Starman primed for Maurice de Gheest challenge

Ed Walker believes July Cup hero Starman could be better than ever ahead of his bid for further Group One honours in France on Sunday.

The Dutch Art colt looked a top-class sprinter in the making after winning his first three career starts last season – and while he floundered in soft ground on Champions Day at Ascot, he made an impressive return in the Duke of York Stakes in May.

Testing conditions at the Royal meeting led to his withdrawal from the Diamond Jubilee, but he proved his Group One quality with a brilliant display on the July Course, and Walker could not have been happier with his stable star ahead of the Prix Maurice de Gheest.

He said: “I can’t wait, to be honest with you. I just wish it was scorching hot over there, but there’s always something to worry about.

“He’s in cracking form and we’re super excited, so fingers crossed.

“Everything has gone very well since the the July Cup. (Judged) on his last piece of work, I think he’s improving, dare I say it.

“He’s in flying form.”

The biggest threat to Starman could be Wesley Ward’s Campanelle.

Campanelle winning the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot
Campanelle winning the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot (Megan Ridgwell/PA)

The American challenger won the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot and the Prix Morny at Deauville last summer – and returns to France off the back of doubling her Ascot tally in the Commonwealth Cup.

“She’s there and in good shape and Frankie (Dettori) is riding, so there are no worries,” said Ward.

“I think there are a lot of showers around and that is going to suit Campanelle just fine.

“We’re excited.”

Rohaan is enjoying a fantastic season for trainer David Evans, with victory in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot his fourth of the campaign.

He disappointed behind Starman in the July Cup, but Evans is anticipating a much-improved performance in France.

He said: “He’s in good order and I’d just write off his run in the July Cup, to be honest. He’s better than that.

“Everything was against him – he was probably on the wrong side, we probably made too much use of him, the ground was a bit quick and I don’t think he likes that track.

“I the trip, the track and the ground will suit him much better this weekend.

“It makes a change to be involved these races – it’s a lot easier training a good one than a bad one!”

Ralph Beckett’s Lennox Stakes winner Kinross, the Archie Watson-trained Glen Shiel and Kevin Ryan’s veteran sprinter Brando add further weight to the British challenge.

Irish hopes are carried by Aidan O’Brien’s Lope Y Fernandez, Ken Condon’s Laws Of Indices and Joseph O’Brien’s Thunder Moon.

The latter pair were split by just a head when first and second in the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville four weeks ago.

Condon said: “Everything has been good since the Prix Jean Prat. It’s good he’s had a nice break and he’s been training nicely, so we’re looking forward to heading back over with him.

Ken Condon with Law Of Indices
Ken Condon with Law Of Indices (PA/INPHO)

“I think the ground might be a bit drier than the last time, but he’s versatile ground-wise.

“It’s a very good race, as you would expect for a prestigious Group One.

“We’re happy to having Olivier Peslier riding our horse again and we hope he runs well.”

Of Thunder Moon, O’Brien told Betfair: “We were thrilled to see Thunder Moon get back on track in the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville last time, as his first two runs of the season had been very disappointing.

Joseph O'Brien has high hopes for Thunder Moon
Joseph O’Brien has high hopes for Thunder Moon (PA)

“The drop in trip seemed to help him and he was only just touched off by Laws Of Indices. This even shorter trip should be fine for him and the less testing ground will definitely be in his favour, as we considered taking him out of the Prix Jean Prat on account of the softening ground.

“The better the ground, the better his chance.

The home team includes Marianafoot, who steps up to the top level for the first time following a remarkable winning sequence.

Trainer Jerome Reynier said: “He has won seven in a row and was tried over a straight course back in April at Chantilly and handled it well.

“Six and a half furlongs is a bit of a long trip for the sprinters, but he has won over seven and I think he’s got a good chance.

“This is the logical next step and we’re looking forward to it. It’s a pretty good race and it will be good to try him against this sort of opposition.

“If we can step up onto the podium, we will be delighted.”

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