The St. James’s Palace Stakes is a Group One race run over 7 furlongs and 213 yards on the Old Mile course at Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire, South East England. The race is named after St. James’s Palace, a former royal residence built by King Henry VIII, in the City of Westminster, London and is staged on the opening day of the Royal Ascot meeting, held annually in June. The St. James’s Palace Stakes established in 1834 and, following the creation of the European Pattern in 1971, was initially assigned Group Two status before being upgraded to its present Group One status in 1988.
The St. James’s Palace Stakes is open to three-year-old colts only, so naturally attracts horses that previously contested the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh and the Poule d’Essai des Poulains – a.k.a. the French 2,000 Guineas – at Longchamp. Indeed, the roll of honour for the St. James’s Palace Stakes features some of the highest-rated racehorses of all time, according to Timeform.
The 1947 winner, Tudor Minstrel, rated 144, had previously won the 2,000 Guineas by eight lengths and, according to some observers, could have done so by double that margin, or more. The 1971 winner, Brigadier Gerard, also rated 144, had also won the 2,000 Guineas, famously defeating subsequent Derby winner Mill Reef in the Newmarket Classic. The 1979 winner, Kris, rated a ‘mere’ 135 by Timeform, had suffered a narrow, shock defeat by Tap On Wood – ridden by a youthful Steve Cauthen – in the 2,000 Guineas, but would go on to win 14 of his 16 races. Much more recently, the 2011 winner, Frankel – whose rating, of 147, was the highest ever awarded by Timeform – arrived fresh from an impressive six-length victory in the 2,000 Guineas, but came as close as he ever did to losing his unbeaten record, but held on to win by three-quarters of a length.
The ‘Master of Balldoyle’, Aidan O’Brien, is the leading trainer in the history of the St. James’s Palace Stakes, with eight wins since the turn of the twenty-first century. Michael ‘Mick’ Kinane, erstwhile stable jockey at Ballydoyle, remains the leading rider, with six wins between 1982 and 2004.