Considering its modern-day standing as arguably the best race of the whole Royal meeting, it's easy to forget that the Prince of Wales's Stakes spent the best part of 30 years as a Group 2 before it ascended to the highest level. It could be seen as life imitating art: our dear old Prince Charles, in whose honour the race was revived in the late-'60's, is a man whose life has been defined by waiting for an even greater ascension.
The King-in-waiting can take some comfort from the horses linked to this year's renewal. With the removal of Farhh (who would have fit the crown-prince-come-good narrative fairly well himself) following reports of injury, much of the attention will focus on Camelot who, like the current Prince of Wales, has been tantalisingly close to the Crown.
Camelot of course failed at the last when bidding for the Triple Crown in 2012, but even before the St Leger the feeling had been that it was a paucity of opposition, rather than truly extraordinary ability, that had led to him being in such a privileged position. Subsequent events have done nothing to shake that view. Defeated in the Arc on his only subsequent run at three, Camelot completed a simple task on his reappearance before coming unstuck in the Tattersalls Gold Cup against late-bloomer Al Kazeem.
Al Kazeem is also entered in the Prince of Wales's. Before he upset Camelot at the Curragh he wouldn't have been top of many shortlists for Royal Ascot, but that first Group 1 success strongly suggests that he's now coming to the peak a career that has already been punctuated by an ultimately unsuccessful bid to take him to Hong Kong and, more recently, a stress fracture to his pelvis. With bounce theorists assuaged by his Curragh success (he'd won the Gordon Richards a month before), Al Kazeem deserves to be treated as a Group 1 performer and is a potential usurper in the contest for the middle-distance crown.
With Snow Fairy out, the only remaining female entrant is The Fugue. She also has an entry in the Duke of Cambridge, though recent vibes in the market suggest she could be bound for this race. There's a chance that The Fugue could be underestimated in top events this season; after all she's a filly that, with a bit of luck, might have won the Oaks, the Nassau, the Yorkshire Oaks and the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf in 2012. Whether or not she'll be ready for her seasonal reappearance is the main question at this stage, with current odds of 10.09/1 reflecting that: if she was sure to arrive in peak condition, she would be the clear value pick at such a price.
The only other contender that seems sure to bid for the Prince of Wales at this stage is the French-trained Maxios. Always well regarded (he's a Monsun half-brother to Bago), Maxios has taken until this year to start fully repaying the faith. Wins in the Harcourt and d'Ispahan either side of a second-placed finish in the Ganay mean he's earned his place in this field, though strictly on form figures he'll have to improve for the slightly greater stamina test; that's not out of the question if his aforementioned pedigree is any guide.
Participation of the remainder is up for question to varying degrees. The Hardwicke Stakes in particular could claim some of the would-be participants, with that contest likely to be Red Cadeaux's Royal Ascot target, while it could also be the race in which we next see improving Brigadier Gerard winner Mukhadram.
It could be a smaller-than-average field that lines up for the Prince of Wales's Stakes next week but, in terms of quality, it looks up to standard. Camelot is sure to be the main draw, but in truth he'd be no better than third choice as far as this column is concerned. The Fugue will continue to be underestimated until she meets circumstances that will bring out the best in her, but on her seasonal return that time may not be now. Instead, take the safer option of Al Kazeem, who looks set to enjoy his best days after reaching what would normally represent a pensionable age. You'd certainly imagine the Prince can relate to that.
Back Al Kazeem @ 3.02/1 in the Prince of Wales's Stakes