Sir Michael Stoute feels quick ground will not be a problem as Bay Bridge bids to take his winning spree to six in Wednesday’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
Royal Ascot’s day two highlight features four horses who have all won at the highest level taking on a warm favourite in Bay Bridge, who seeks to strike in Group One company at the first attempt.
Bay Bridge is a typical Stoute improver who has won his last five races, including a deeply impressive in the Group Three Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown last month.
The Newmarket handler’s string is in sublime form heading into the meeting as Bay Bridge bids to add his name to a list of the yard’s former winners of the race – Hard Fought, Stagecraft, Poet’s Word and Crystal Ocean.
However, the master of Freemason Lodge, who attempts to land a third renewal of the 10-furlong prize in six seasons, is under no illusions as to the task facing the James Wigan and Ballylinch Stud-owned son of New Bay.
Stoute said: “Bay Bridge performed very well at Sandown, where he was very impressive, but he is now taking on much tougher opposition, so it’s going to be interesting.
“He showed promise from the first time he won and he’s continued to progress.
“He seems in fine shape and I don’t think fast ground will be a problem. It’s going to be a fascinating race and we are looking forward to it.”
In a race that forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series, Bay Bridge will face stiff competition from Japan in the form of Shahryar, who was third to Contrail in the Japan Cup and recorded a famous success in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March.
The Hideaki Fujiwara-trained four-year-old drops back in trip, with big-race jockey Cristian Demuro maintaining the partnership after riding him to victory in Dubai.
Yasuhiro Matsumoto, manager of Northern Farm, who bred the Deep Impact colt, says he has settled well since his arrival and sees Royal Ascot as an important stepping stone for Shahryar’s potential future as a stallion.
“The transportation went well, especially as Shahryar had experience transporting to Dubai,” said Matsumoto.
“As a horseman, I want to win races in the UK with Japanese horses. It is a dream and a real honour for us to have runners at Royal Ascot. Many people think the Arc is the pinnacle, but I think many of the best sire-making races are in the UK.”
With the ground tightening up and no sign of rain in the forecast, Shahryar may have his optimum conditions and there is sure to be huge interest in Japan, despite the strength of the opposition and the 12.40am local post time.
Matsumoto added: “Shahryar’s optimum distance is 2,000m to 2,400m (a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half).
“Bay Bridge is going to be a strong competitor. In general, when we see high-level international sport, people are fascinated, and I think this will apply to Royal Ascot.”
State Of Rest has won at the highest level in America, Australia and France for Joseph O’Brien, and almost made it four successive Group/Grade One wins, only to go down half a length to Alenquer in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh last month.
The Starspangledbanner colt rates a danger, especially with the trainer in excellent recent form, along with the tough French raider Grand Glory, winner of six of his 18 stakes races for Gianluca Bietolini, including last season’s Group One Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville.
Winner of the 2020 renewal and dual Dubai Turf hero, Lord North completes the select line-up, with the training partnership of John Gosden and his son and Thady hoping a change of tactics might see the six-year-old in a better light than when a close-up fourth in the Tattersalls Gold Cup.
“Lord North has won the race before, but we are very frightened of the Japanese horse and another very good horse trained here in Newmarket called Bay Bridge,” said Gosden senior.
“Our fella is a grand horse and I think he needs to be ridden a little differently compared to the Tattersalls Gold Cup, when he sat too close to the pace.
“I think it is going to be a fabulous race, as it should be.
“I like Bay Bridge – he has always been a lovely horse and, to me, he could be better than the rest.”