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Al Aasy team to let dust settle following Coronation defeat

Connections of Al Aasy have yet to firm up plans for his next outing following his narrow defeat in the Coronation Cup at Epsom on Friday.

The William Haggas-trained four-year-old was a hot favourite to successfully graduate to Group One level, having dominated his rivals in the successive Group Three races at Newbury this spring.

The Sea The Stars colt looked sure to prevail after coming from the rear to lead in the final furlong, but was ultimately beaten a neck by the rallying Pyledriver, with the pair pulling clear of dual Group One winner Japan in third.

Angus Gold, racing manager for Al Aasy’s owners Shadwell Estate Company Ltd, said: “Having gone a neck up, it was disappointing not to maintain it. Anyway, he ran a good race and they were seven lengths clear.

“If you took the winner out he’d have won on the bridle and everybody would be saying what a good horse he was.

“We’ll regroup and see how he comes out of it and then make a plan.”

Al Aasy holds an entry in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot next week, while the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at the end of July will also be considered.

Gold also raised the possibility of Al Aasy dropping back in trip before the end of the year.

He added: “The one thing I would say in the horse’s defence is they’ve always said to me he shows a lot of speed in his work. He got outstayed the other day. Whether he didn’t quite home, I’m not sure.

“There is a possibility he might come back to a mile and a quarter at some stage. I think we need to run him over a mile and a half on a more conventional track, hopefully on less severe ground, and see where we are.

“I would imagine it (Hardwicke Stakes) would be too soon, but I haven’t spoken to William about it yet. It will be that or the King George, or we decide to drop him back in trip and go for something shorter.”

Later on the same afternoon the Shadwell team had high hopes of claiming Classic glory with Zeyaadah in the Cazoo Oaks, but Roger Varian’s filly ultimately disappointed behind the brilliant Snowfall.

Zeyaadah (left) was well beaten in the Oaks
Zeyaadah (left) was well beaten in the Oaks (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“She certainly didn’t get home, but having said that she wouldn’t have won it at a mile and a quarter,” said Gold.

“It would have taken something to win the race – she (Snowfall) was thoroughly impressive.

“My own feeling is I’ve never thought of her as an Oaks filly. I think back to our previous Oaks winners and I would have been surprised to have put her in that category.

“I think she’s a very nice, tough filly. We’ll bring her back to a mile and a quarter for a Group Three or Group Two, again on a more conventional track.

“We’ll look for options later in the summer. She can always go back up in class if she merits it.”

Pyledriver digs deep to see off Al Aasy in thrilling Coronation Cup

Pyledriver battled back in the closing stages to deny Al Aasy and lift the Coral Coronation Cup at Epsom for his first Group One triumph.

Al Aasy headed Martin Dwyer’s mount in the final furlong, but Pyledriver (8-1) rallied in determined fashion on the rail to snatch the verdict by a neck for the relatively new training partnership of William Muir and Chris Grassick.

Dwyer made a brave move at halfway when he took the bull by the horns and sent Pyledriver into the lead after Highland Chief had taken them along.

Albaflora tried to put in a challenge, but it was Al Aasy who cruised alongside under Jim Crowley and looked like he could take the leader.

The 7-4 favourite did hit the front but, with the rail to help, Pyledriver regained the initiative in the dying strides, as the first two drew seven lengths clear of Japan in third.

It was a landmark success for Dwyer who has now won all three of Epsom’s showpiece events, after the Oaks on Casual Look in 2003 and the Derby on Sir Percy in 2006.

Dwyer said: “He really dug deep. It was a tremendous race to ride in and I’m sure it was to watch. Two very good horses drew clear.

“He deserved to win a Group One. He’s won two Group Twos and mixed it at the top level. We’re just delighted he’s won his Group One and hopefully he can do it again.

“It’s special. If you’re not fashionable it’s hard to get good rides. Sometimes you feel you are defending yourself if you don’t win. Half my worry was losing the ride on him. When it comes right and you win a big race, you enjoy it that bit more. I’m very excited. He can only get better.

Martin Dwyer returns victorious with Pyledriver
Martin Dwyer returns victorious with Pyledriver (John Walton/PA)

He went on: “It’s great. It’s getting harder and harder. All the good horses are in the hands of a very few trainers now and I think that is why people like to see horses like this fella, and with his sporting owners as well, as the underdog to have a go on the big day and achieve something.

“On a personal level, I’ve got to say there’s times when I’ve hated racing, hated it, had bad days and driven home in a bad mood.

“But days like this, I can’t describe in words what I’m feeling inside – it’s just euphoria.

“This is a wonderful sport – anyone can achieve things, great things. I’m nearly crying – what’s wrong with me?

“You have to fight your corner and when I was doing well, I was nicking rides off other jockeys and that is the nature of the game. That makes it more special when you win.

“I love this place. I always have. I’ve had some great times here. I’ve been lucky. It’s a very special place, but it’s not an easy place. Things can go right and things can go wrong.

“My horse dug deep and battled back. He does veer off a bit and maybe that’s something we need to iron out because we’re not going to get away with it forever.

“It worked today, we got the rail. You can’t question the horse’s attitude because he could easily have given in there. Jim had me tight and gave me no room. He didn’t lie down, he came back.

“I’m 45 and it’s been great this season with older jockeys like Frankie Dettori, Kevin Manning and Franny Norton winning big races. You can’t beat experience.

“While I’m still able to kick one in the belly and push one home I’ll keep going.”

It was also a famous first Group One for Muir, who said: “I started training in 1990 and I’ve got touched off smidgens in Group Ones. Stepper Point got touched off in two and Averti got beaten in a photo in the Prix de l’Abbaye. I’ve never had a Group One winner and this is it – this is what we do it for.

“I’m lucky I’ve now got it. Chris Grassick has only been at the job five minutes and he’s got a Group One winner! Well done to Chris as well, who has gone to Bath.

“I’m came here thinking he’d win. I had a meeting yesterday with the owners at a service station and we decided we were going to make the running and change the bridle.

“When he went to Newmarket, I was in no place to say he was 100 per cent, as today was the day I wanted to win a Group One with him.

“He was very brave. If you watch it from the outside people ask ‘why does he wander, why does he do this and that’. It’s just in his make-up, I don’t know why he does it, but he is brave.”

Asked about future plans, he added: “It’s mapped out all year – Jockey Club Stakes, Coronation Cup, Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and then the King George.

“I should think we’ll look at the Arc later on in the year, if we’re allowed to go with Covid and everything.”

Dwyer – who is Muir’s son in law – added: “It was a special moment. William has waited a long time for his Group One. We’ve come very close, beaten short heads in Group Ones and this lad has been a bit frustrating at times.”

Meanwhile, William Haggas said of Al Aasy: “He came to win and didn’t win. I’m disappointed he was beaten, but it would be very hard to suggest it was lack of resolution. He’s only a Group Three winner and he’s run a very good race to be beaten only a neck in a Group One.

“He’s got more to offer I feel.”

Crowley added: “Fair play to the winner, who battled well. Al Aasy just lugged down the camber a little bit, but he’s run a big race.”

Al Aasy seeking to be crowned in Coronation Cup

William Haggas will not be using ground conditions as an excuse for Al Aasy should he come up short on his first start at Group One level in the Coral Coronation Cup at Epsom.

The Newmarket handler has made no secret of the regard in which he holds the son of Sea The Stars – and he has justified that confidence this spring with two dominant displays in Group Three company at Newbury.

Al Aasy faces a step up in class and is likely to encounter a much faster surface on Friday, but Haggas is unconcerned.

He said: “The ground is what it is. I think the ground will be fine, not an excuse – he goes on the firm. It won’t be that bad, either.

“He’s as good as we can have him – we’re very happy with his condition.”

Aidan O’Brien has saddled a record eight previous winners for the Coronation Cup and this year is represented by full-brothers Japan and Mogul.

Dual Group One winner Japan endured a largely underwhelming season in 2020 – but got the current campaign off to a winning start it the Ormonde Stakes at Chester.

Japan (left) winning the Ormonde Stakes at Chester
Japan (left) winning the Ormonde Stakes at Chester (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

O’Brien said: “Japan is a lovely horse. We’re just putting a line through his runs last year.

“I remember Ryan (Moore) riding him in the Arc two years ago and he was over the moon with him and was really looking forward to him.

“We were delighted with him in Chester and we hope he’ll keep progressing. The plan was always to go the longer trip to give him confidence. Ryan was delighted with him in Chester.

“He had a very good run in the Derby as a three-year-old (finished close third). Hopefully he’ll be happy going back there again.”

Mogul winning at Goodwood
Mogul winning at Goodwood (Dan Abraham/PA)

Mogul, who has also won twice at the highest level, was last seen finishing third in the Prix Ganay at ParisLongchamp.

“Mogul improved an awful lot from Dubai to France. In France they went very slow which wouldn’t have suited him and the ground went against him as well,” O’Brien added.

“He’s been working very nicely as well. Seamus (Heffernan) rides him. I don’t think he’s ridden him in a race before, but he knows him well and rides him in most of his work.”

Pyledriver did not fare so well on his previous visit to Epsom, having endured a troubled passage in last year’s Derby.

However, the Harbour Watch colt did win the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Great Voltigeur at York as a three-year-old and made a promising return when runner-up to Sir Ron Priestley in the Jockey Club Stakes a month ago.

William Muir, who now trains in partnership with Chris Grassick, said: “I’m looking forward to it. He’s in good form, everything has gone how we would want it to go since Newmarket and he’s ready for this race.

“What happened in the Derby happened four furlongs after leaving the stalls. I haven’t got any concerns about the track.

“There’s some very, very good horses in the race, but it is a Group One – they’re not shoo-ins.

“There’s talk they might get a few thunder showers. Either way, the ground is not going to worry me.”

Ralph Beckett’s Albaflora and Highland Chief from Paul and Oliver Cole’s yard complete the line-up.

Al Aasy tops Coronation Cup field

Al Aasy heads seven contenders for Friday’s Coral Coronation Cup at Epsom.

William Haggas’ four-year-old is a hot favourite to strike Group One gold at the first time of asking following two comfortable Group Three successes this term, in the John Porter and Aston Park Stakes, both at Newbury.

Al Aasy will not have it all his own way though, with Aidan O’Brien fielding two top-class performers in full-brothers Mogul and Japan.

Japan returned to form with victory in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester last month, while Mogul has finished seventh in the Dubai Sheema Classic and third in the Prix Ganay in his two 2021 starts so far.

Both are no strangers to Epsom, with Japan having finished third in the 2019 Derby, while Mogul was seventh in the Classic last year.

Another horse familiar with the Downs is Pyledriver, who represents William Muir and Chris Grassick.

Pyledriver winning the Great Voltigeur at York last season
Pyledriver winning the Great Voltigeur at York last season (David Davies/PA)

The four-year-old endured a luckless run in last year’s Derby, but did strike Group Two gold at Royal Ascot and York, before finishing a fine third in the St Leger at Doncaster.

He warmed up for this outing by chasing home Sir Ron Priestley at Newmarket last month.

The Kirsten Rausing-owned pair of Alpinista and Albaflora, trained by Sir Mark Prescott and Ralph Beckett respectively, plus Highland Chief from Paul and Oliver Cole’s yard complete the line-up.

O’Brien planning dual Coronation Cup challenge

Aidan O’Brien is set to rely on Japan and Mogul in Friday’s Coral Coronation Cup at Epsom, with dual Classic-winning filly Love likely to wait for Royal Ascot.

Japan is rated the biggest threat to Al Aasy by bookmakers, having got his career back on track with a comeback victory in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester last month.

The four-year-old lost his way last season, having been beaten just half a length in third place in the Derby and won two Group Ones in 2019, and O’Brien is hopeful he can once again prove his worth at the highest level.

He said: “We’re very happy with Japan. We started him short (over a mile and a quarter) last year and we think maybe it was too much pressure on him too early and his season kind of fell to bits after that.

“We decided to start over longer this year. Ryan (Moore) thought it would suit him and the trip would help him get happy and relaxed and enjoy it, and we were delighted with his run in Chester.

“We think he’s progressed from the run. Mentally and physically we think he’s in a very good place.”

Japan is set to be joined by full-brother Mogul, who was last seen finishing third in the Prix Ganay at ParisLongchamp.

“At the moment we’re thinking of running the two brothers,” O’Brien added.

“I spoke to Ryan this morning and I’m not sure which he’s going to ride – he mightn’t be sure even himself yet.”

Love was a brilliant winner of last year's Oaks at Epsom
Love was a brilliant winner of last year’s Oaks at Epsom (Edward Whitaker/PA)

The Ballydoyle handler’s other entries for the Coronation Cup are last year’s Derby winner Serpentine, Broome and the aforementioned Love.

Broome is bound for the Hardwicke Stakes at the Royal meeting, while O’Brien feels Friday’s race might come a “bit too quick” for Serpentine after finishing down the field in the Tattersalls Gold Cup less than a fortnight ago.

O’Brien admits running plans may have been different had he managed to get a prep run into Love, who won last year’s 1000 Guineas and Oaks, but has been off the track since winning the Yorkshire Oaks in August.

He said: “Everything is good with Love. She’s wintered well and has been ready to run for a while now.

“There were some Group Threes at the Curragh and places like that we would have liked to start her off in, but the ground was bad so we didn’t, which is why Broome filled those slots in.

“She’s ready to go. We could have ended up in the Coronation if we’d had a run, but we didn’t, so we’re thinking about Ascot with her for the Prince of Wales’s.

“She did a half-speed this morning and looked very happy in herself, so we’re very happy.

“She should be nice and fresh for the second half of the year. The Arc has always been on her radar, but in an ideal world I don’t think we’d like to run her in bad ground, so it would depend on the weather at the time of the year.”

Monday Musings: New names in Epsom frame

There are Classic trials and Classic trials, but never before, I suggest, has there been a situation like that which leads into Friday’s Oaks, writes Tony Stafford.

I was about to trot out “Investec” as usual but checked and it’s now the Cazoo Oaks– yes, I wondered who they were too! There are 15 acceptors and it is possible to line up all bar one of them running in one of four races and all within a ten-day time-frame.

So there should be no excuse on whether the filly in question has trained on or indeed whether she will be fit. Only one of the 15 finished out of the first four – Martin Meade’s Technique, fancied for the Lingfield Oaks Trial but only seventh of eight behind the Archie Watson-trained 28-1 shot Sherbet Lemon.

Five of the eight that ran there, including runner-up Save A Forest, Ocean Road and Divinely reunite: the 1-2-3-4 that day are in the line-up.

There seemed only minimal evidence why the Aidan O’Brien filly Divinely should have attracted a gamble from an early last week’s 50-1 to one-fifth those odds, so a fraction of the 33-1 available about the first two home at Lingfield. But then she is a full-sister to Found, winner of a mere £5 million in prizemoney and a consistent improver throughout her three seasons’ racing.

Then again maybe a leaked whisper of a sensational Ballydoyle gallop might have had something to do with it. Anyway, the races in question in time order and in number of days before Friday start with the one-mile 1,000 Guineas (33) from which runner-up Saffron Beach and fourth home, the beaten Newmarket favourite Santa Barbara, come.

Three days later, the Cheshire Oaks at Chester, the race which first indicated Enable’s outstanding potential, revealed three more Oaks possibles and a more predictable outcome. The Mark Johnston filly Dubai Fountain, a daughter of Teofilo, beat Zeyaadah by a length with O’Brien’s La Joconde fourth in what was clearly a scouting mission for the girls back home.

Lingfield, which we dealt with above, was three days after Chester and the final link in the Classic chain came another four days on, so just over three weeks before the big race. The Musidora Stakes at York, run over slightly more than ten furlongs provided a surprise O’Brien winner in Snowfall, living up to the tradition of abrupt form progression from two to three for horses from that stable. The daughter of Deep Impact – do not worry, the dam is by Galileo – swamped the principals in that market leaving Noon Star, Teona and Mystery Angel to fill the places at a respectful distance.

The only outcast from those four tightly arranged and informative indeed series of races is Willow, the fifth and possibly on form the least feasible of the Coolmore contingent. She was third in a Naas Group 3 on Lingfield Oaks day and is, so far, winner of one race in five (a maiden), so normally just an also-ran.
But then you notice that the daughter of American Pharoah is out of Peeping Fawn who, at the time she ran in the 2007 Oaks, also just had one maiden victory from five career starts. She did not run at two but packed in five runs before the end of May, finishing a more than creditable third in the Irish 1,000 Guineas.

Despite that she was a 20-1 shot for Epsom, hardly surprising as she was stretching out from a mile to a mile and a half and only five days after her third behind the brilliant Finsceal Beo. In the event she easily outperformed the trio of other O’Brien candidates when a half-length second to Sir Henry Cecil’s Light Shift with the stable number one All My Loving four lengths back in third.

For the rest of the summer Peeping Fawn was supreme in winning four Group 1 races in succession, the Pretty Polly, readily from the previous year’s 1,000 Guineas heroine Speciosa; the Irish Oaks, emphatically turning around Epsom form with Light Shift; the Nassau at Goodwood and then the Yorkshire Oaks, wrapping up her 10-race, five-win career in 144 days.

So if Willow does turn up on Friday I wouldn’t put you off having as my friend Prince Pippy always says – and I’m sure he’s missing going racing as much as me – a chip each-way on her.

It’s a very different Oaks this year with no Gosden, Charlie Appleby or Wiliam Haggas runner, but Roger Varian is upholding the Newmarket challenge with three contenders along with Sir Michael Stoute, veteran of many Classic triumphs over the past 50 years and Hugo Palmer, a 2,000 Guineas winner with Galileo Gold (ironically not by Galileo, but with him as the broodmare sire) and now proud progenitor of two winners from his first crop including Listed winner Ebro River, hero of the National Stakes at Sandown for Palmer last week.

The Oaks would already have fallen to a Hugo Palmer filly had his Architecture not had the misfortune to be in the same age group as the amazing Minding, comfortable winner of the race five years ago. Architecture was an excellent second.

There are at least three names in addition to Martyn Meade that do not fall easily from the tongue in relation to Group 1 fillies’ races. The afore-mentioned Archie Watson’s filly Sherbet Lemon, despite her almost-unconsidered status as a 33-1 shot, did extremely well to hold off a quartet of challengers around Lingfield and that race has been a more promising indicator of events at Epsom than was the case in the early part of this Millennium. Still regarded as more of a two-year-old “get-‘em-out-and-run-‘em” trainer, there seems to be more of a measured approach these days. As Watson’s stable grows into its new coat, so Hollie Doyle keeps pace and more.

That prospect of a first Classic for her is almost too exciting to contemplate but virtually guaranteed to happen one day.
If Watson used to be that specialist trainer, George Boughey, with the help pf Amo Racing’s big-spending Kia Joorabchian, has smoothly stepped into his shoes. A former Hugo Palmer assistant, he has all the hallmarks of a future top five trainer.

The name Chapple-Hyam has been notable in Classic terms and Peter of that ilk trained two Derby winners, Dr Devious and Authorized. At the time of his training for Robert Sangster from his Manton stables, Chapple-Hyam was married to Jane, daughter of Sangster’s second wife, the former Susan Peacock.
In 1992 not only Dr Devious brought Derby success, but the outstanding miler Rodrigo De Triano won the 2,000 Guineas and Irish 2,000 Guineas.

Over the past decade while her former husband has been operating on a much smaller scale – though with little sign of diminished talent – Jane Chapple-Hyam has gradually shown her own skills as a handler. Starting in 2006 she had tremendous success with multiple stakes-winner Mull Of Killough, trained for some of the younger members of the Sangster family, headed up by Sam and his nephew Ned and now her step-brother Ben’s wife Lucy with James Wigan and Lucy’s son Olly own Saffron Beach.

Winner of her only two races at two, a maiden and then the Group 3 Oh So Sharp Stakes, both over seven furlongs at Newmarket, Jane has kept the daughter of New Bay to the same track this year.
She reappeared in the Nell Gwyn, finishing runner-up to Sacred and then comfortably left Sacred behind in sixth in the 1,000 Guineas, staying on strongly past Santa Barbara into second behind that filly’s stable-companion Mother Earth who did not let the Classic form down with her second to Coeursamba in the French 1,000.

There are plenty of potential stories, but save a Hollie win, Jane Chapple-Hyam winning a race for her step-nephew and step-sister-in-law would run it close. There are certainly worse 12-1 shots around to waste our money on.

It would be great if Love could turn out earlier in the afternoon in the Coronation Cup. We only saw her once after her two Classic wins, by almost five in the 1,000 and nine in the Oaks. That later five-length win in the Yorkshire Oaks seems so long ago. It would be nice to see her challenge the fast-improving Al Aasy for William Haggas and the French colt In Swoop who has carried on the good work this spring after that excellent second in the Arc last October.

As to the Derby, you tell me, although it is hard from here to look past the favourite Bolshoi Ballet who won the same two races that his sire Galileo did before his triumphant run in the Derby. In winning the Ballysax Stakes and then the Derrinstown Stud Stakes, Bolshoi Ballet has convinced Ryan Moore he is the most uncomplicated colt he has ever ridden. I believe him.

-TS

Al Aasy and Love feature in Coronation Cup confirmations

Hot favourite Al Aasy and dual Classic-winning filly Love are among 11 confirmations for the Coral Coronation Cup at Epsom on Friday.

The William Haggas-trained Al Aasy is a warm order to successfully step up to Group One level, having looked every inch a top-class colt in winning successive Group Three prizes at Newbury this spring.

Love, who was a brilliant winner of both the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and the Oaks at Epsom last season, has not been seen in competitive action since winning the Yorkshire Oaks in August.

Love was an imperious winner of the Oaks
Love was an imperious winner of the Oaks (Megan Ridgwell/PA)

Aidan O’Brien recently raised the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot as her likely comeback target, but she retains the option of returning to Epsom next week.

The Ballydoyle handler, who has saddled a record eight previous winners of the Coronation Cup, has also confirmed Broome, Japan, Mogul and last year’s Derby hero Serpentine.

Should Love not make the trip across the Irish Sea, Japan would look to be O’Brien’s chief contender after making a winning start to his campaign in Chester’s Ormonde Stakes.

Pyledriver showed himself to be a force to be reckoned with last year
Pyledriver showed himself to be a force to be reckoned with last year (Edward Whitaker/PA)

Pyledriver is set to represent William Muir and his training partner Chris Grassick.

The Harbour Watch colt won the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Great Voltigeur at York last summer and made a promising reappearance when runner-up in the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket in early May.

Highland Chief (Paul and Oliver Cole), potential French raider In Swoop (Francis-Henri Graffard) and Kirsten Rausing-owned fillies Albaflora (Ralph Beckett) and Alpinista (Sir Mark Prescott) are the other hopefuls.

Muir sets sights on Coronation Cup date for Pyledriver

William Muir was delighted with Pyledriver’s seasonal reappearance on Saturday and will run his stable star next in the Coronation Cup at Epsom next month.

The Lambourn trainer expects the four-year-old to be “perfect” for the Group One over the Derby course and distance on June 4 after he blew away the cobwebs with a highly-encouraging effort in the Jockey Club Stakes.

Muir felt Pyledriver tired in the closing stages but ran a big race nevertheless in running the race-fit Sir Ron Priestley to two and quarter lengths in the Group Two at Newmarket.

“He’s come out of his race really well. His legs are grand, he’s trotted well, he’s eaten his food, he’s fine,” he said.

“He was probably just shy of match fitness and that left him a bit fresh. I did that on purpose as this race wasn’t the first and foremost.

“My main objective is to win Group Ones with him this year.

“The ground was very quick and, getting tired that last bit, he just rolled around, but he’s come out of it well. That will settle him.

“We’ve finished second in a Group Two and we’re in great shape for going forwards.

“He goes straight to Epsom now for the Coronation. Win, lose or draw, he was always going to go there. He will be perfect come Epsom.

“There will be no excuses there and there were no excuses on Saturday. Sir Ron Priestley was better than we were.

“Pyledriver had a little light canter on Monday morning. We’re very pleased and it’s onwards and upwards.”