By the time the Commonwealth Cup is run, Ascot week is well underway. A Group 1 event that is limited to colts and fillies aged three, it was brought into the running order in 2015 when a new programme for sprinters was introduced around Europe. As a result of its arrival, the Buckingham Palace Stakes was removed from the meeting. Run over six furlongs, the weight information is nine stone and two pounds, with fillies given an allowance of three pounds. There is also a ten pound allowance that is put in place for horses that come from the southern hemisphere.
When the race was first run, it was open to all three-year-olds and that included geldings. It was the only Group 1 flat event that was run in Great Britain limited to three-year-olds but allowing geldings to take part. It was also the first race that restricted the age of entrants and allowed geldings to compete. That might well be part of the reason why a decision was taken in 2019 to exclude geldings and limit the race to fillies and colts. It is run on the straight at Ascot, with no jockey having won it more times to date than the now-retired Frankie Dettori.
The fact that the Commonwealth Cup is one of the youngest races run during Royal Ascot means that the information available about the event is limit. It was introduced in the wake of an announcement by the European Pattern Committee to see some improvements made to the sprint Pattern races around the continent. That included the addition of two new Group 1 races, with the Commonwealth Cup being one of them. It was brought in with the hope of seeing a more balanced programme for high-class sprinters, as well as better opportunities for the sprint horses.
It wasn’t the only change that was made to the sprint programme. The British Champions Sprint was upgraded to become a Group 1 offering, whilst the Pavilion Stakes, which took place at Ascot in April, was upgraded from a Listed event to a Group 3 one. The Director of Racing for the British Horseracing Authority, Ruth Quinn, said that the race’s introduction represented a ‘tremendous opportunity for British and European racing’, with the overall package of measures that came in offering a ‘significant step forward’ for British racing as far as sprinters were concerned.
The name assigned to the race, the Commonwealth Cup, is yet another example of the meeting’s links to the Royal Family. The Commonwealth of Nations, to give it its formal title, is an association of 56 member states that are mostly former territories of the British Empire. The British monarch is the head of the Commonwealth, which is often seen as a problematic example of Britain’s past. Royal Ascot has huge ties to the Royals, as we know from the likes of the Royal Procession and the presence of numerous Royal Family members at the races throughout the week, so the name is fitting in that sense.
About The Race
When the announcement was made about introducing the Commonwealth Cup to Royal Ascot, the Chief Executive of Ascot Racecourse, Charles Barnett, said, “We are very pleased to be able to stage what we hope will now become a significant new option for three-year-old sprinters at Royal Ascot before they go on to compete against their elders in the Darley July Cup and beyond.” That tells you a lot of what you need to know about the race, which is a chance for three-year-olds to be tested against their own age group before going up against older horses.
It was the eighth Group 1 race introduced to the racecourse, with just four having been run there at the turn of the millennium. Not only that, but none of those races were aimed at sprinters, whilst the introduction of the Commonwealth Cup meant that the meeting had eight Group 1 events and three of them were for sprinters. The fact that it is limited to three-year-olds obviously means that no horse has won it more than once, but Frankie Dettori managed to get two wins to his name in the short time that it existed before his retirement, with his first coming on Advertise in 2019 and the second on Campanelle in 2021.
The Commonwealth Cup is one of two Group 1 races run on the Friday of Royal Ascot, with the other being the Coronation Stakes. You can read about that in more detail elsewhere on the site, but it is interesting that two of the most prestigious race types take place on the penultimate day of the meeting. Its introduction to Royal Ascot came at a time of numerous different changes to the European racing scene, with the hope being that the changes would move to ensure that horse racing would be more exciting in general, with Ascot being something of a ‘focal point’.
Despite the race’s relatively short-lived time at the Royal Ascot meeting, there are still some interesting bits that we can tell you about it that might well capture your interest. Of course, the fact that the race hasn’t been taking place at Ascot for very long means that the information might well be out of date relatively quickly, but it still gives you a sense of how the race works.
Not Many Geldings Ran
There are probably several reasons why the decision was taken to stop geldings from taking part in the race, but one of the main ones might be the fact that not all that many were ever actually entered to run in it. In fact, just three geldings ran in the Commonwealth Cup between the first year that it was run and the decision to no longer permit them taking part in it in 2020. There was one each in 2015, 2016 and 2017, with none running in 2018 or 2019. That might well be as much to do with the fact that there weren’t many gelding sprinters as anything else, but it’s still interesting.
It Initially Replaced The Buckingham Palace Stakes
When the European Pattern Commission decided that more sprint races were needed and the Commonwealth Cup was created, room needed to be made for it in the Royal Ascot calendar. As a result, the Buckingham Palace Stakes was dropped from the roster ahead of the 2015 iteration of the meeting. It was considered to be a ‘mistake’ at the time, which might well have been part of the reason why it was brought back for the 2020 renewal of the meeting when it was expanded. Initially it was supposed to be a one-off, but when the meeting saw seven races take place a day, the race remained.
It Is A Quick Race
As you will no doubt imagine given the fact that the race is aimed at three-year-old sprinters, the race is over very quickly. At the time of writing, the fasted performance came from Advertise in 2019, when Frankie Dettori got the horse across the finish line in 1:11.88. That is almost a full five seconds quicker than the slowest run for a winner, which was also a Frankie Dettori performance. That came on the back of Campanalle in 2021 and took 1:16.67 for the horse to get across the finish line.
The Commonwealth Cup is a Group 1 horse race held during Royal Ascot week at Ascot Racecourse. Established in 2015, it is limited to three-year-old colts and fillies and is run over a distance of six furlongs. Fillies are given a three-pound weight allowance, whilst horses from the southern hemisphere receive a ten-pound allowance. The race was introduced to enhance the sprint Pattern races in Europe and provide better opportunities for high-class sprinters. Originally open to all three-year-olds including geldings, the race was later restricted to colts and fillies.
It is run on the straight at Ascot, and jockey Frankie Dettori holds the record for the most wins in the event at the time of writing. The race’s name reflects the association of the Royal Ascot meeting with the Royal Family. The Commonwealth Cup is a chance for three-year-olds to compete against their peers before taking on older horses in subsequent races. It is one of two Group 1 races held on the Friday of Royal Ascot, along with the Coronation Stakes. The introduction of the Commonwealth Cup expanded the number of Group 1 races at the meeting and provided a dedicated sprint race for three-year-olds.