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Levey targets Royal Ascot breakthrough

Sean Levey is out to break new ground by claiming his first winner at Royal Ascot next week.

The Swaziland-born rider has been a pioneer for black jockeys in Britain – becoming the first to ride in the Derby in 2016 when steering Humphrey Bogart to fifth place, before claiming Classic glory two years later aboard Billesdon Brook in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Success at the Flat season’s showpiece meeting has so far eluded Levey, but he is hoping to put that right on his return to Berkshire.

“My form at Ascot alone is very good – but when it comes to Royal Ascot, not so much,” he said.

Billesdon Brook and Sean Levey winning the 1000 Guineas
Billesdon Brook and Sean Levey winning the 1000 Guineas (Tim Goode/PA)

“I wouldn’t say I’ve been unfortunate. I’ve been placed many a time, mostly in handicaps and what have you.

“I’m disappointed it hasn’t happened yet, so I would just like the box ticked now.

“It’s a bit of a monkey on my back, that one.”

It has been quite a journey for the 33-year-old son of Epsom-based apprentice Mick Levey and Swazi mother Tini.

The family moved away from Africa shortly after the turn of the century, initially to Croydon in south London before heading across the Irish Sea to allow Mick Levey to work for Aidan O’Brien.

NewSean Levey has carved out an excellent career for himself market Races Day Two – July 10th
Sean Levey has carved out an excellent career for himself (George Selwyn/PA)

Levey said: “I wouldn’t say it was a huge culture shock as far as moving from Africa to Ireland was concerned – they’re not too far apart, to be fair.

“I did live in Croydon for a bit and I found that quite difficult. Being closer to London and being more closed, I found that quite tough. I preferred the open nature of Ireland, which is similar to Swaziland.”

Although only a teenager at the time, it did not take long for Levey junior to become part of the riding team at Ballydoyle.

“I was still at school, so I started working there on a weekend,” he said.

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“I had a season pony racing and was meant to do a second season. But as luck would have it, I ended up just doing a summer in Ballydoyle and ended up signing on there as an apprentice.

“I won a few Listed races and Group races for Aidan and had the opportunity to ride, I think, in every Classic in Ireland. I rode in the Arc for him and a few other Group Ones, including the German Guineas, and I won the Irish Cambridgeshire on a horse called Poet (2009).

“It was a privileged apprenticeship. There’s no doubt he gave me a lot of opportunities, and I’ll be forever grateful.”

After six years on the Ballydoyle books, Levey made the bold move to return to continue his riding career in Britain in 2011.

Jockeys of ethnic minority were even rarer then than they are now, but he does not believe his opportunities have been diminished by his race.

“This has all been highlighted since the poor fella in America (George Floyd) was killed, but you’ve got to remember that I’ve been riding since I was 17,” said Levey.

“I was signed on for one of the greatest trainers in the world as a teenager, and thinking about the colour of my skin wasn’t at the forefront of my mind.

“I’d had massive opportunities as an apprentice and was wanting momentum over here. I was chasing my dream – and as much as racism exists in every walk of life, it’s becoming smaller and smaller worldwide, especially in countries like this.

“I was taken aback actually when they asked ‘how does it feel to be the first black jockey to win a British Classic?’, or ‘how does it feel to be the first black jockey to have a ride in the Derby?’.

“I didn’t look at it in that way at the time, but I am half-Swazi and I can speak Swazi, so I’ll take it – and if it benefits anyone looking in, then so be it.”

Jockey Sean Levey
Jockey Sean Levey (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

People from all over the world ride out in yards across Britain and Ireland.

Levey believes a lack of information, rather than systemic racism within the sport, is the main reason why many have not gone on to become jockeys – but feels improvements have and are being made.

Levey said: “What I am seeing, and should be seeing, is a lot more black and Asian people coming into racing.

“In Ireland there was only me – in England there is me and Royston (Ffrench) and Silvestre de Sousa, obviously.

“Now the next crop of apprentices are coming in, and I do see a lot more. If what we have done is give others the confidence, I think that is ultimately what everyone is looking for.

“(We want) to reach out to those urban areas where people don’t get the opportunities and show that the sport is open to anybody who would like to come into it.

“Rather than dwelling on ‘racing needs to change because it’s racist’, I personally don’t feel that that’s the case, but I do feel like more information needs to be put out there for people to know that they are more than welcome through those doors.

“I think what everyone has been doing in the last couple of years is making people more comfortable to take that chance, to get a licence and give it a go. It’s exactly the same with female jockeys.

“Sometimes people look at it the wrong way and think we’re trying to eradicate racism in racing because it’s rife, but that is not the case. I think everyone is just trying to say the doors open to anyone who wants to come in if they’re willing and want to give it a shot.”

“We want everyone to know you will get the opportunity if you work hard.”

Levey can look forward to a strong book of rides at the Royal meeting, with Snow Lantern chief among them in the Coronation Stakes – a race which is part of this year’s QIPCO British Champions Series.

The daughter of Frankel is out to emulate her dam Sky Lantern, who won the same race in 2013, but does need to bounce back from a slightly underwhelming performance at York.

“She’s in good order and all set to go,” he said.

“It was a slightly disappointing run at York – things didn’t really go our way. She was keener than you’d like on that occasion – and as a result, she didn’t quite run as well as we thought she would.

“She seems to be doing the right things at home and hasn’t put a foot wrong since. I’d like to think that if she runs her race nice and settled then she’ll have a big chance.”

Happy Romance winning at York
Happy Romance winning at York (David Davies/PA)

Another filly Levey believes can make her presence felt at Group One level is Happy Romance.

Together, they have already won five races – and she is viewed as a lively outsider for the Commonwealth Cup.

Levey said: “Happy Romance is one that does all the talking on the track. She’s very straightforward, an absolute pleasure to ride and has plenty of ability to boot.

“I think Ascot is her track – she ran really well in the Queen Mary last year. She’s shown she wants better ground, and a stiff track will suit her style of running – she’s more an off-the-bridle kind of sprinter, rather than an ‘all guns blazing’ kind of sprinter.

“Against her own age group, I would give her a good chance.”

Irish Derby on Mojo Star’s agenda

Cazoo Derby runner-up Mojo Star could bid to go one better in this month’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.

Having been beaten a nose and half a length on his first two career starts, the Sea The Stars colt was thrown in at the deep end by trainer Richard Hannon at Epsom on Saturday, but justified his place in the Derby field by beating all bar the Charlie Appleby-trained Adayar.

Speaking on Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast on Monday, Hannon said: “He’s always been an extremely nice horse – one of the nicest we’ve had here for a long time.

“Yes, it was very brave running a maiden in the Derby – and most people agreed that we shouldn’t have been there, judging by his price (50-1). But he’s proved everybody wrong and he’s a very smart horse, which is nice.

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“The winner had the perfect run. I’m not for one minute saying we’d have beaten the winner, but we were just stuck a little bit coming round Tattenham Corner – and we were running on right at the line.”

While connections have the option of dropping back in class for a maiden, Hannon is keen to remain at the highest level, with a trip to the Curragh on June 26 likely to be next on Mojo Star’s agenda.

“He’s absolutely fine – and we’re looking for the next Derby, I suppose,” he added.

“It’s not an easy feat, but I’m not sure we’ve anything to gain by winning a novice or a maiden – and quite often these sort of horses get turned over at long odds-on in those sort of races.

“I think we’ll be looking at something like an Irish Derby or a King George, maybe. If you finish in the first three in the English Derby, you get a free go at the Irish Derby, so that’s got to be worth looking at.

“We’ve never had a horse finish that close in a Derby before. They’re extremely hard to find, these sort of horses, and you’ve got to keep hold of them and keep them racing as long as you can.

“I said to Kia Joorabchian – who owns the horse – before the Derby that next year’s his year. He’s always looked like a horse that, when he’s four, he could be something a little bit different.”

Oh This Is Us delivers last-gasp Diomed win

Oh This Is Us got up right on the line to narrowly Century Dream a third victory in the Cazoo Diomed Stakes.

The latter was dropping in class for a Group Three contest he won in 2018 and 2020 – and was always in the vanguard as Marie’s Diamond led the field along.

When James Doyle kicked on Simon and Ed Crisford’s 2-1 joint-favourite it looked to be a race-winning move, after Frankie Dettori and Duke Of Hazzard found themselves stuck down on the rail.

But the Richard Hannon-trained Oh This Is Us picked up smartly for Tom Marquand once he got out and saw daylight, and as he edged relentlessly closer, he just got there to win by a nose at 18-1.

Hannon said: “He’s my favourite (horse in the yard) and has been for some time.

“You never know when he’s going to pop up – he won at 66-1 at Ascot (in April).

“He’s never won a Group race before, so although there’s a Derby today, that’s probably mine!

“He’s won for something like eight different jockeys and Tom has won about seven on him – he’s just been a star.”

Considering future plans, he added: “He’s in the Royal Hunt Cup (at Royal Ascot), but we’ll find our way around the big meetings, like today, and be very kind to him.

“He deserved that today and it might set him up as a stallion.

“He drove the horse box here today and probably won’t retire until he’s 25!”

Lockinge Stakes Trends

The Lockinge Stakes is a Group One race staged at Newbury racecourse and run over a distance of 1 mile.

First run in 1958 the contest is for 3 year-olds and older horses and has been won 4 times in the last 10 years by the Richard Hannon yard. In recent years the race has also been dominated by 4 year-olds, with 12 of the last 17 runnings going to horses in that age group, while 14 of the last 17 winners hailed from the first three in the betting.

Here at GEEGEEZ we look back at past winners of the race, plus are on-hand with all the key ahead of the 2021 renewal – this year run on Saturday 15th May.

 

Recent Lockinge Stakes Winners

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2019 – MUSTASHRY (9/1)
2018 - RHODODENDRON (10/3 fav)
2017 - RIBCHESTER (7/4 fav)
2016 – BELARDO (8/1)
2015 – NIGHT OF THUNDER (11/4 jfav)
2014 – OLYMPIC GLORY (11/8 fav)
2013 – FARHH (10/3)
2012 – FRANKEL (2/7 fav)
2011 – CANFORD CLIFFS (4/5 fav)
2010 – PACO BOY (8/11 fav)
2009 – VIRTUAL (6/1)
2008 – CREACHADOIR (3/1 fav)
2007 – RED EVIE (8/1)
2006 – PEERESS (4/1)
2005 – RAKTI (7/4 fav)
2004 – RUSSIAN RHYTHM (3/1 fav)
2003 – HAWK WING (2/1 fav)

 

Lockinge Stakes Betting Trends

17/17 – Won over a mile before
14/17 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
14/17 – Drawn between stalls 3-7 (inc)
13/17 – Returned 4/1 or shorter in the betting
13/17 – Had won a Group One race before
12/17 – Aged 4 years-old
12/17 – Had won at least 4 times before
11/17 – Winning favourites
10/17 – Having their first run of the season
10/17 – Unplaced last time out
5/17 – Godolphin owned
4/17 – Won by the Richard Hannon yard (Has won the race 5 times in all)
4/17 – Won by a mare
4/17 – Ran at Newmarket last time out
3/17 – Won by a Cheveley Park stud-owned horse (won it 5 times in all)
3/17 – Won by trainer Sir Michael Stoute (has won the race 8 times in all)
1/17 – Winners from stall 1 or 2
The average winning SP in the last 17 runnings is 10/3

 

 

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‘Bigger picture’ behind Snow Lantern’s Guineas absence

Richard Hannon chose to miss Sunday’s Qipco 1000 Guineas with Snow Lantern because he is “looking at the bigger picture” – this season and next.

Snow Lantern is by Frankel and out of the Hannon yard’s own Guineas winner Sky Lantern, and Sunday’s Newmarket Classic therefore appeared the obvious target when she was so impressive at Newbury recently.

However, it was announced days later that she will not try to emulate her parents and will instead be possibly stepped up in trip. She is also due to stay in training at four.

“It was a team decision,” said Hannon.

“She’s by a Guineas out of a Guineas winner, so the 1000 Guineas looked her race, but you’ve got to look at the bigger picture.

“She has been lightly-raced up to now. She’s a very heavy filly, and they are looking to keep her as a four-year-old.

“They don’t want to throw her into the deep end right now. There’s the Prix de Diane, Coronation, Irish Guineas, Falmouth – there are all sorts of lovely races, so she can run in some of those if she’s good enough.

“I think she’s good enough. I hold her in the highest regard – I think she could be even better than her mum.”

Snow Lantern is not the easiest to handle but has always shown great talent.

Hannon added: “She’s a bit difficult – she can be a bit keen and can be a bit of a madam. But you don’t mind that when they have the talent and ability she has.

“I’ve never known a horse look so much like her mum, so much so I got Hughesie (Richard Hughes) to sit on her when he was down one morning. He didn’t feel this filly had the same sort of speed, but I think she had an off-day.

“I think she’s a miler personally. She won very well at Newbury, and I think she’s very good.

“Although it’s a shame to miss the Guineas, it will give us the opportunity to look at big targets in the summer.”

Guineas hope Chindit has ‘gears’

Richard Hannon believes Chindit has the required gears to provide him with another victory in the Qipco 2000 Guineas.

Hannon was previously successful in the opening Classic of the season with Night Of Thunder in 2014, and Chindit tuned up for Newmarket on Saturday by winning the Greenham at Newbury a fortnight ago.

In what looks a good crop of three-year-olds this season and, with Godolphin and Coolmore well represented as well as the likes of Thunder Moon and the supplemented Mutasaabeq holding claims, Chindit will need to be at the peak of his powers.

“He took a long time to win the race at Newbury – which says to me he needed that, and it will have sharpened him up,” said Hannon.

“Our Guineas horses tend to really need their first race. Night Of Thunder got beaten in his trial and won the Guineas; Sky Lantern (winner of the 1000 Guineas in 2013) was beaten in her trial too, so they need it.

“Once they’ve had that, it’s just a case of ticking along. He did a bit on Tuesday morning, (Pat ) Dobbsy rode him and he was happy. I couldn’t be happier with him – but it does look quite a smart race, certainly hotter than the trial was.

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“A trial is not a Derby, it’s not their focus. Generally we start working horses at Christmas, but just routine work. This year we couldn’t get on the grass for a month or six weeks – and that probably made a big difference, because he’s been on the all-weather the whole spring.”

Many smart juveniles show up well in their very first gallop, but Hannon says that was not the case with Chindit, winner of four of his five races. His sole defeat did come at Newmarket in the Dewhurst, but the Wiltshire trainer felt that was due to the soft ground.

“He was one of those horses who didn’t show too much before his debut but won nicely,” Hannon added.

“It was when he won the Listed race at Ascot we began to think we had a nice one. The Champagne Stakes was a very good race, and he did the same thing. He likes passing horses.

“The times the day at Newmarket suggested the ground was heavy. It didn’t suit him or (stablemate) Etonian. I am concerned about the track, though, and I hope Newmarket misses the heavy showers.

“He’s done all his winning on flat tracks like Ascot, Newbury and Doncaster – and this is vastly different. I don’t know if he enjoyed the Dewhurst, but I’m fairly sure that was down to the ground.

Richard Hannon and Pat Dobbs go back a long way
Richard Hannon and Pat Dobbs go back a long way (Bill Selwyn/PA)

“He’s a neat little horse – but he’s got gears, he’s very tough and he’s quite lightly-raced. There is more to come.

“All our Guineas winners were different in their own way, but they were all immensely talented. To win a Guineas is a huge thing. Whether Chindit is one of those or not? I’d like to think so, but we won’t know until they are a furlong and a half down.”

Assessing the dangers, despite Ireland holding a strong hand, Hannon feels the biggest may be closer to home.

He added: “I think Charlie Hills’ horse (Mutasaabeq) is one of the main dangers – he’s got a very good pedigree, and it would probably be right if this year Sheikh Hamdan had a Guineas winner. I for one would love to see that.

“That looked a warm race, but he handled the track no problem. He’s a danger. He looked quite a big horse – there might be more to come and he might be improving. He would be a very fitting winner.”

Despite being attached to the yard for most of his career, Dobbs has just one Group One to his name on Pether’s Moon in the Coronation Cup – so Hannon would love to present a key cog in the wheel with a Guineas win.

“We call him ‘Mr Grumpy’. I’d love to provide him with a Classic as he’s one of our guys – but I still don’t think you’d see him smile!” joked Hannon.

“Pat has been here for years – he’s a lovely bloke to work with and has seen it all. Sometimes he might win on a horse and then someone might not want him next time out, but it doesn’t ruffle his feathers. Nothing flusters him.

“He’s an extremely good jockey – and yes, he’s unsung. He’s very popular among the other jockeys, which is a very good sign. He’s one of the best riders I know and he’s a good bloke.”

Snow Lantern to miss 1000 Guineas and wait for York

Leading Qipco 1000 Guineas contender Snow Lantern is to miss the Newmarket Classic and instead run at York’s Dante meeting.

The daughter of two Guineas winners in being by Frankel out of Sky Lantern, like her dam she is trained by Richard Hannon.

She was third-favourite for the fillies’ Classic having beaten John and Thady Gosden’s Derab – who Enable’s half-brother – by a length and three-quarters.

Hannon said on his website: “Following a discussion with connections, Snow Lantern will not be taking up her engagement in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and will instead be aimed for either the Group Three Musidora Stakes or the Listed Michael Seeley Stakes at York’s May meeting.

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“With the Michael Seeley being run over a mile and the Musidora over a mile and a quarter, both of these races will give us options and gives her an extra couple of weeks.

“Either race will give us a good guide on where we stand for the rest of the season with her too. She holds entries in the Epsom Oaks and Prix de Diane, and these engagements will be dependant on her York performance.

“There are plenty of options coming up for her. She is a special filly, with a beautiful pedigree and has already proved an exciting prospect for her owner-breeders, Rockcliffe Stud”

On the same card, Hannon landed the Greenham Stakes with Chindit, who has now won four of his five outings with his sole defeat coming on soft ground in the Dewhurst.

“Chindit came out of the race brilliantly, he was in the pen most of the next day and has cantered this morning and he’s fine,” said Hannon on Tuesday.

“His form is solid and it looks like he’s going to be suited by the test of the Guineas. To me it looked as if he was crying out for a mile.”

Chindit (far side) got going late to win the Greenham
Chindit (far side) got going late to win the Greenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

On the other side of the coin, however, was Happy Romance, who failed to see out seven furlongs in the Fred Darling and will now revert to sprinting.

“She just didn’t stay, so we’ll go sprinting,” said Hannon.

“I must admit I thought she was sure to stay, but she clearly didn’t.

“I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong, it happens often enough. There are still plenty of races she can go for and she’s already won a Super Sprint, a Group Three and a sales race at York already and the owners have had a ball.

“There are many good days left in her yet.”

Guineas outing still to be confirmed for Snow Lantern

No decision has yet been made as to whether impressive Newbury winner Snow Lantern will line up in the Qipco 1000 Guineas.

The daughter of two Guineas winners in being by Frankel out of Sky Lantern, like her dam she is trained by Richard Hannon.

She is currently third-favourite for the fillies’ Classic having beaten John and Thady Gosden’s Derab – who Enable’s half-brother – by a length and three-quarters.

“We still don’t know if she’s going to run in the Guineas,” said Hannon.

“She’s a good filly, but we haven’t made up our minds yet. I’ll have to talk to the owners about everything and see what they say.”

On the same card, Hannon landed the Greenham Stakes with Chindit, who has now won four of his five outings with his sole defeat coming on soft ground in the Dewhurst.

“Chindit came out of the race brilliantly, he was in the pen most of the next day and has cantered this morning and he’s fine,” said Hannon on Tuesday.

“His form is solid and it looks like he’s going to be suited by the test of the Guineas. To me it looked as if he was crying out for a mile.”

Chindit (far side) got going late to win the Greenham
Chindit (far side) got going late to win the Greenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

On the other side of the coin, however, was Happy Romance, who failed to see out seven furlongs in the Fred Darling and will now revert to sprinting.

“She just didn’t stay, so we’ll go sprinting,” said Hannon.

“I must admit I thought she was sure to stay, but she clearly didn’t.

“I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong, it happens often enough. There are still plenty of races she can go for and she’s already won a Super Sprint, a Group Three and a sales race at York already and the owners have had a ball.

“There are many good days left in her yet.”

Chindit prevails in thrilling finish to Greenham

Chindit is Newmarket-bound after getting on top close home to win the Watership Down Stud Too Darn Hot Greenham Stakes at Newbury.

Richard Hannon’s Champagne Stakes winner was the 7-4 market leader, despite disappointing on soft ground in the Dewhurst when he was last seen.

But he was made to work extremely hard by Archie Watson’s previously unbeaten Mehmento, who had won both his starts at Southwell.

Keen in the early stages for Hollie Doyle, by halfway she had given her mount his head and let him stride into a clear advantage.

The move caught most of the others on the hop and soon they were all under pressure. With a furlong to run it looked as if Mehmento may have a big enough lead to hold on, but his stride was just beginning to shorten.

Pat Dobbs sensed his chance on Chindit and along with The Lir Jet they began to close in on the leader, with Chindit just getting his head in front a few strides before the line.

He won by a neck, with the same back to The Lir Jet, while Coventry Stakes winner Nando Parrado was back in fourth.

The winner was left unchanged at 14-1 for the Qipco 2000 Guineas by Betfair.

Hannon said: “He was workmanlike, but I’d rather see that as he was very relaxed in his work so it suggest he wants a mile. That’s changed, as in the winter he was working like a six-furlong horse.

“He will go for the Guineas and I hope he can build up the momentum at Newmarket in the same way he did today towards the finish.

“I just worry if the undulations at Newmarket will let him build up that momentum.

“The French and Irish Guineas would be more convenient tracks, but the (races like) English Guineas are the ones you want to win.”

Beautifully-bred Snow Lantern sparkles at Newbury

Snow Lantern ran out a cosy winner of what is sure to be an informative Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Maiden Stakes at Newbury.

Richard Hannon’s grey filly is certainly bred for the job, being out of two Guineas winners in Frankel and Sky Lantern, the latter also trained by Hannon.

It looked a strong event on paper with Enable’s half-brother Derab and the Roger Varian-trained Fantastic Fox having also shown decent form, while there was market support for Simon and Ed Crisford’s newcomer Saleymm.

It was three of those with previous experience who fought out the finish, though, with Sean Levey on Snow Lantern (3-1) taking the race by the scruff of the neck over a furlong out.

While John and Thady Gosden’s 11-8 favourite Derab did hit top gear late on, looking sure to be suited by going over further than a mile, Snow Lantern was not hard pressed to beat him by a length and three-quarters with Fantastic Fox a short-head further back in third.

Coral cut the winner into 16-1 from 20s for the Qipco 1000 Guineas.

Hannon: “I haven’t enjoyed watching a race like that as much for a long time and I feel relief in a way because she is highly strung and I was worried about that, but she’s come here and behaved perfectly well.

“Obviously as a daughter of Frankel and Sky Lantern she’s got the lot and I’m very tempted by the Guineas, but we need to discuss it during the week.

“She did have some problems last year and of course Newmarket is an undulating track, but then her mother won two Group Ones there and if the owners want to go there must be a good chance that she will.

“Against that I will enter her for the Michael Seeley, a Listed race at York, as we are obviously keen to get some black type.

“Sean said her stride pattern was far from the normal kind and that augurs well for her.”

Parrado in good shape for informative-looking Greenham

Nando Parrado is one of several colts on trial for next month’s Qipco 2000 Guineas in what looks a high-class renewal of the Watership Down Stud Too Darn Hot Greenham Stakes at Newbury.

Clive Cox’s charge produced one of the biggest shocks in Royal Ascot history when landing last season’s Coventry Stakes at 150-1.

The son of Kodiac went on to prove that performance was no fluke, however – filling the runner-up spot behind star American filly Campanelle in the Prix Morny before again finding only one too strong when stepped up to seven furlongs for the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere.

Cox reports Nando Parrado in rude health ahead of his reappearance, saying: “He’s pleased me very much and has been working nicely.

“He was a solid Group Two winner in the Coventry and ran some great races in defeat after that at Group One level.

“It was very, very testing ground in Paris for the Lagardere, so it was a bit (inconclusive regarding trip).

“We’ve got confidence in him over seven (furlongs) and I still think a mile is well within his compass.”

The likely favourite is the the Richard Hannon-trained Chindit, who looked every inch a top-class colt in the making when winning his first three juvenile starts – completing his hat-trick in the Group Two Champagne Stakes.

He returns with perhaps a little to prove after failing to fire on his most recent outing in the Dewhurst at Newmarket.

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Chindit (left) winning the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster
Chindit (left) winning the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“On that day (of the Dewhurst), the times said it was riding like it was heavy ground and both Chindit and Etonian were wheel-spinning the whole way,” Hannon said.

“Chindit travelled into it very well, like he normally does, and didn’t pick up at all. I’m more than happy to forgive that run.”

While Hannon is confident Chindit will enjoy a profitable campaign, he admits he does have reservations about whether he will stay the Guineas trip of a mile.

He told Sky Sports Racing: “He’s got a lot more speed that people think. To me, last year it looked like he wanted all of that seven furlongs when he won the Champagne Stakes and was crying out for a mile.

“I hope that’s the case, but the nice thing with a three-year-old now is if you don’t get the Guineas trip, you can come back to Royal Ascot for six furlongs (in the Commonwealth Cup).”

Alkumait is one of two runners for the late Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum
Alkumait is one of two runners for the late Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum (Dan Abraham/PA)

Having struck gold with the brilliant Mohaather in the 2019 renewal, Marcus Tregoning bids for another victory with Alkumait.

Winner of the Mill Reef Stakes at this venue in September, the son of Showcasing is another bidding to bounce back from a disappointing effort in the Dewhurst.

Alkumait is one of two horses carrying the colours of the late Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum along with the Charlie Hills-trained Mujbar, who won the Horris Hill over the course and distance when last seen.

Interestingly, the owner’s retained rider Jim Crowley has sided with the latter, with Dane O’Neill partnering Alkumait.

“Jim very much had the choice,” said Shadwell racing manager Angus Gold.

“Sunday will tell us a lot more, but the Hills camp have always hoped Mujbar was going to make into a Guineas horse.

“He obviously won a Group race as a two-year-old, as did Alkumait, but everything about Alkumait that I have seen suggests he’s more of a sprinter – and I know Jim feels the same.

“Marcus wants to see whether he would stay seven furlongs. We’ll be trying to get him to settle and finish it off, so we learn whether he does stay. He didn’t stay in the Dewhurst last year, but that might not have been just down to stamina.

“I think Jim is looking to the future and we’re thinking that if Mujbar has come on, he could be a Guineas horse, whereas I would be pleasantly surprised if Alkumait made a Guineas horse.

“We could all be wrong and I’d be delighted to be proven wrong, but at this stage I see Alkumait as more of a Commonwealth Cup type.”

Fundamental in winning action at Chelmsford
Fundamental in winning action at Chelmsford (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Frankie Dettori partners dual Chelmsford scorer Fundamental for John and Thady Gosden.

John Gosden said: “He won well the other day at Chelmsford and seven furlongs might be his trip.

“I think it looks a really good trial. In fact I think they have all been good trials this week – the Craven and Nell Gwyn, which looked very nice, and this looks a strong Greenham.

“That is what we want, nice horses around.”

Chindit tops Greenham contenders

Ante-post favourite Chindit is one of 12 colts declared for the Watership Down Stud Too Darn Hot Greenham Stakes at Newbury.

Richard Hannon’s charge was hugely impressive in winning his first three starts as a juvenile – completing his hat-trick with a Group Two victory in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster.

However, the son of Wootton Bassett returns to action on a recovery mission on Sunday, having failed to fire when last seen contesting the Dewhurst at Newmarket in October.

Marcus Tregoning’s Alkumait is in a similar situation, with the Mill Reef Stakes winner making his first appearance since finishing last of 14 in the Dewhurst.

Also prominent in the betting is the Clive Cox-trained Nando Parrado, who was a shock 150-1 winner of the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot last summer, before going on to finish second in back-to-back Group Ones in France.

Mehmento is a fascinating contender for trainer Archie Watson, jockey Hollie Doyle and owners Hambleton Racing.

The Mehmas colt faces a big rise in class, but could hardly have been more impressive in winning twice on the all-weather at Southwell.

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Cosmo Charlton, Hambleton’s head racing manager, said: “He’s done nothing wrong, dotting up twice at Southwell.

“On the second occasion, he actually recorded one of the quickest times ever at Southwell – I think the final two furlongs were in the top 10 in Southwell history, and obviously there has been some good older horses that have won there over the years.

“He’s done that hard on the bridle as well, so he’s a horse with immense potential.

“He’s a grinder who gets down to work – and when you give him the office he really picks up.

“It’s hard to know how good he is until he’s given a proper test. Going from Southwell to the Greenham is probably not the normal path – but he’s in great form, and it’s certainly worth a shout, given how impressive he’s been.”

David Menuisier pitches new recruit Xaario into the race, with the ex-French colt boasting some smart bits of form having been beaten two lengths by subsequent Group One scorer Sealiway on his debut before hacking up by six lengths next time.

He disappointed on his final start for Pia and Joakim Brandt, but Xaario had a valid excuse.

Menuisier said: “He did something to his back on heavy ground at ParisLongchamp in October and had to have surgery.

“His previous form had looked quite good in winning by six lengths and finishing behind Sealiway, so it will be interesting to see how he gets on in the Greenham.

“If he were to run well on Sunday and go for a Guineas, I think he would be more likely to go to France than Newmarket as racing round a bend would probably suit him better.”

Fillies with Classic aspirations get their chance to shine in the preceding Dubai Duty Free Stakes – better known as the Fred Darling.

The standard is set by Andrew Balding’s Alcohol Free, who rounded off her two-year-old campaign with a Group One success in the Cheveley Park Stakes.

Also featuring in a field of 17 are Cox’s Isabella Giles, Hannon’s Happy Romance, the Karl Burke-trained Dandalla and the unbeaten Lucid Dreamer from Roger Charlton’s yard.

The first of three Group races on the card is the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes – registered as the John Porter.

Jim Goldie’s stable stalwart Euchen Glen heads a nine-strong line-up, with the William Haggas-trained Al Aasy the likely market leader.

Other hopefuls include Tyson Fury and Outbox, who has won his last two starts for the Hambleton Racing team.

“He won well at Doncaster last time under a great ride from Hollie Doyle and he was a good winner of a handicap before that as well,” said Cosmo Charlton.

“He’s got a fantastic pedigree and hopefully he could run a good race for us.”

Fancy Man takes Feilden test on seasonal bow

Richard Hannon’s Fancy Man attempts to concede a 3lb penalty to some potentially smart rivals in Tuesday’s bet365 Feilden Stakes at Newmarket.

Winner of two of his three outings as a juvenile, his only defeat came at the hands of Cobh in a Listed event at Salisbury.

He was very impressive in a similar race at Haydock, however, and Hannon has high hopes for him this season – although his enthusiasm is tempered slightly by quick ground.

“He’s been working very well,” said Hannon.

“I’m a little bit worried if the ground gets too quick as he’s a big horse, that’s all, but he needs a run and he had a good year last year.

“This is nine furlongs rather than a mile, but I think he’ll get this sort of trip no problem. We’ve started the season well – hopefully it can continue.”

Andrew Balding’s Youth Spirit reappears having not been seen since a fine third to Aidan O’Brien’s Battleground in the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood.

Balding has also drawn hope form the fact his novice win at Newmarket contained six subsequent winners, including Yibir who won the Haynes, Hanson & Clark Conditions Stakes at Newbury, beating Listed scorer Megallan.

“He ran really well in a good race at Goodwood,” said Balding.

“The form of his Newmarket novice race looks strong, quite a few have come out and won.

“He’s a lovely horse and I’m really looking forward to getting him going. He seems in good form.

“Obviously he’ll come on a bit for the run, but he’s in good shape for his first run of the season.

“He did have a niggle after Goodwood and we ran out of time, so we decided to leave him for the year.”

Charlie Appleby runs two in Highland Avenue, a son of Dubawi out of Lumiere who has won his last two, and Secret Protector, who was a winner at Meydan.

Aidan O’Brien sends Arturo Toscanini, winner of his sole start at the Curragh last season, while Roger Varian’s Royal Champion has also won his only start to date.

The Feilden Stakes has produced some smart winners down the years, with Intello and Golden Horn on the recent roll of honour.

Spirits seeking further Listed glory in Fleur De Lys heat

Cloak Of Spirits bids for her second Listed success of the season at Lingfield on Thursday following a fine effort at Group One level.

The Richard Hannon-trained filly ran a tremendous race to finish third in the Sun Chariot Stakes, only beaten a length and three-quarters by the winner, Nazeef.

That came after the daughter of Invincible Spirit had landed her first win of the season in the Listed Rosemary Stakes over the Rowley Mile.

Cloak Of Spirits now makes her first appearance on an artificial surface in the Ladbrokes EBF Fleur De Lys Fillies’ Stakes, a fast-track qualifier for the All-Weather Championships.

Trainer Richard Hannon
Trainer Richard Hannon (Nigel French/PA)

“Her last two runs have probably been her best runs of the season,” said Hannon.

“She’s in good form, I think the track will suit and she’s got a nice draw, so I’m very hopeful she’ll run very well.”

When Cloak Of Spirits was second in the 1000 Guineas on her seasonal debut, Romsey was a length and three-quarters behind her in fifth place at the massive odds of 200-1.

However, the daughter of Mukhadram was kept off the track until earlier this month. She looked to need the outing when well-beaten in the Group Three Pride Stakes at Newmarket when stepping up to a mile and a quarter.

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Trainer Hughie Morrison is just pleased to have the filly back on the course.

“Romsey obviously ran a great race in the 1000 Guineas, but she came back from there a bit jarred up, so we had to give her a break and have run out of time a bit really,” said the East Ilsley handler.

“We ran her at Newmarket at the start of month just to sharpen her up more than anything, as there are a lack of opportunities on the turf.

“We hope she will get a mile and a quarter in time, but she certainly wasn’t going to that day given the testing ground and her fitness levels.

Trainer Hughie Morrison expects Romsey to have benefited from her recent outing
Trainer Hughie Morrison expects Romsey to have benefited from her recent outing (Julian Herbert/PA)

“Cloak Of Spirits brings in the best form and is clearly the one to beat, but if we can run up to our Guineas form, we should be able to give her a race getting 3lb, as we were only a couple of lengths behind her at Newmarket.”

Others in the line-up include Sir Michael Stoute’s lightly-raced Soffika, Roger Varian’s Group-race placed Farzeen and Amanda Perrett’s Lavender’s Blue, a Group Three winner in 2019.

The Mark Johnston-trained pair of Vivid Diamond and Tulip Fields head for the Ladbrokes EBF River Eden Fillies’ Stakes in contrasting form.

Tulip Fields looked a filly very much on the up when lifting a mile-and-a-half handicap in good style at Doncaster on Saturday.

“She won impressively at Doncaster last week. She hit the line strong there and it looked like the extra furlong would not be an issue to her,” said Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father.

“She’s already got a bit of black type and we’re looking to try to build a bit more for her for her pedigree.”

Vivid Diamond has been below her best this campaign, which has prompted connections to try her in blinkers.

“She has been a bit disappointing this year,” said Johnston.

“She had a very good autumn last year, winning at Chester and finishing third in the Park Hill. (It’s) been a bit of a struggle this year.

“She’s just not been travelling well through the early stages of her races, so the blinkers have gone on to try to sweeten her up and get her to travel a bit better.

“If they have the desired effect, I think running to a mark of 100 is probably going to be required to win this and she’s certainly capable of doing that on her best form.”

Aidan O’Brien, who took the prize with Delphinia, banks on Elizabethfaragon to give him back-to-back victories.

Eve Johnson Houghton’s Hyanna will attempt to improve on her seventh place in this race 12 months ago. The hat-trick seeking Sorrel and Jane Marple are lightly-raced three-year-olds who could have more to offer.

Thunder Moon leads all-star cast for Dewhurst

Thunder Moon bids to double his top-level tally in a mouthwatering renewal of the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.

A runaway winner on his Curragh debut in early August, Joseph O’Brien’s juvenile then rocketed to the head of ante-post lists for next year’s 2000 Guineas after displaying a blistering turn of foot to land last month’s National Stakes at the Curragh.

O’Brien managed to win the Dewhurst as a jockey aboard his father Aidan’s War Command in 2013, and has high hopes of getting his name on the roll of honour as a trainer on Saturday.

“We’re looking forward to the race. Hopefully the ground dries out as much as possible and we’ll see what happens,” said O’Brien, who took the Fillies’ Mile on Friday with Pretty Gorgeous.

“We were delighted with him at the Curragh and he’s been in good form since.

“The Dewhurst is always a very good race and I’m sure it will be again.”

Wembley (right) is one of two for Aidan O'Brien
Wembley (right) is one of two for Aidan O’Brien (PA)

Aidan O’Brien saddles National Stakes second and third, Wembley and St Mark’s Basilica, in a bid for a seventh Dewhurst success.

He said: “Both ran very nice races last time out in the National Stakes, obviously St Mark’s Basilica was supposed to run in France last week and they would have been kept apart, but that’s the way it is.

“Both have been in good form since their last runs.”

Poetic Flare after winning at Naas
Poetic Flare after winning at Naas (Gary Carson/PA)
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Jim Bolger also has a fine Dewhurst record with five victories and is represented by an interesting outsider in Poetic Flare, who has not been seen since making a winning debut in the very first race of the Irish Flat turf season at Naas in March.

Bolger said: “He hasn’t run because he started to grow – he’s grown two inches since March and I didn’t want to push him.

“That’s all settled down now. He’s been fine since the beginning of August and we’ve had an uninterrupted preparation since.

“I thought it would be good to get him away before the end of the year. I think he’ll go on any ground.”

A formidable Irish challenge is headed by Jessica Harrington’s Group Two winner Cadillac.

Richard Hannon is excited about the chances of Chindit
Richard Hannon is excited about the chances of Chindit (Steven Cargill/PA)

The home team is headed by the Richard Hannon-trained Chindit, who extended his unbeaten record to three in the Group Two Champagne Stakes at Doncaster last month.

The Marlborough maestro also saddles a second unbeaten colt in Etonian, who has won twice at Sandown, most recently claiming the Group Three Solario Stakes in August.

“Both horses are fit and well and good to go. We’ve not managed to win the Dewhurst yet, so let’s hope this is our chance,” said Hannon.

“Chindit’s last bit of work with a couple of older horses was very good for a two-year-old. He seems in very good form.

“Etonian has done nothing wrong either. It’s a shame we have to run them against each other really, but this is the right race for both horses and the Dewhurst is always the best two-year-old race of the year.”

Leading owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum has a strong hand after Marcus Tregoning’s impressive Mill Reef scorer Alkumait was supplemented to join the Owen Burrows-trained Albasheer. The owner’s retained rider Jim Crowley has sided with Alkumait.

Tregoning said: “I think he’ll stay seven furlongs fine. I suppose seven furlongs in soft ground makes it more of a test, but Showcasing’s progeny are versatile.

“He’ll give himself every chance of getting the trip because he settles well, or at least he did at Newbury, and if he settles as well again, I can’t see seven being a problem

“I think Chindit might be the one to beat. He looked tough at Doncaster, he had to battle but came through it well.

“It’s the right race for us, though, and I’m pleased he’s running.”

Albasheer was beaten just a length into second place by Chindit at Doncaster four weeks ago, having run out an impressive winner on his debut on Town Moor. With Crowley opting for Alkumait, Dane O’Neill takes the ride.

Burrows said: “I’ve been happy with him since Doncaster. He did his last proper piece of work on Saturday and had a breeze midweek.

“He is inexperienced and this will be different for him. I’d like to think wherever Chindit finishes, we would be bang there with him – whether or not that is good enough to win, time will tell.

“On his pedigree he should get a mile next year and we will look to go down that route. God willing he is good enough to be talked as a Guineas horse, but we will learn a lot more on Saturday.”

Tactical won the July Stakes earlier in the campaign
Tactical won the July Stakes earlier in the campaign (Francesca Altoft/PA)

Andrew Balding has two chance in the shape of Mill Reef runner-up Fivethousandtoone and the Queen’s Tactical, who was fourth in the Middle Park having earlier won the July Stakes at Newmarket and the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot.

Balding said: “Both horses have shown a good level of form and seem in good form.

“Ground conditions could be different to what they’ve encountered before and that is going to play a part, but they’re both in good shape.”

A stellar field is completed by Decisive Edge (Brian Meehan), Devilwala (Ralph Beckett) and Devious Company (Tom Dascombe).