The St. James's Palace Stakes is a part of the magnificent Royal Ascot Festival held every year in June. The Festival itself includes seven Group 1 races. The St. James is one of the opening events of the first day and is preceded by both the Queen Anne Stakes and King's Stand Stakes.
Horses competing in the St. James' Palace Stakes frequently perform in the 2,000 Guineas Stakes, the Poule D'Essai Des Poulains or the Irish 2,000 Guineas Stakes before moving on to the Royal Ascot Festival. With such an impressive set of preparatory races, it is no surprise that this juvenile race is one of the most anticipated and prestigious events of its kind on the British flat racing calendar.
The race is run over the distance of one mile at the historic Ascot Racecourse. This event is only open to qualifying, Group 1, three-year-old colts. Each is required to carry 9 stones. The turf track is right-handed requiring the thoroughbreds to bear right twice before reaching the finish. The first is a long, sweeping turn into the back strait followed by another right turn into the home straight. The final stretch of turf inclines represents a challenge to each horse's stamina.
Location: Ascot Racecourse
Grade: Group 1 Colts
Race Type: Flat
The race was inaugurated in 1834 and named after one of the Royal Residences established during the Tudor period - St. James's Palace. The first running of the race was a little anticlimactic. With only one contestant, it proved to be a walkover!.
For decades after its establishment, this race was open to both colts and fillies, however, the postwar era saw the race feature mainly top colts that either won or placed in top-class races. When the classification system was introduced in 1971, the St. James's Palace Stakes was initially classified as a Group 2 event. It was elevated to Group 1 status in 1988.
It has an unusually high purse for a juvenile race, with total prize money of £400,000. This reflects on how Group 1 prize money has risen sharply over the past few years. Compiled below are the stats for the St. James's Palace Stakes for the past decade with both winners and prizes (as of 2017).
As this race was established around the same time as the English Classics, its history is rich and filled with top-class thoroughbreds, owners, trainers, and jockeys. Below are a few of the current top records (as of 2017).
Lester Piggott remains one of the most successful jockeys to ever compete with five wins from Roan Rocket in 1964 to Bairn in 1985. Michael Kinane's record surpasses this with six wins from Dara Monarch in 1982 to Azamour in 2004.
Aiden O'Brien is one of the most successful trainers for the race in modern times with a record of seven wins from Giant's Causeway in 2000 to Gleneagles in 2015. On two occasions, there were three consecutive wins in a row. The first occurrence was with Giant's Causeway (2000), Black Minnaloushe (2001) and Rock of Gibraltar (2002). The last was with Excellent Art (2007), Henrythenavigator (2008), and Mastercraftsman (2009).
The current record holder for fastest time is 2017's Barney Roy with a time of 1m:37.22sec.
Few thoroughbreds have won both the Triple Crown and the St. James's Palace Stakes in the same season. These include: Ormonde in 1886, Rock Sand in 1903 and Bahram in 1935. To date, no modern thoroughbred has accomplished the same feat.
The St. James's Palace Stakes has seen many champions compete since its genesis over 180 years ago. Few can claim to be the best in the entire history of the race (as of 2017).
The 1935 winner of the St. James's Palace was Bahram. This thoroughbred is considered one of the greatest to run this race, as not only had he never lost a single race but also won the Triple Crown in the same year.
Another legendary three-year-old to win the St. James was Scepter. She remains the only thoroughbred to win four of the five English Classic races in a single season losing only in the Derby. That same year, in 1902, she also took the St. James's Palace Stakes for a total of five prestigious wins.
Modern legend Frankel won not only the St. James's Palace Stakes in 2011, but was undefeated in all races that year including the English 2000 Guineas, Sussex Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II. From 2010 to 2012, this colt remained unbeaten with 10 Group 1 wins and an impressive 14 wins from 14 starts. He is considered the best of his generation and one of the best to ever run in the St. James's Palace Stakes.