Battaash heads 16 contenders for King George honours at Goodwood

Battaash will face a maximum of 15 rivals in his pursuit of a remarkable fifth successive King George Qatar Stakes at Goodwood.

Charlie Hills’ record-breaking sprinter was joined among the six-day confirmations for Friday’s Group Two feature by Kevin Ryan’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint heroine and dual European Group One winner Glass Slippers – who was also runner-up in this race 12 months ago.

Ryan’s mare has not run since her victory at Keeneland last November – while Battaash also made a late start to his campaign, after a winter setback, when he managed only fourth as he sought to retain his King’s Stand title at Royal Ascot last month.

Also in potential opposition this time are Archie Watson’s three-year-old Dragon Symbol, second in both Royal Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup and then the July Cup at Newmarket.

David Griffiths’ Ornate and John Quinn’s filly Liberty Beach, third and fourth respectively in last year’s King George Stakes and behind Battaash again when down the field in the King’s Stand, may also both try again.

Quinn could also be represented by Keep Busy, while Tim Easterby’s pair of Winter Power and Art Power are further contenders of note.

The two Group Threes on the card are the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate Glorious Stakes and the Bonhams Thoroughbred Stakes.

David Simcock’s nine-year-old Desert Encounter won the former in 2019 and was second 12 months ago to William Haggas’ Pablo Escobarr. Both may return, among 22 remaining possibles – which include another for Simcock, Oriental Mystique.

Also in the reckoning are Jim Goldie’s in-form evergreen Euchen Glen and this month’s York Group Three scorer Hukum, for Owen Burrows – while Aidan O’Brien’s Group One winner Mogul may drop down in class.

The unbeaten Baaeed, for Haggas and Battaash and Hukum’s owners Shadwell Estate, takes the eye among 13 three-year-olds in the Thoroughbred Stakes.

In potential opposition are Shadwell’s Mutasaabeq, for Hills, Roger Varian’s El Drama and Charlie Appleby’s pair La Barrosa and One Ruler.

Royal Ascot day four – Ward hoping to carry on Camp-ing

A searing Royal Ascot week moves into a fourth day – and the Group One action on course shows no sign of letting up in the Coronation Stakes and Commonwealth Cup.

But the big question on Friday is if the weather will stay on message and, crucially for punters, keep the ground quick or if forecast thunderstorms will drastically alter the terrain.

As the three-year-olds take centre stage in both feature races, uncertainty over conditions is a potential game-changer for all concerned – be it the cream-of-the-crop fillies over a mile in the Coronation or the speed generation in the Commonwealth.

Aidan O’Brien supplies two Classic winners at the top of the market in the former – Mother Earth, superior on Newmarket’s good to firm ground in the 1000 Guineas but then only second in the French equivalent in more testing environs, and the supplemented Empress Josephine who came out narrowly on top in the mud at the Curragh.

Among their principal opposition, the ground is perhaps an imponderable for home hopes Primo Bacio and Alcohol Free – but at bigger odds, Fev Rover’s contrasting fortunes in the English and Irish Guineas indicates a definite preference for a sound surface.

Many of the Commonwealth speedsters’ connections will doubtless curse the rain if it comes in great quantity – although hot favourite Campanelle, bidding to double her Royal Ascot tally after last year’s Queen Mary Stakes victory, did also win on the Group One Prix Morny in the soft at Deauville.

The juvenile fillies kick off the quality as the card opens with the Albany Stakes – and after the three-year-old middle-distance colts have also done battle in the King Edward VII, handicap conundrums abound in the final three races.

For punters, the weather warning applies throughout – to make sure they are not on shaky ground.

The key to the Coronation?

Aidan O’Brien supplies the two likely market leaders in the Group One Coronation Stakes
Aidan O’Brien supplies the two likely market leaders in the Group One Coronation Stakes (PA)

It is four years since Aidan O’Brien last won the Coronation Stakes, with Winter. He has given himself an outstanding chance again this year, though, by supplementing Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine Empress Josephine to join stablemate and Newmarket Classic winner Mother Earth. There will be plenty second-guessing what that could mean – as it did, in different circumstances, when Ballydoyle’s potential six-strong Derby team was pared down, to no avail, to just Bolshoi Ballet. O’Brien is covering two bases this time – but his sons Joseph and Donnacha may yet outdo him, respectively with Pretty Gorgeous and Shale. The home defence, meanwhile, appears well-served too with Primo Bacio, Alcohol Free and several others.

Speed queen Campanelle back for more

Campanelle and Frankie Dettori won the 2020 Queen Mary Stakes
Campanelle and Frankie Dettori won the 2020 Queen Mary Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

American challenger Campanelle proved herself for the compelling Royal Ascot combination of trainer Wesley Ward and Frankie Dettori in last year’s Queen Mary Stakes. They conquered France in the Prix Morny too, but could not make it a top-level double at the Breeders’ Cup. She faces a field full of rivals with strong form and major potential – but she and the Ward-Dettori axis will be very hard to desert for many. Ward is famed for his winners here, but has so far had a disappointing week. Perhaps his luck will change.

Alenquer – can we trust the form book?

Alenquer (left) just got the better of Adayar in the Classic Trial at Sandown
Alenquer (left) just got the better of Adayar in the Classic Trial at Sandown (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Alenquer’s Sandown success from subsequent Derby hero Adayar makes him the outstanding candidate in the King Edward VII Stakes. The latter’s impressive Epsom performance was a revelation – but the question facing those trying to assess the likely outcome here is how much Adayar improved in his Classic victory. Alenquer beat him half a length back in April, but the reopposing Yibir was just a further neck back in third. Messages are therefore mixed.

Ascot arrival for Boughey in Albany?

George Boughey (centre) celebrating Oscula's victory in the Cazoo Woodcote EBF Stakes at Epsom
George Boughey (centre) celebrating Oscula’s victory in the Cazoo Woodcote EBF Stakes at Epsom (Mike Egerton/Jockey Club)

Newmarket trainer George Boughey is making a big name for himself in a breakthrough season, especially with his two-year-old string – three of whom are among the front eight in the betting for the Albany Stakes. It is surely a matter of when, not if, he opens his account at Royal Ascot. As Boughey nears 50 winners for this year, having already progressed exponentially from two in his debut campaign  in 2019, any one of Cachet, Hellomydarlin or Epsom winner Oscula could prove the first of many on this famous stage.