There are two Group 1 events run on the Friday of Royal Ascot and, in some ways, they couldn’t be more different from one another. Although they’re both aimed at three-year-olds, the Commonwealth Cup is for both colts and fillies and is a sprinter event that was first run in 2015. The Coronation Stakes, on the other hand, has been taking place at the Royal Ascot meeting since 1840 and is limited to three-year-old fillies. Run over seven furlongs and 213 yards, its title is in reference to the coronation of Queen Victoria, who came to power two years before the race’s inauguration.
When the present system of gradings for races came in in 1971, the Coronation Stakes was given the rating of Group 2. It wasn’t upgraded to become Group 1 for a further 16 years, but has maintained the grading ever since. It often features fillies that have previously taken part in the likes of the 1,000 Guineas, the Poule D’Essai des Pouliches or the Irish 1,000 Guineas. Tahiyra is an example of a horse to win one of those races and the Coronation Stakes in the same season, which she managed in 2023 on the back of winning the Irish 1,000 Guineas.
As things currently stand, the Coronation Stakes is penultimate Group 1 event to be run during the week of Royal Ascot, with the other being the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes that is run on the Saturday. The race is limited to three-year-old fillies and the weight information is nine stone and two pound. Run over seven furlongs and 213 yards on the right-handed track, the first ever outing of the event was won by a horse called Spangle. The 1874 winner, Apology, actually went on the complete the ‘Fillies’ Triple Crown’ when she won the 1,000 Guineas, the Oaks and the St. Leger.
It isn’t uncommon for winners in the Coronation Stakes to then be aimed at the likes of the Prix Du Haras or the Prix Rothschild at Deauville later in the season. The Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket is also one that horses successful in this race might be entered into. The fillies equivalent of the St James’s Palace Stakes, which is limited to colts, the Coronation Stakes is noteworthy for the fact that the most successful jockeys in the race are both from bygone eras, with Nat Flatman enjoying five wins between 1844 and 1851 and Morny Cannon’s five victories happening between 1892 and 1898.
It is worth noting that the same sort of thing is true when it comes to the race’s most successful trainer, given the fact that John Porter’s first win came with Lovely in 1883 and his sixth and final victory came courtesy of Lowood in 1898. Things are a little more modern in terms of successful owners, with Waldorf Astoria, 2nd Viscount Astor getting seven wins between 1910 and 1936. It goes without saying that no horse has won it more than once on account to the fact that it’s limited to those fillies aged three, but Frankie Dettori did win it twice before retiring.
About The Race
When Queen Victoria was coronated in 1838, there was an obvious clamour to get a race added to the Ascot schedule that honoured her rise to power. That race was the Coronation Stakes, with the logic behind the name being rather obvious. It has been limited to fillies from the word go, as well as to horses aged three. When the British Champions Series was created, the race was added to it as part of the Fillies & Mares category. Both the English and Irish 1,000 Guineas come before it, so it is easy to have some idea of how the horses are likely to do against one another, given that they’ll already have gone up against each other twice before heading to Ascot.
Ever since it was created and added to the Ascot calendar, the Coronation Stakes has been considered to be a key race for the top female mile racers. That can be evidenced in the success of Winter in the race, who added three other Group 1 events to her name in the same season when she also won the 1,000 Guineas, Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Nassau Stakes in 2017, making her one of the best fillies to win the event in the modern era. You have to go back to 1904 to find a horse doing something similar, which was when Pretty Polly won this, the 1,000 Guineas, the Oaks Stakes, the Nassau Stakes and the St. Leger Stakes.
Records around the timing of the winner of the race began being kept in 1980, with Cairn Rouge actually setting one of the longest winning times with just shy of one minute and 46 seconds. Gold Splash won the race in 1993 despite coming home at a time of a little over one minute and 47 seconds, which is the longest run to date. The quickest time was achieved by Alpha Centauri in 2018, with the Jessica Harrington-trained mare making it home in 1:35.89, showing the difference that both the strength of the field and the Going can make to a horse’s ability to race around the field.
The fact that the Coronation Stakes has been taking place for nearly 200 years means that there is plenty of information that we can give you about it, as well as a fair few bits of trivia that you might find interesting. Of course, such information can change quickly, which is the result of the fact that it is an on-going race that will have any number of interesting things happening each year.
A Classic Pre-Cursor
If you look at the list of horses that have won the race over the years you will see a wealth of those that have also won a Classic or two. Even just in recent history you’ll note that Russian Rhythm won it in 2003, Attraction did so in 2004, Ghanaati managed it in 2009 and Winter was successful in 2017, all of whom also won the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket. Whilst it isn’t a guarantee that a horse who does well in this will also be able to win one of the Classics, history suggests that it is at least worth keeping an eye on those that cross the finish line first.
Keep Your Eye On The Favourite
Over a 20 year period that spanned from 2002 to 2022, eight of the favourites or joint-favourites managed to win the event. Russian Rhythm was odds-on at 4/7 to do so in 2003, with the same thing applying for Winter’s 4/9 in 2017, so there isn’t necessarily a huge amount of value to be head from betting on the favourite. Even so, it isn’t all that common to see a shock result in a Group 1 race and the Coronation Stakes is a good example of that. When Watch Me won at odds of 20/1 in 2019, that was about as surprising as it gets in this Royal Ascot race.
The Friday of Royal Ascot features two contrasting Group 1 races in the form of the Commonwealth Cup and the Coronation Stakes. The Commonwealth Cup was established in 2015 and is a sprint event for three-year-old colts and fillies, whilst the Coronation Stakes has been a part of Royal Ascot since 1840. The Coronation Stakes covers a distance of seven furlongs and 213 yards and was initially rated as a Group 2 race when the grading system was introduced in 1971. It was upgraded to Group 1 status in 1988 and has maintained this rating ever since.
The race often attracts fillies that have previously competed in the 1,000 Guineas or other prominent races. Notable winners include Tahiyra, who achieved victory in the Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Coronation Stakes in the same season in 2023. The Coronation Stakes holds historical significance as a race dedicated to Queen Victoria’s coronation, which occurred two years before its inauguration.
It is part of the Fillies and Mares category in the British Champions Series. The race’s timing in the calendar allows for comparisons between the performances of fillies in the 1,000 Guineas and Irish 1,000 Guineas leading up to Royal Ascot.