Royal Ascot: Happy Ending to Visa Saga as International Jockeys Cleared to Ride

One of the unique selling points of the Royal Ascot Festival is the significant international element to the meeting, with runners from France, the USA, Australia and more regularly making the trip to take on the best of the British and Irish Contenders.

Of course, all horses need a jockey, and these international stars come accompanied by a cast of the most talented overseas riders on the planet. At least, that is the plan. However, ahead of the 2024 edition, panic set in amongst these international jockeys and their agents following an email sent out by the BHA the week before the meeting, regarding the post-Brexit Visa Regulations. “Merely a reminder,” said the BHA; “that’s new to me,” said several agents, leading to a race against time to secure an International Sportsperson Visa for their clients. Panic ensued: the process usually takes around three weeks and grants the riders permission to ride for British trainers, in addition to the overseas runners they are flying in to partner.

Happily, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and, thanks to frantic behind-the-scenes efforts of all involved, Mickael Barzalona, Christophe Soumillon, and Maxime Guyon all received their visas in time. No doubt, the trio will hope those efforts pay off with an attractive book or rides for the British yards, but their best chances of a winner may come via the talented team of French thoroughbreds heading across The Channel.

Mickael Barzalona

  • Previous Royal Ascot Wins – Usherette (2016 Duke of Cambridge Stakes)

2024 Confirmed Rides

  • Queen Anne Stakes – Dolayli
  • Coventry Stakes – Symbol Of Honour
  • Wolferton Stakes – Knight
  • Prince Of Wales’s Stakes – Horizon Dore
  • Royal Hunt Cup – Silent Film
  • Windsor Castle Stakes – Calyxoh
  • Sandringham Stakes – Zenjabeela

Barzalona’s best chance of a winner comes aboard Horizon Dore in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. Third in the Champion Stakes over course and distance in October, the four-year-old was last sighted going down by just a head in the Group 1 Prix d’Ispahan.

Christophe Soumillon

  • Previous Royal Ascot Wins – Valixir (2005 Queen Anne Stakes), Ervedya (2015 Coronation Stakes), Perfect Power (2022 Commonwealth Cup)

2024 Confirmed Rides

  • Queen Anne Stakes – Big Rock
  • St James’s Palace Stakes – Darlinghurst
  • Wolferton Stakes – Haunted Dream
  • Prince Of Wales’s Stakes – Blue Rose Cen

Soumillon will bid to get the meeting off to a flyer, with his mount Big Rock well fancied for the opening Queen Anne Stakes. A six-length winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in October, he needs to bounce back from a subpar showing in the Lockinge Stakes.

Maxime Guyon

  • Previous Royal Ascot Wins – Byword (2010 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes), Solow (2015 Queen Anne Stakes)

2024 Confirmed Rides

  • Queen Anne Stakes – Facteur Cheval
  • Prince Of Wales’s Stakes – Zarakem
  • Royal Hunt Cup – Mirsky
  • Coronation Stakes Stakes – Rouhiya
  • Palace Of Holyrood House Stakes – Tazara
  • Hardwicke Stakes – Goliath

The opener looks like a strong race for the French, with Facteur Cheval currently vying for favouritism with leading home hope Charyn. Second to Big Rock in the QEII, he arrives in better form, having got up late to land the Group 1 Dubai Turf in March.