Best Coventry Stakes Winners of the 21st Century

Ascot Racecourse Entrance

The greatest racing show of summer is now mere days away as Royal Ascot struts into view once more. Bringing Royal Processions, an international cast of stars, and no fewer than 19 Group class contests, Britain’s classiest meeting remains one of the most anticipated festivals of the year.

Each of the five days features at least one high-quality two-year-old event and – whilst all have plenty to recommend them – the pick of the bunch comes in the shape of the Coventry Stakes, which immediately follows the Queen Anne Stakes on the opening day. A consistent source of future Group 1 winners throughout its lifetime, here we take a look at five of the best from the current century.

5. 2011: Power

  • Trainer – Aidan O’Brien
  • Sire – Oasis Dream
  • Peak Career Rating – 117

No trainer has mastered the Coventry Stakes to anything like the extent as Ballydoyle maestro, Aidan O’Brien. First winning the race with Harbour Master in 1997, by 2019, O’Brien had notched up eight more wins to rocket clear as the most successful trainer in the history of the race. No surprise then that it is O’Brien who dominates this list, and we kick things off with his 2011 winner, Power.

Arriving at Ascot with a record of two wins from as many starts, Power’s reputation and racecourse performances saw him sent off as the 4/1 favourite in a bumper field of 23. Beginning his charge at the furlong pole, he had to work pretty hard for it, but ultimately got the job done to
edge out Roman Soldier in a cracker.

The way Power hit the line that day suggested a step up in trip may suit, and that certainly proved to be the case, with the colt going on to land the National Stakes over 7f, and the Irish 2000 Guineas over a mile.

4. 2016: Caravaggio

  • Trainer – Aidan O’Brien
  • Sire – Scat Daddy
  • Peak Career Rating – 122

O’Brien’s second entry is provided by one of the greatest sons of the strong speed influence Scat Daddy, who has an excellent record at this meeting, having sired the likes of Lady Aurelia, Sioux Nation, and No Nay Never.

Caravaggio followed a similar path into the race as Power, having comfortably despatched his maiden and Listed rivals in two previous outings. A hugely impressive physical specimen, towering over many of his rivals in the paddock, he was duly sent off as the 13/8 favourite under Ryan Moore. With the field splitting into two distinct groups, it briefly looked as though Caravaggio was on the wrong side of the argument… and then the afterburners kicked into gear.

Following up that blistering success with a devastating win in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes, Caravaggio added a second win at the Royal meeting when returning to master the talented Harry Angel in the 2017 edition of the Commonwealth Cup.

3. 2012: Dawn Approach

  • Trainer – Jim Bolger
  • Sire – New Approach
  • Peak Career Rating – 125

The all-Irish theme continues as we move from the yard of one Classic-winning trainer to another. Despite being sired by Derby winner, New Approach – who also hailed from the Jim Bolger operation – Dawn Approach was all about speed as a juvenile, cutting a swathe through the two-year-old division to end his debut campaign with six wins from as many starts.

Invariably much too good for the opposition throughout that 2012 season, it was in this race that he faced his toughest challenge, as Aidan O’Brien’s Cristoforo Colombo and Olympic Glory from the yard of Richard Hannon Snr laid down a stern challenge.

Following up with far easier wins in the Vincent O’Brien Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes, Dawn Approach’s finest hour then came when blitzing the field in the 2013 edition of the 2000 Guineas.

2. 2007: Henrythenavigator

  • Trainer – Aidan O’Brien
  • Sire – Kingmambo
  • Peak Career Rating – 125

Of Aidan O’Brien’s nine winners in the race, the pick of the bunch for our money is 2007 champ, Henrythenavigator. Whilst not quite so good as Dawn Approach as a juvenile – and his exact equal on peak career ratings – this Kingmambo colt edges second spot courtesy of his exceptional exploits during his Classic campaign.

Henrythenavigator arrived at Ascot with just the one previous start to his name and was taking a huge step up in class. With Mick Kinane doing the steering, he proved more than up to the task. Anyone sensing a little déjà vu when watching that 2016 success of Caravaggio may well have been recalling this race, with the manner in which Henrythenavigator tracked the leaders before storming up the centre of the track being eerily similar to the horse who would follow in his hoofprints nine years later.

That win seemed to take the edge of Henrythenavigator though, who lost his two subsequent starts at two, only to roar back to form as a three-year-old, landing the English and Irish 2000 Guineas, as well as the St. James’s Palace Stakes, and Sussex Stakes.

1. 2009: Canford Cliffs

  • Trainer – Richard Hannon Snr
  • Sire – Tagula
  • Peak Career Rating – 127

It’s a close call for the number one spot, but the official handicapper rates 2009 hero Canford Cliffs as the best of the bunch and we would tend to agree.

Looking something a little out of the ordinary when demolishing his rivals by seven lengths on debut, he then came very close to repeating that winning margin when scorching the turf in this event.

Initially, there were fears that performance would prove a false dawn of greatness, with Canford Cliffs being turned over at odds-on in his two subsequent starts, and managing only third in the 2000 Guineas. However, the colt was only having a break from brilliance, going on to land the Irish 2000, St. James’s Palace Stakes, Sussex Stakes, Lockinge, and Queen Anne Stakes for a third Royal Ascot success in 2011. It took no less of a horse than Frankel to put an end to that winning sequence in the 2011 Sussex Stakes, a contest billed as the “Duel on the Downs”.