Ground comes in favour of Wonderful Tonight in Hardwicke

David Menuisier has warned that Wonderful Tonight will improve for her outing in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot on Saturday – but with conditions in her favour she may still be good enough to win.

A dual Group One winner at the end of last season, including on Champions Day over the course and distance she faces here, Menuisier is training his filly for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October.

As a result, he does not want her at concert pitch quite so early in the campaign, but given her love of soft ground and the fact she is the highest rated in the field, he would not be surprised if she won.

“She should really enjoy the conditions, the trip and ground are perfect but she’s running against race-fit, really good horses so we will go there respecting everybody and bearing in mind she is only 85 per cent fit,” said Menuisier.

“We want her to peak later on in the season. That doesn’t mean she won’t put up a lovely performance but I’m just saying, due to her exuberant style as well, she might want to do a bit much too early.

“Taking all that into consideration – I’m not making excuses – but I just want people to realise she hasn’t had two runs already like most of the others and she’s not ready yet to put up her best performance of the year, I expect her to improve 10-15 lengths hopefully.

“The Arc is her big aim this year and there are so many big races towards the end of the season, so it makes no sense to have her at 100 per cent first time out. I’m not going there thinking she’s unbeatable as her main target is later on.

“In saying all this it may be compensated by the fact she’s highest-rated and loves the ground – we’ll find out in the race!”

William Haggas runs two, the rapidly improving Ilaraab and Robert Escobarr.

“Ilaraab is rated 111 now and the other opportunity was the Fred Archer at Newmarket next weekend,” said Haggas.

Ilaraab (left) has been hugely progressive for William Haggas
Ilaraab (left) has been hugely progressive for William Haggas (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I’d have preferred to go Listed and then Group Three coming out of handicaps and I think he’s better left-handed as well, but he’s in good form.

“He’s a very interesting horse. He worked well this week with Addeybb so he’s got talent – but who knows.

“We’re running Roberto in a first-time visor and hopefully it brings out a bit of improvement.”

Aidan O’Brien was set to run four but the heavy ground resulted in both Melbourne Cup runner-up Tiger Moth and Mogul being declared non runners, leaving Japan and Broome, who narrowly failed to make it four out of four this season in the Tattersalls Gold Cup last time out, to fly the flag.

Ryan Moore had the choice and opted for Broome, telling his Betfair column: “Broome comes here on the top of his form and he was only a short head away from making it four from four this season in the Tattersalls Gold Cup last time.

“This has been the first time he has stepped up to a mile and a half this term, and that could easily bring about improvement in a horse beaten in a four-way photo for the Derby.

“He has a very solid look to him here, and he should handle conditions better than most.”

Highest Ground runs for Sir Michael Stoute who has won the race 11 times
Highest Ground runs for Sir Michael Stoute who has won the race 11 times (Steve Davies/PA)

No one has won the race more times than Sir Michael Stoute – who has a remarkable 11 victories – and he is set to be represented by Highest Ground, although he disappointed on his only previous run on soft.

Owen Burrows’ Hukum won the King George V Handicap at the meeting 12 months ago and progressed to finish a close fifth in the St Leger. Soft ground should hold no fears as he won a Goodwood Listed race on it last time out.

Ralph Beckett’s filly Albaflora will certainly handle the ground judged on her demolition job in soft ground at Ascot first time out this season.

Sir Ron Priestley – a half-brother to Thursday’s Gold Cup hero Subjectivist – runs for Mark Johnston.

Hukum set for Hardwicke Stakes

Hukum will bid to double his Royal Ascot tally in the Hardwicke Stakes.

The Owen Burrows-trained four-year-old won the King George V Stakes at the summer showpiece meeting last season. He went on to follow up in the Group Three Geoffrey Freer at Newbury, before finishing fifth in the St Leger at Doncaster.

After placing fourth over 10 furlongs on his seasonal reappearance in the Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown in April, Hukum successfully stepped back up to a mile and a half in last month’s Listed Tapster Stakes at Goodwood – earning himself move to Group Two level next week.

Burrows said: “He’s been in good form since Goodwood, so the plan is to run in the Hardwicke.

“Aidan (O’Brien) will have one or two, I guess – it’s always a strong race.

“I’m looking forward to getting our horse back on some decent ground, and we’ll see what he can do.”