive 30.58% of the time, though their performance in handicaps has been slightly less dominant at 18.03%.

When we further dissect the data, some intriguing patterns emerge. In the 3-year-old-only races, the favorites have enjoyed an even greater success rate, claiming 30.88% of the victories. Conversely, the 3-year-olds and up category have seen the favorites struggle, with a win rate of just 13.79%. Similarly, the 4-year-olds and up have seen the favorites triumph in 27.78% of the races.

What factors contribute to the favorites’ consistent performance at Royal Ascot? One key element is the sheer quality of the horses that command such lofty pre-race expectations. These equine superstars have often proven their mettle in the preceding season, establishing themselves as the cream of the crop. Their proven ability to perform on the biggest stages, combined with the expertise of their trainers and jockeys, make them formidable contenders.

Moreover, the favorites tend to attract significant support from the betting public, further reinforcing their status. This influx of wagers can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the bookmakers adjust the odds accordingly, making it increasingly challenging for the underdogs to overcome the favorites’ advantages.

The Exceptions to the Rule – Royal Ascots Long Shot Winners

Horses Running in Race
Neale Cousland / bigstock

While the favorites have undoubtedly dominated the proceedings at Royal Ascot, there have been instances where the underdogs have risen to the occasion. In the past five years, the average starting price of the winning favorites has been a relatively modest 3.39, with the highest being 4.13 in 2022. This suggests that there have been ample opportunities for savvy punters to capitalize on the occasional upsets.

One such example was the victory of Valiant Force in the 2023 Norfolk Stakes, who defied his 150/1 odds to claim a stunning triumph. Similarly, the 2022 winner of the Wokingham Stakes, Saint Lawrence, prevailed at 22/1, underscoring the fact that even the most heavily backed favorites can be toppled under the right circumstances.

Flashmans Papers: A 100/1 Stunner in the Windsor Castle Stakes

In the 2008 edition of the Windsor Castle Stakes, the unheralded Flashmans Papers, trained by John Best and ridden by Steve Drowne, pulled off one of the most remarkable upsets in Royal Ascot history. Completely overlooked by punters, the bay colt was priced at a staggering 100/1, joining a sextet of other long shots in the 25-runner field. However, Drowne’s patient ride and Flashmans Papers’ late burst of speed allowed the outsider to surge past the favorites in the final furlong, securing a half-length victory that left the crowd and bookmakers alike in a state of utter disbelief.

Fox Chapel: The Quirky 100/1 Champion of the Britannia Stakes

The story of Fox Chapel’s triumph in the 1990 Britannia Stakes is one of true underdog triumph. Trained by the legendary Richard Hannon Sr., the son of Formidable had shown little promise leading up to the race, struggling to even finish in the top half of the field in his previous outings. Saddled with a 7lb claimer and attempting a new distance of a mile, Fox Chapel was dismissed as a 100/1 longshot. However, under the guidance of jockey Gary Hind, the quirky gelding defied all expectations, galloping alone on the soft ground to secure a stunning victory, leaving the rest of the field far behind.

Nando Parrado: The 150/1 Sensation in the Coventry Stakes

The 2020 Royal Ascot meeting will be forever etched in the memories of racing fans for the emergence of Nando Parrado, who became the biggest-priced winner in the history of the prestigious event. Trained by Clive Cox and ridden by Adam Kirby, the juvenile colt had finished a distant fifth on his debut at Newmarket, leaving him completely off the radar of punters. Sent off at a staggering 150/1, Nando Parrado stunned the racing world by surging to victory in the Coventry Stakes, leaving his rivals in his wake and etching his name in the annals of Royal Ascot as the most improbable winner in modern times.

Amfortas: The 66/1 King Edward VII Stakes Conqueror

The 1996 renewal of the King Edward VII Stakes, often referred to as the “Ascot Derby,” featured a remarkable upset in the form of Amfortas. Bred in Ireland by Airlie Stud, the late-developing colt had finished well down the field in his previous three starts, leading bookmakers to offer generous 66/1 odds on his chances. However, under the guidance of jockey Brett Doyle, Amfortas made all the running, holding off the favored Shantou and Prize Giving to secure a stunning victory that left the racing world in awe.

Cosmic Sun: The 66/1 King George V Handicap Champion

In the 2009 edition of the King George V Handicap, the Richard Fahey-trained Cosmic Sun pulled off a remarkable 66/1 upset. Carrying just 7st 12lb and hampered by being 3lb out of the handicap, the three-year-old colt had been a maiden going into the race, with his only previous successes coming as a runner-up on five occasions as a juvenile. However, the step up in distance to 1m4f proved to be the key, as jockey Paul Hanagan expertly guided Cosmic Sun to a length-and-a-quarter victory over the heavily favored Zarinski, cementing his place in Royal Ascot lore.

Nijoom Dubai: The 50/1 Albany Stakes Heroine

The 2007 Albany Stakes witnessed the triumph of Nijoom Dubai, a maiden filly trained by Mick Channon and ridden by Jamie Spencer. Priced at a generous 50/1, Nijoom Dubai built upon her previous placed efforts to secure a decisive victory, leaving the 7/4 favorite in her wake and stunning the betting public with her unexpected triumph.

Lucayan Prince: The 50/1 Jersey Stakes Conqueror

In the 1996 Jersey Stakes, the David Loder-trained Lucayan Prince emerged as a 50/1 victor, much to the delight of racing enthusiasts. The three-year-old colt had struggled to build upon a solid juvenile campaign, leading to the application of blinkers in a last-ditch effort to reignite his form. However, the fast ground at Royal Ascot proved to be the key, as jockey Richard Hughes expertly guided Lucayan Prince to a length-and-a-half victory over the 4/1 joint-favorites.

Assatis: The Hardwicke Stakes’ 50/1 Surprise

The 1990 Hardwicke Stakes saw the triumph of Assatis, a five-year-old trained by Guy Harwood and ridden by Ray Cochrane. Facing a formidable field that included the likes of St Leger winner Michelozzo, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe champion Carroll House, and the mighty dual Derby star Old Vic, Assatis was dismissed as a 50/1 outsider. However, the horse’s lack of fitness on his first run of the season proved to be a mere blip, as he surged to victory, leaving the 4/5 favorite Old Vic in third place.

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