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Appleby hails Adayar after historic King George performance

If any further proof were needed that we are living in strange times, the fact Charlie Appleby missed his Derby winner Adayar following up in the King George And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes through self-isolation just about confirmed it.

It became apparent Appleby was not on track when his New Science won the opening Listed race – and his assistant Alex Merriam duly delivered the news why.

While Appleby later admitted his pain at not being present to witness his fine-looking colt become the first Derby winner since Galileo 20 years ago to follow up at Ascot, having already gone down in history at Epsom, it will soften the blow that he now clearly possesses the two best three-year-old, mile-and-a-half horses in training.

Adayar had stablemate Hurricane Lane back in third at Epsom, and that one has subsequently won the Irish Derby and another Group One in France, with the St Leger now on his agenda.

Appleby was surprised to see Adayar beat Hurricane Lane at Epsom, and subsequent events backed up that view, but the Derby hero was mighty again in front of around 15,000 spectators – who roared him home as the 9-4 winner – and he has now regained number one spot in the Godolphin team.

Pre-race, Appleby had said future plans would be dictated by this result – regarding who would be the yard’s main Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe contender – and with a host of Group One winners behind him, the Newmarket trainer feels Adayar is the one to beat.

Appleby said: “First and foremost, I’m delighted for His Highness (Sheikh Mohammed)  in what was an historical event – it’s been 20 years since the great Galileo won the Derby and the King George, and the horse deserves all the plaudits he is getting.

Adayar pulling away from multiple Group One-winners Mishriff and Love
Adayar pulling away from multiple Group One-winners Mishriff and Love (Nigel French/PA)

“It was a good Derby-  as we already knew – and coming into today, we were confident he was in great form. The ground wasn’t a concern, because he’d won on good to firm. I wouldn’t have used the ground as an excuse if he’d lost.

“It was a fantastic ride by William (Buick), who did all the right things, and it was a good race. When the bell went coming into Swinley Bottom, he put himself in the firing line and galloped all the way to the line.

“It was a great race to watch, a great race to be part of and most importantly for His Highness and everyone at Moulton Paddocks a great result.”

As for his absence, like millions of people, Appleby had been “pinged” by the NHS App.

“It’s bit of a pain not to be there. I saw the horse Wednesday morning – and that was the last time I was able to get to the yard and that was when he did his last piece of work. Of course, you’d love to be there for those historical moments – but my job was done. I have a fantastic team around me.

“I said to William this morning, he’s a fantastic jockey and knows his horses, riding them out all the time. It’s unusual for me to ring him before races, but I spoke to him three times today.

“I told him to jump to make it because he’s not quick enough to make the running, but jump as if you wanted to. Stamina is his strong suit, and I was confident something would take it off us. He then rode the perfect race.”

The general consensus at Appleby’s yard before the Derby was that Hurricane Lane was number one, with Adayar likely to head for the St Leger.

How the tables have turned.

“Pre-Derby we were thinking St Leger for this horse, and I told William to ride him as if it he stays a mile and six,” added Appleby.

“The conversations will be had, regarding the future. We’ll have a definitive answer within the next week but right now I’d be thinking this horse will be aimed at the Arc, with maybe the Prix Niel before it. Hurricane Lane will head towards the St Leger, and if he wins that in a fashion that makes the Arc achievable as well, then we’ll regroup after that.

“I’d be disappointed if people didn’t think Adayar was the best mile-and-a-half horse around – he’s won what looked a strong King George.

“He had the allowance, but that is there for a reason. I was confident he wouldn’t look like a three-year-old among them today – and looking on the TV, he didn’t look like the junior.

“He deserves to hold the crown, and I’d be confident he could hold it for the foreseeable future.”

Adayar is mighty in King George victory

Derby hero Adayar cemented his superstar status with an impressive victory in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot.

Charlie Appleby’s charge was the first Epsom winner to follow up in the 12-furlong Group One since Galileo in 2001, with jockey William Buick saluting the crowd as he passed the post with a length and three-quarters to spare over Mishriff.

Love, winner of last year’s 1000 Guineas and Oaks for Aidan O’Brien, was sent off the 13-8 favourite – but had to settle for third, beaten a further length and three-quarters.

Her stablemate Broome slightly fluffed his lines with a tardy start, but he eventually made his way to the front, setting a sound gallop with Adayar racing keenly on his heels for Buick.

Adayar, a 9-4 chance, was clearly travelling well throughout – and when Buick made his move turning for home, the Frankel colt lengthened his stride to assume control and kick for the line.

Mishriff, who raced at the back of the five-runner field, made significant headway in the final couple of furlongs. But Adayar had flown and he galloped out right to the line to give Appleby a first King George win.

William Buick after Adayar's victory
William Buick after Adayar’s victory (Nigel French/PA)

Buick said: “He jumped better than expected, because the eventual leader missed the break and came round us – which set me alight a little – but I wasn’t worried once I backed off the leader as I was sat in shotgun and in a lovely rhythm.

“He had that kick at the top of the straight and then did what we saw at Epsom, that resolute gallop all the way to the line.

“We all thought he was a good Derby winner, and he’s confirmed that today.”

Appleby and Buick have also enjoyed major success with Epsom third Hurricane Lane – landing both the Irish Derby and Grand Prix de Paris in recent weeks – and it is a purple patch that is not lost on the rider.

He added: “It feels amazing to ride these horses – they don’t come around very often, and I think I appreciate more these days. I think I showed that crossing the line! It’s great to win a King George on a Derby winner – it doesn’t happen very often. It’s 20 years since the last one.

“It’s great for Charlie too – he’s a great trainer.

“The horse is a consummate professional and has all the qualities of a top-class horse, that kick and the stamina. I really enjoyed that.”

Adayar on his way to King George glory
Adayar on his way to King George glory (Nigel French/PA)

Appleby was not at Ascot because he is completing a period of self-isolation after being pinged by the Covid-19 app – but the occasion was certainly not lost on him, even if he had to watch at home in Newmarket.

The Godolphin trainer said: “First and foremost, I’m delighted for His Highness (Sheikh Mohammed) in what was a historical event – it’s been 20 years since the great Galileo won the Derby and the King George, and the horse deserves all the plaudits he is getting.

“It was a good Derby, as we already knew – and coming into today, we were confident he was in great form. The ground wasn’t a concern, because he’d won on good to firm. I wouldn’t have used the ground as an excuse if he’d lost.

“It’s bit of a pain not to be there. I saw the horse on Wednesday morning – that was the last time I was able to get to the yard, and that was when he did his last piece of work. Of course you’d love to be there for those historical moments. But my job was done – I have a fantastic team around me.”

Adayar is a general 5-1 chance for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and is also favourite for the Cazoo St Leger at Doncaster. But Appleby is leaning towards the ParisLongchamp showpiece with his Ascot victor, leaving Hurricane Lane to head to Town Moor.

He added: “The conversations will be had regarding the future. We’ll have a definitive answer within the next week, but right now I’d be thinking this horse will be aimed at the Arc – with maybe the Prix Niel before it.

“Hurricane Lane will head towards the St Leger, and if he wins that in a fashion that makes the Arc achievable as well, then we’ll regroup after that.”

John Gosden, who trains Mishriff in partnership with his son Thady, was satisfied with the effort of his runner-up, who was conceding weight to the winner.

He said: “It was a super race. I’ve always said, I’ve been lucky enough to win it with Nathaniel, Taghrooda and Enable as three-year-olds – they get a lot of weight.

“I said it again after the Eclipse when it was 10lb, and here it was 11lb. It’s a lot.

“Ours has run an absolute blinder, but the winner is a rapidly improving colt. I thought he looked magnificent in the pre-parade ring and I thought ‘Houston, we’re in trouble here’ – but ours ran a blinder, and we’ll go to the Juddmonte to take on another three-year-old and give more weight away!

“There’s nothing wrong with that, though. I love to see the three-year-olds against their elders.”

Danyah delivers for favourite backers in International heat

Danyah gained due reward for a string of good efforts when just holding off Star Of Orion to win the Moet & Chandon International Stakes at Ascot.

The Owen Burrows-trained four-year-old had been placed in three big handicaps this season, including when second in the Buckingham Palace Stakes last time out.

Having travelled strongly to hit the front well over two furlongs out for William Buick, Danyah had to be game as the challengers mounted up.

It was Star Of Orion who got closest for Laura Pearson and Ralph Beckett – but even in receipt of lumps of weight, he could not get by.

“Watching it live, I thought he’d been done again, and it wasn’t until I saw the replay that I thought we’d won,” said Burrows.

“He travelled so well. It was not the plan to make it – but it was a concern that there was not a lot of pace around us.

“These handicaps clearly suit him – and while he’ll be rated high enough to go for a Listed or Group Three now, they won’t be run to suit him.

“He goes on any ground, I’d been eyeing the Balmoral (on Champions Day), because he handles plenty of cut, and I was actually a bit worried the rain hadn’t come today.”

After an agonising near-miss in the Princess Margaret Stakes, champion jockey Oisin Murphy registered another winner in what is proving to be a red-hot spell when Guru got up late in the Porsche Handicap.

Guru (right) just got the better of Marsabit
Guru (right) just got the better of Marsabit (Nigel French/PA)

Without a win since his debut, the John and Thady Gosden-trained three-year-old had run well on his last start at the track behind Isla Kai, a non-runner on this occasion because the ground was too quick.

Sent off a 7-2 chance, he caught Marsabit in the final strides to win by a short head.

John Gosden said: “He’d lost his way a bit but has come back very well and was a bit unlucky the other day.

“They went no pace today and I liked the way he had to get into the race from a long way out. He’ll get 10 furlongs in time but a strongly-run mile is what he wants now.”

When the Cambridgeshire was suggested as a possible target, Gosden replied: “You can say that – but I can’t, because the minute I do, he’d go up another 5lb!”

Spirited Guest triumphed for Rosie Margarson
Spirited Guest triumphed for Rosie Margarson (Nigel French/PA)

Rosie Margarson made a winning comeback after breaking her ankle in May to take the Longines Handicap aboard Spirited Guest.

The five-year-old, trained by the jockey’s father George, ran prominently throughout and prevailed as 100-30 joint-favourite in the event for female amateur riders.

Southern Voyage (2-1) landed the Sebastian’s Action Trust Handicap for trainer Archie Watson and jockey Daniel Tudhope.

Menuisier eyes Goodwood as Wonderful Tonight misses King George

David Menuisier will look towards Goodwood with Wonderful Tonight after ruling her out of the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot.

The four-year-old, winner of the Hardwicke Stakes at the Royal meeting on her reappearance last month, needed rain in Berkshire to take her place in Saturday’s Group One line up.

However, the forecast showers did not arrive in time – leaving Menuisier with no option but to skip the event with his stable star.

She is entered in the Group Two Qatar Lillie Langtry Stakes at Goodwood next weekend, and Menuisier will be eager to run in the 14-furlong heat if the ground is suitable.

He said: “When you train a soft-ground horse you always need a bit of luck, with races in the middle of the summer.

“She’s the filly of a lifetime with big targets in the autumn, so we’ve got to do right by her.

“We’d like to give Goodwood a go, and she’s entered in the Lillie Langtry Stakes, so could run there.”

Zain Claudette edges thriller in Princess Margaret

Zain Claudette just got the better of Desert Dreamer in a thrilling finish to the Princess Margaret Keeneland Stakes at Ascot.

Sent off a 15-2 chance for trainer Ismail Mohammed and jockey Ray Dawson, Zain Claudette cost just £20,000 as a yearling last September, but she has more than repaid that modest price tag with Group Three glory.

Crazyland raced keenly through the early exchanges, with Nazanin also happy to be on the front end as the eventual major players took up waiting positions further back in the 10-runner field.

It looked as though Oisin Murphy had timed his challenge to perfection in delivering 9-4 favourite Desert Dreamer on the far side of the track in the last of the six furlongs, but Dawson had other ideas on Zain Claudette.

She was flying on the near side of the track, with the pair neck and neck in the shadow of the post – and Zain Claudette edging it by a nose in a photo.

Delmona raced between the duo, eventually finishing a further neck down in third.

Zain Claudette (right) and Desert Dreamer were split across the Ascot track
Zain Claudette (right) and Desert Dreamer were split across the Ascot track (Nigel French/PA)

Mohammed said: “She’s a lovely filly and is doing very well. She worked very well last week.

“With each of her runs, she is improving. She’s had three runs, a second and two wins.

“We’re planning to go for some big races with her now – she’s already won a Group Three, so we’ll be looking higher than that.”

New Science strikes late for victory in Pat Eddery Stakes

New Science swooped late to take Listed honours in the Pat Eddery Stakes, the opening event on King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes day at Ascot.

Charlie Appleby’s colt was sent off the 2-1 favourite for the seven-furlong contest despite having disappointed when only seventh in the Chesham Stakes at the Royal meeting last month.

William Buick kept New Science well covered in the early stages, with just Nurseclaire behind him as Mr McCann set a steady gallop through the first half of the race.

Angel Bleu was the first to make his move in earnest, with a couple of furlongs to run, but Buick was tracking him on New Science – and once he gave him the signal inside the final furlong, New Science pulled clear to triumph by a length.

Angel Bleu drifted slightly across the track at the finish, but still held on to second with Cachet third.

Appleby was a notable absentee from the winner’s enclosure as the Godolphin handler is having to self-isolate after being pinged by the Covid-19 app.

Assistant trainer Alex Merriam said: “That was very pleasing. He pleased us the first day at Yarmouth, which turned out to be a half-decent race (Chesham runner-up Reach For the Stars in second), and then he obviously just didn’t handle the ground at Royal Ascot.

“I think it was as simple as that – we’ve just written that one off. Will said on the way to the start he knew he wasn’t handling it.

“He jumped nicely here, travelled well – and I’ve just spoken to Charlie, who said we’ll be looking to step him up in grade now.

“Something like the Solario could be a possibility. His pedigree screams a mile – it’s a staying pedigree, but the way Will rode him there, he said to stick to seven for the time being.”

Desert Dreamer aiming to deliver in Ascot assignment

Stuart Williams’ Desert Dreamer will bid to return to winning ways in the Group Three Princess Margaret Keeneland Stakes at Ascot.

The two-year-old began her career with successive victories at Newmarket before making the step up to Group Two level in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot, where she finished 10th of 21 runners.

Two trips to the July course at Newmarket then followed, where she finished just a neck behind System in the Listed Empress Fillies’ Stakes and was then the runner-up again when losing out to Sandrine in the Group Two Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes.

“We were very happy with her run in the Duchess Of Cambridge,” said Newmarket trainer Williams.

“She seems to have come out of the race really well, so we’re looking forward to running her on Saturday.

“She’s very tough and she takes her racing really well.

“I don’t think she’s ground dependent really. She obviously goes on fast ground, but she won on good ground earlier in the year so I wouldn’t mind it if it were good or even good to soft – it wouldn’t bother her at all.”

Karl Burke’s Attagirl also lines up after a convincing four-length victory in a Haydock maiden this month.

Her trainer expects further improvement.

“I think a lot of her,” said Burke.

“She’s a lovely filly, and I’m looking forward to seeing her run – she seems in great shape.

“She was impressive (at Haydock), and we think she can improve on that, so we’re very much looking forward to it.”

El Hadeeyah represents James Tate’s yard and will again cross paths with Desert Dreamer, who beat her into third when the two made their racecourse debuts in a Newmarket maiden in April.

She suffered two more defeats in May, but claimed her first victory on the all-weather track at Lingfield.

“She’s a filly we’ve always liked,” said Tate.

“She showed a lot of promise on her first run at Newmarket when she was third behind Desert Dreamer.

“Then she got lost a little bit on her next two starts, when the ground was softer than ideal, but she was back to form on the fast Polytrack at Lingfield last time.

“We thought we’d go black-type hunting in this race – six furlongs will suit her well if they don’t get too much rain.

“Fast ground should suit, and we’re hopeful for a good run.”

Richard Hannon’s System is well fancied, having beaten Desert Dreamer in the Empress Stakes, with Archie Watson’s Nazanin bringing a victory on her sole start at Newbury to the table.

Tom Dascombe’s Delmona is also engaged after her third place in the Super Sprint at Newbury last week.

Clive Cox’s Crazyland, Ismail Mohammed’s Zain Claudette, Rebecca Menzies’ winning Doncaster debutante Miss Calculation and George Boughey’s Sassy Rascal complete the field of 11.

Dreamloper bounces back for Valiant success

Dreamloper bounced back from Royal Ascot disappointment with an emphatic victory in the British Racecourses Join Sunflower Lanyard Scheme Valiant Stakes.

A winner at the Berkshire circuit last season, Ed Walker’s filly was sent off favourite to double her Ascot tally at last month’s showpiece meeting in the Kensington Palace Stakes, but could only finish in midfield.

Stepping up to Group Three level for the first time on her return to the same course, the four-year-old looked to have plenty on her plate, with the returning Fillies’ Mile runner-up Indigo Girl and the prolific Lights On among her rivals.

But ridden confidently by champion jockey Oisin Murphy, 13-2 chance Dreamloper moved smoothly onto the heels of the leaders passing the two-furlong marker before quickening up in brilliant style to leave the chasing pack trailing in her wake.

Lights On narrowly beat the slow-starting Waliyak to the runner-up spot, some four and a half lengths behind the impressive winner, with 11-8 favourite Indigo Girl only fourth on her belated seasonal reappearance.

Walker said: “We were so confident going into Royal Ascot – and we still have no idea what happened there, I’ve never found a reason. She just ran flat at a time the horses were running great. There were no excuses.

“Today she showed how good she could be. Oisin was very good on her as well.

“I must give a massive shout to Molly Stratton, who rides her every day. She’s not the easiest filly, and Molly has done a great job with her.”

Considering future targets, the trainer added: “We’ve no plan in mind, but she’s won a Group Three there – so it will be Group Twos and Group Ones now.

“The Sun Chariot could be a shout – but she’d have to take on (stablemate) Primo Bacio!”

Murphy was impressed with the filly’s performance, saying: “She was much more relaxed today, and Ed was thrilled with how she’d been going at home.

“It was a huge step up on what she’s achieved so far, but it was very satisfying to see her go and do that, with her owner here as well.

“Why not step up higher? I’m not sure what races are in mind, but you’d hope she could step up a level.”

Love and Adayar clash in classic renewal of King George contest

Superstar filly Love and Derby hero Adayar lock horns in a mouth-watering renewal of the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes.

The midsummer highlight invariably throws up a clash of the generations – and this year’s renewal at Ascot on Saturday is no exception, with Classic form from last year and this put to the test.

Aidan O’Brien’s Love dominated her rivals when completing a Classic double in the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks last season, while victory in the Yorkshire Oaks was supposed to set her up for a tilt at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

The daughter of Galileo ultimately missed out on a trip to Paris – but having looked as good as ever when making a successful return in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot last month, she is a hot favourite to provide her trainer with a fifth King George success.

O’Brien said: “We were delighted to be able to give her the run in the Prince of Wales. She ended up making the running, but she’s very straightforward and very genuine – and everything has gone well with her since.

“She’s very versatile – she had the pace to win a Guineas and seemed to get the Oaks trip very well.

“For any Flat horse, you want nice ground – and she’s a nice mover.”

The Ballydoyle handler has a second string to his bow in the form of Broome, who has won four of his six starts this season and was last seen breaking his duck at the top level in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud three weeks ago.

Broome (left) joins stablemate Love in the King George
Broome (left) joins stablemate Love in the King George (PA)

“He’s been running very well all year and gets a mile and a half well,” the trainer told Sky Sports Racing.

“He loves to bowl along. In an ideal world you’d like to get a lead, but he is a horse who likes an even tempo. We’d be delighted if someone gave him a lead – if not he’d bowl along himself, I suppose.

“He’s in good form and seems to have come out of his last race well.”

Adayar was the least fancied of three runners for Charlie Appleby in last month’s premier Classic, but could hardly have been more impressive in the hands of Adam Kirby.

That form has been boosted by stablemate Hurricane Lane, who has landed both the Irish Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris since finishing third at Epsom – giving Appleby hope Adayar can become the first horse since Galileo 20 years ago to complete the Derby-King George double.

He said: “It hasn’t been done since Galileo, so to take Adayar there is a huge occasion.

“What surprised us at Epsom was the turn of foot he showed halfway up the run-in, because we’d never seen it before. Post-race we analysed it, and Hurricane Lane probably wouldn’t have been able to quicken like Adayar did.

“We’ve seen what St Mark’s Basilica did for that generation in the Eclipse at Sandown, and now the three-year-olds go into the big-boy division over a mile and a half.

“I’d love to think he’s still developing. It will be interesting to see what the paddock watchers say on Saturday – but he looks fantastic, and I’d be confident if you didn’t know who he was you couldn’t pick him out as a three-year-old among the older horses.”

The other three-year-old in the six-strong field for the Qipco British Champions Series contest is the Martyn Meade-trained Lone Eagle, who was denied in the shadows of the post by Hurricane Lane in the Irish Derby a month ago.

Lone Eagle (left) fights out the finish to the Irish Derby with Hurricane Lane
Lone Eagle (left) fights out the finish to the Irish Derby with Hurricane Lane (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

With his rider Frankie Dettori bidding to add to a record tally of seven King George wins, hopes are high that Lone Eagle can etch his name on the illustrious roll of honour.

Meade said: “It’s all systems go, and we hope he can go one place better (than in the Irish Derby), but if we learned anything at the Curragh it was to put up with disappointment.

“It was just the worst thing, getting done on the line. He was so far clear two out, and we were just about reaching for the champagne at the furlong marker, so it was hard to bear.”

Mishriff enjoyed a hugely lucrative start to 2021 – completing a big-race international double with victories in the Saudi Cup and the Dubai Sheema Classic.

He had to make do with minor honours in third on his return from a break in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown three weeks ago, but is expected to strip fitter for the run.

Thady Gosden, who trains Mishriff in partnership with his father John, said: “He’s doing well. It’s obviously a tough race – most of the top horses around seem to be heading there.

“He’s come on for his run at Sandown and goes there in good enough form.

“He obviously ran in February and March, and it’s a long time to keep them going all season, so we thought we best give him a break before the summer.”

Motakhayyel leads hunt for International honours

Motakhayyel heads Shadwell Estate’s three-pronged attack, along with Danyah and Aldaary, on the Moet & Chandon International Stakes at Ascot.

The five-year-old, trained by Richard Hannon, was impressive when recording the second of his back-to-back victories in the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket two weeks ago.

However, he has to defy top weight of 9st 13lb on Saturday, including a 3lb penalty for his three-and-a-half-length demolition of 17 rivals.

“He was incredibly impressive the other day, with a lot of weight on his back,” said Shadwell’s racing manager Angus Gold.

“He killed the race, and it was probably his best ever run. Let’s hope he can back it up.

“He’s obviously got a lot of weight again – but he’s a star horse and has been an absolute gem for us.”

Danyah ran a good race when runner-up at Royal Ascot and will try to go one better back at the Berkshire track
Danyah was runner-up at Royal Ascot and will try to go one better back at the Berkshire track (Dan Abraham/PA)

Danyah, trained by Owen Burrows, has been placed in three big handicaps this season, the latest coming in the Buckingham Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in which he was second to Highfield Princess.

Gold said: “He’s very consistent. He ran a good race at the Royal meeting and deserves to win a big one.

“He wouldn’t mind a drop of rain if that appeared on Saturday. He’s a nice, solid horse.”

The William Haggas-trained Aldaary was not thought to be at his best when only fifth in the Buckingham Palace Stakes.

“He looked a really progressive horse last year,” said Gold.

“He won his first two starts very impressively, both on soft ground – (but) I don’t think he necessarily needs that.

“With hindsight, I think William and his team felt he wasn’t quite bouncing at the Royal meeting. He didn’t run a bad race. We just feel he’s a bit better than that.

“William has freshened him up, and he worked very well the other day. Let’s see how he gets on. There was talk of going to Goodwood, but William feels at the moment seven furlongs is probably the right trip for him.”

Dance Fever returned to form with victory at Leicester, on his second start following 11 months off the track.

The Clive Cox-trained four-year-old has a 3lb penalty for that success, but connections are expecting a good show as long as any rain showers are not too heavy.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing him run,” said Sam Hoskins, racing manager for owner Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds.

“He’s only 3lb higher than when he won at Leicester last time, and the form has been boosted since.

“We always thought he’s well handicapped, but he’s never had any luck with the weather. It always seems to rain when we want to run him in a big one.

“There are thunderstorms forecast. A bit of rain would be fine, (but) we wouldn’t want a washout.

“He’s handicapped to go close. He was meant to have a run before Royal Ascot – but it was so wet in May we couldn’t run him, and Ascot was a case of blowing the cobwebs away.

“He clearly needed it more than we expected him to, and it was good to see him back next time.

“He’s near the fancied horses. Hopefully he’ll go really well. He ran well at this meeting last year. We’ll be very hopeful he’ll be competitive, as long as the ground doesn’t turn soft.”

Hugo Palmer would like to see some rain for Acquitted.

“He’s been threatening to win one of these big handicaps, and I think he’s got one in him,” said the Newmarket trainer.

“He’d need rain to run, but that does look probable. We just don’t know how much.

“Good ground, we’ve absolutely no problem. If it stays good to firm he won’t run.”

Charlie Appleby is optimistic New Science can put his poor Royal Ascot run on soft ground behind him, with a big performance in the Pat Eddery Stakes.

The Lope De Vega colt was only seventh behind Point Lonsdale in the Chesham Stakes, but had looked a bright prospect when making a winning debut at Yarmouth in May.

He had Reach For The Moon a length and a half in second place that day, and that horse occupied the same position in the Chesham, just half a length behind the winner.

“He was disappointing, but it was very soft ground at Ascot last time,” said Appleby.

“John’s (Gosden) horse (Reach For The Moon) went on to finish second in the Chesham, and we finished down the field, but William (Buick) said he wasn’t happy even going to post on the ground.

“We’ve put a line through it. His homework has been good since – I’m pleased with his preparation, and if he can bounce back to his Yarmouth maiden form he’s a major player.”

Opposition includes the Tom Dascombe-trained Mr McCann, who was fourth in the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket, George Boughey’s Cachet, third in Newmarket’s Empress Stakes, and smooth Salisbury scorer Like A Lion, trained by William Muir and Chris Grassick.

Destiny Queen victory delights Baker

George Baker was delighted as Destiny Queen made a winning debut in the John Guest Racing British EBF Fillies’ Novice Stakes at Ascot.

Baker’s Surrey yard is not known for winners first time out, and Destiny Queen was sent off a 28-1 chance.

But the daughter of Al Wukair travelled sweetly for Pat Cosgrave – and when Pulcheria dropped away, she pulled two lengths clear of Loquace.

Baker said: “We never over-cook our two-year-olds – and as a result, we do have an average record because of the way we do things, but then we have horses who go on and have lovely, long careers.

“This filly, it’s such a cliché, but she’s always been on my mind as a three-year-old. I just wanted to get experience into her, maybe just one run today because she’s got to grow into her frame.

“I’ve always loved her, and that is a massive bonus. I’ve been with Pat Cosgrave a long time, and he doesn’t get over-excited very often. But he was excited by that – as am I.

“I know this isn’t D-Day, which is why it’s exciting. I know what I hope she might be, but I didn’t expect to see it today. There are some nice targets for fillies like her, but we’ll probably put her away and run her in the Guineas!”

Richard Hannon won the Anders Foundation British EBF Crocker Bulteel Maiden Stakes for the sixth time in seven years as Ehraz justified 4-9 favouritism with the minimum of fuss.

A valuable race for its type, only horses who had not run more than once could chase the £11,000 first prize – and the result was never really in any doubt.

Jim Crowley had the armchair ride, and said: “He was pretty impressive. He’s a smashing horse.

“He’s by Showcasing, so will be just as effective on good to soft ground as well. He has a lovely temperament.

“When I rode him work early on he felt like a seven-furlong horse, but he’s getting quicker with racing.

“We’ve had some lovely Showcasings – and he’s another.”

Paddy Power gave Ehraz a 33-1 quote for next year’s 2000 Guineas.

Speedo Boy (8-1) had been winless on the Flat for three years since his victory in the John Guest Racing Brown Jack Stakes in 2018, but he clearly thrives at this time of year – and duly regained his title in this competitive handicap.

Speedo Boy and William Buick won the John Guest Racing Brown Jack Handicap at Ascot
Speedo Boy and William Buick won the John Guest Racing Brown Jack Handicap at Ascot (Steven Paston/PA)

William Buick was determined not to let Silvestre de Sousa get loose on the front end, on bottom weight and favourite Star Caliber, and led two furlongs out en route to victory by two and three-quarter lengths.

Trainer Ian Williams said: “He hadn’t actually won for three years. He’s had a good hurdling career in the interim, but it’s great to have him back.

“He’ll probably come back for the Shergar Cup – he obviously likes it here.”

Mountain Peak (7-1) secured his ninth career win, in the nick of time when prevailing by a head in the Rotary Club Of Ascot Handicap.

Trainer Ed Walker, who also won the feature Valiant Stakes with Dreamloper, felt the race was set up perfectly for Mountain Peak – with Caspian Prince and Bedford Flyer going off like the clappers.

“God, they went fast but it was fun to watch – it was set up so well for him,” said Walker.

“He needs the ground as fast as possible, and he needs a good strong pace.”

Henry Candy’s Alfred Boucher (11-2) was rewarded after a string of consistent efforts when just edging out Grand Bazaar by a short head in the John Guest Racing Handicap.

“The trainer has finally realised he gets a mile and a half!” said Candy.

“He’s incredibly game, because he’s only a pony but he’s got a huge stride and a huge heart – and he wants to do it.

“He’s been unlucky a couple of times – the people that have ridden him have got a little too far back, and he just hasn’t quite got there, but David (Probert) gave him a cracking ride today. Hopefully the handicapper doesn’t go mad.”

Probert doubled up in the closing Berenberg October Club Supporting Cares Family Fillies’ Handicap, on the Michael Dods-trained Havagomecca (13-2).

York and Ascot all set for Saturday crowds

Officials at Ascot and York are ready to welcome racegoers for the first weekend meetings since many Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.

York are anticipating a figure of around 30,000 on Saturday, with a sell-out in all enclosures on the stands’ side of the course.

Ascot’s projected attendance will be around half that number – between 14,000 and 15,000 for a card which features the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes.

Nick Smith, Ascot’s director of racing and public affairs, said: “The King George is going to be a fantastic race. Hopefully they all stand their ground. We’re just waiting on the weather to have the final say.

“We’re forecast some rain overnight and in the morning. As we know from Royal Ascot (last month), predicting how much rain we’re going to get is nearly impossible. Hopefully we don’t get too much.

“We’d like enough to bring the whole field into it, but not so much that it turns the ground soft.

“We’re expecting a crowd of somewhere between 14,000 and 15,000 – it depends on walk-ups.

“We’d normally get between 24,000 and 25,000 for the King George. We’re obviously going to be some way short of that, but we wouldn’t want too many more than we’re going to have, to be honest. It’s better to have a manageable crowd – safety first.”

The weather is expected to be kinder at York, where McFly are in concert after racing – during which  the highlight will be the Sky Bet York Stakes.

James Brennan, York’s head of marketing and sponsorship, said: “Unlike the south we are looking at a dry and pleasant forecast, and the other remarkable thing is we have not had the Clock Tower (or Picnic) enclosure open in 21 months.

“Tomorrow we might reach the 30,000 mark.

“Stands’ side – County Stand, Grandstand and Paddock – we have reached capacity. The Clock Tower enclosure only goes on sale on the day. Its capacity is several thousand. We wouldn’t be expecting to turn people away from that, but you never know. None of us knows what life will be like as we emerge from the pandemic, but there’s a real buzz about the place.

“Aidan (O’Brien) is sending one over from Ireland (Armory) for the York Stakes, for the first time in a long time. We’re delighted at that, and the music broadens the base and engages more people. If it’s the only time they come racing then it’s great. We hope they gave a great time.

“There is real excitement in terms of seeing people back.”

Indigo Girl targeting Valiant victory on seasonal bow

One-time Classic hope Indigo Girl is the star attraction in the British Racecourses Join Sunflower Lanyard Scheme Valiant Stakes at Ascot.

The daughter of Dubawi won two of her three starts as a juvenile last season, including an impressive Group Two triumph in the May Hill Stakes at Doncaster in September.

She met with defeat for the first time when runner-up to Pretty Gorgeous in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket the following month, but while the third home Mother Earth went on to win the 1000 Guineas this spring, Indigo Girl has not been seen in competitive action since.

John and Thady Gosden’s filly is one of two runners for prominent owner George Strawbridge in Friday’s Group Three feature along with Noel Meade’s Irish challenger Elysium.

The Belardo filly, who will be carrying the Strawbridge colours for the first time, also has to overcome a lengthy absence, having been off the track since winning the Group Three Weld Park Stakes at the Curragh last autumn.

Meade said: “She’s in good shape. We had kind of a miserable spring as she got a few little respiratory problems, which slowed her down.

“We struggled to get her right, but we think we’re nearly there now and we really hadn’t any place to start her (in Ireland).

“We wanted to start her in a Group race if possible and this looked the most suitable one. Her owner has another runner in it and she’s favourite, but that’s the way it goes.

“I’m hoping our filly will have a good run. She will improve for the run I’m sure.”

The biggest threat to the Strawbridge pair appears to be the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Lights On, who has won three of her four starts this season – most recently romping 10 lengths clear of her rivals in the Listed Pipalong Stakes at Pontefract.

Chris Richardson, managing director for owners Cheveley Park Stud, said: “We’ve been thrilled with her this year. She ran no race at Royal Ascot (eighth in Kensington Palace Stakes) because of the draw really.

“The ground is going to be different on Friday. A bit of juice in the ground might have been helpful, but it’s a logical race and we’ll see what happens.

“John and Thady Gosden’s filly was highly thought of last year, but our filly is in good form and has come out of her last race well.

“Hopefully they put a bit of water on.”

Adayar primed for King George battle with Love

In what seemed a golden era for Flat racing in the early 2000s, Godolphin took on Coolmore on a regular basis and when Love and Adayar clash in Saturday’s King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes, the two heavyweights will cross swords once more.

While it is far from a two-horse race – indeed five of the six runners are already Group One winners and the only one yet to bridge that gap, Martyn Meade’s Lone Eagle, was a narrow runner-up in the Irish Derby – they nevertheless dominate the betting.

Adding to the sense of nostalgia is the fact that 20 years ago the subsequent supersire Galileo was the last Derby winner to take the race, a feat Adayar is attempting to emulate this weekend.

Adayar is by Frankel, Galileo’s greatest son, yet Galileo beat Fantastic Light, one of Godolphin’s all-time greats, but it will be Adayar sporting the famous blue silks this time.

Galileo (left) came out on top in a great tussle with Fantastic Light
Galileo (left) came out on top in a great tussle with Fantastic Light (Tim Ockenden/PA)

“We always felt, from 24 hours after the Derby, that we’d go to the King George because he’s a big individual who needs a gap between his races and it would give him time to develop,” said trainer Charlie Appleby, who has an embarrassment of riches among his three-year-olds.

“This season has gone fantastic. Going into the winter we felt we had a nice group of two-year-olds, without having had a Group One winner, but they had nice pedigrees and were nice individuals.

“We hoped as three-year-olds they would progress and they’ve duly obliged. They’ve been in great form all season, starting with Creative Force who progressed through handicaps to win the Jersey and run well in the July Cup.

“Then we had the likes of Hurricane Lane, Adayar and Yibir all campaigning in the trials. Some won, some ran very well but thankfully they progressed from their trials which is important.”

Most yards would love to have a runner in the Derby but unless you are Aidan O’Brien with a yard stocked full of Galileo’s offspring, actually having one is still an achievement. This year Appleby had three.

“The one race everybody wants to win is the Derby so that was the focus going into the spring. We hadn’t had a runner in the Derby since Masar (2018 winner). Thankfully as the years have gone on I’ve got a handle on what you need to compete at the top level. I never want to go to just make up the numbers,” he said.

“This year we felt we had the stamp of horse to be competitive, certainly going into the trials and His Highness (Sheikh Mohammed) said through the winter to build towards the Derby and if we thought we had three, to run three.

“We started the spring with five potential Derby candidates and we ended up with three and they all ran very creditably finishing first, third (Hurricane Lane) and One Ruler was sixth.

“We had the conversation with Sheikh Mohammed before the Derby about running the three and I won’t run away from it, I felt the one horse who would be suited stepping up in trip was going to be Adayar and that he was more a St Leger horse. His Highness said that if he was fit and well to run, as the one thing you need to do is stay in the Derby.

Adam Kirby initially lost his ride in the Derby only to get the call up for Adayar
Adam Kirby initially lost his ride in the Derby only to get the call up for Adayar (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Hurricane Lane had won the Dante, he was an unbeaten son of Frankel, he was our number one and thankfully he’s justified where we thought he was in the pecking order – at the top. One Ruler had a question mark stepping up in trip but we had done it with Masar and he didn’t look out of place in the Derby.

“But, a few of the wise old heads fancied Adayar. He’d run in two trials and not done a lot wrong, he wasn’t beaten a long way in either and with the way the ground turned, he had to be a possible.

“He’s a gentle giant, you wouldn’t want him to throw his weight around as he’s a big lad, Josh (Crane) his rider from the spring onwards has done a fantastic job. His home work is no different to what it was prior to Epsom, he’s a nice, honest galloper who covers a lot of ground.”

It is rare for a Derby winner to run in the King George these days, though Enable and Taghrooda took advantage of the huge age and sex allowances as Oaks winners for John Gosden in recent years, but Appleby has always been pointing toward the midsummer showpiece.

“It’s going to be a fascinating race, we’ve discussed with His Highness where we place Hurricane Lane after his win in the Grand Prix de Paris and while it’s a cliché, we’re sitting on the fence waiting to see what Adayar does to see where these Classic horses go in the second half of the season,” said Appleby.

“I’m delighted with his preparation going into the race. There are six runners, it looks like there’s some pace and if you want to dig deep into form, Love is a deserved favourite. We’re second favourite and with the allowance, I think the market is about right. Love should be favourite but we should be bang there.

“Whoever wins it is king of the mile-and-a-half division for the foreseeable future.

“Year in year out, we always get told it wasn’t a classic Derby or the three-year-olds look weak but it always sorts itself out from the Eclipse onwards.

“When Masar won they questioned the strength of it, then Roaring Lion came out and won the Eclipse and the Juddmonte – I don’t know what more horses have to do sometimes.

“As it stands at the moment it looks a good Derby. He won by three and a half lengths and the third horse came out and won a Classic and the Grand Prix de Paris emphatically.

“It’s fantastic being part of these races, helping to produce the goods on the day is a great honour and he’s my first runner in the King George. More importantly he’s not just a runner, he’s a Derby winner. To win it, it would be a lovely feather to have in the cap.”

The field is completed by John and Thady Gosden’s Mishriff, Love’s stablemate Broome and David Menuisier’s Wonderful Tonight.

Six declared in classy King George

Hot favourite Love is set to face five rivals in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

Last season’s 1000 Guineas and Oaks heroine made a successful return from 10 months off the track in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot last month and is a warm order to provide trainer Aidan O’Brien with a fifth victory in this weekend’s midsummer showpiece.

The Ballydoyle handler will also saddle the ultra-consistent Broome, who has won four of his six starts this season and was last seen breaking his duck at the top level in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud three weeks ago.

Adayar winning the Cazoo Derby at Epsom
Adayar winning the Cazoo Derby at Epsom (John Walton/PA)

The opposition is headed by Charlie Appleby’s Derby hero Adayar.

The Frankel colt was a surprise winner of last month’s premier Classic, but the form has been significantly boosted by his stablemate Hurricane Lane, who has won both the Irish Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris since finishing third Epsom.

The other three-year-old in Saturday’s field is Martyn Meade’s Lone Eagle, who was beaten a neck into second by Hurricane Lane in the Irish Derby four weeks ago.

David Menuisier has declared stable star Wonderful Tonight. The Newmarket-based Frenchman has expressed doubts about running his pride and joy on fast ground and will be hoping one of the forecast thunderstorms arrives in Berkshire.

The small but select field is completed by John and Thady Gosden’s Saudi Cup and Dubai Sheema Classic victor Mishriff.

The son of Make Believe can be expected to improve from his first start since his globetrotting exploits when third in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown three weeks ago.