Tag Archive for: Royal Ascot Festival

Arizona Blaze fires home in Marble Hill

Arizona Blaze continued to impress with victory in the GAIN Marble Hill Stakes at the Curragh.

Adrian Murray and Amo Racing’s Sergei Prokofiev colt won on debut before coming home the runner-up behind the highly-regarded Whistlejacket next time out.

Both runs were over five furlongs, and for his third career start he stepped up to six under David Egan when a 7-1 chance.

The two-year-old was always prominent in the Group Three, taking up the lead early but finding himself under pressure as Camille Pissarro, the 4-6 favourite, loomed in the final furlong.

Arizona Blaze would not allow himself to be passed, however, and despite hanging right he still prevailed by a head to book his place at Royal Ascot.

“The plan was to drop him out and come from behind but there was no pace early on and he had choice but to go on,” said Murray.

“He stuck at it very well. He’s still not the finished article, there is more improvement in him between now and the Coventry Stakes.

“He was an early horse but we gave him an easy time of it after that to give him time to grow into himself.

“The last day he got beat here he wouldn’t have been 110 per cent.

“He had a right little bit of a blow after that race, so he’ll come on again.”

On training such high calibre horses, Murray added: “It’s dream stuff. I never could have imagined that this would happen to me.

“Robson (Aguiar, of Amo Racing) asked me two and a half or three years ago if I would train for them. He said that we’re going to be training top drawer stuff and I kind of took it with a pinch of salt but one year has been better than the next.”

Kerdos lunges to Temple Stakes success

Kerdos swooped late to create a minor surprise in the Betfred Temple Stakes at Haydock.

Much of the attention in the five-furlong Group Two was focused on Australian challenger Asfoora, who was sent off the 4-1 joint-favourite on her British bow, but it was Clive Cox’s charge who prevailed.

Last year’s Nunthorpe hero Live In The Dream blazed an early trail on his seasonal bow and he looked like fending off all challengers as he entered the final furlong still in the lead.

However, Richard Kingscote was just hitting top gear on 12-1 shot Kerdos and he edged half a length ahead at the line, with Seven Questions grabbing third and Asfoora having to settle for fourth.

Coral cut Kerdos to 10-1 from 20s for the King Charles III Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Kingscote said: “We thought he’d improved from last year and we also thought he was better than he’d shown this year.

“I got a nice lead into it, through the first furlong I wanted a bit of cover but once I did he dropped his head nicely.

“There’s still things we can work with on him, but he’s a nice horse going forward. He’s the type of horse Clive does really well with.”

Part-owner Alan Spence said: “It’s the third time we’ve won this race as we won with his sire, Profitable and also with Priceless so we’ve had three Temple Stakes winners, all with Clive which takes a bit of doing.

Clive Cox is a dab hand with sprinters
Clive Cox is a dab hand with sprinters (John Walton/PA)

“The faster they are, the better Clive likes them!

“We were a bit worried about the ground today but they haven’t used the straight course and it’s not as heavy, if anything it’s only soft.

“It looked like he took a bit of getting going today but I think that is because the other one (Live In The Dream) goes so fast, but once he was settled we were there.

“Royal Ascot is the plan, it was before today.”

Adam West was more than satisfied with Live In The Dream’s first run since finishing fourth at the Breeders’ Cup meeting back in November.

He said: “That couldn’t have gone better. He missed the break by half a beat today and I think that was because the horse next to him was playing up.

“He’s done everything I wanted to see today and he’s having a nice blow – I think he’s going to be a superstar this year.

“All the others had had runs, fair play the winner is nice and has been produced brilliantly but knowing what he has left in the tank for next time, we’ve avoided a penalty so we couldn’t have asked for more.

“We’re not going to Ascot, it’s too stiff a track for him, so we’re going for the Coral Charge at Sandown – that’s always been the plan and it’s a our home track. He can get some confidence there before he heads for bigger things but I’m absolutely delighted.”

Electric Storm ‘improving rapidly’ and has lofty targets

Electric Storm looks a sprinter going places for James Tate following her victory in the EBF British Stallion Studs Cecil Frail at Haydock.

Having just the fourth outing of her career, the daughter of Night Of Thunder is quickly making up for lost time.

Unraced at two, she won both of her races at three on the all-weather but nothing suggested she was anything out of the ordinary.

Tate decided to run her in Listed company first time out this season at Bath and despite being slowly away, she beat all bar Rod Millman’s consistent filly Adaay In Devon, with Vadream back in third.

Electric Storm looked to face a stiff task on Merseyside against Michael Dods’ 2023 Duke Of York winner Azure Blue but Paul Mulrennan was sending out early distress signals on the grey, while Danny Tudhope sat motionless.

The heavy ground began to take a toll close home and she needed to be pushed out, but she still had a length in hand over Sophia’s Starlight at the line.

“I was a little worried about the ground but it looked like she absolutely loved it, but I’ll have to check with Danny on that,” said Tate.

“She’s a lovely filly, improving rapidly and I’m chuffed to bits to see her get her black type.

“She had developmental problems as a yearling, so she didn’t really train as a two-year-old and she only really came into training in the summer of her three-year-old career, so she’s done very well.

“After she won those couple of races on the all-weather, we put her away for the turf for this year thinking this would be her year and it has started off well.”

Tate now needs to decide whether or not she takes up her options at Royal Ascot in Group One company or steps her up in class gradually.

“She finds everything easy at home and you wouldn’t know where her limit is, which is very exciting,” added the trainer.

“She goes on any ground, she’s quick enough for five but stays six, so she has a lot of options.

“We have a choice whether to try and make her a Group winner now or do we go for gold? We could look at a French Group race or the Chipchase at Newcastle, or later there’s the Summer Stakes at York for fillies and mares.

“Or we could go crazy and go for one of the big ones, we’ll make that decision in the next week or two.

“It would be brave to go straight from this into Ascot, the obvious step would be a Group race in between, but who knows, we’ll see how everybody is feeling in a week or two.”

Isle Of Jura books Hardwicke ticket with Goodwood strike

An appearance at Royal Ascot is next on the agenda for Isle Of Jura after the Bahrain Triple Crown winner made a triumphant return to Britain in the William Hill Festival Stakes at Goodwood.

The four-year-old enjoyed a hugely productive winter in the Middle East for trainer George Scott and jockey Callum Shepherd, winning four of his five starts overall, including a hat-trick of big-race wins since the turn of the year.

Making his first appearance since his most recent Bahrain triumph in early March, Isle Of Jura was a 6-1 shot to record a first victory at Listed level on home soil and after being held up off a steady pace, powered home from the rear to get the better of the blinkered Mujtaba by half a length.

“He gave everyone connected with him the winter of a lifetime and for him to kind of validate his form here is very special for us,” said Scott.

“He was giving a penalty away to the second horse, who is rated the same as him (112), albeit that horse is out of form.

“It was a very messy race, Isle Of Jura is a horse who loves to close off a strong pace and he didn’t get any of that today. He really had to dig in with grit and show a proper will to win.

“Callum had so much confidence in him, he didn’t panic, he had him in the right position and he got the job done.”

Isle of Jura and Callum Shepherd after winning at Goodwood
Isle of Jura and Callum Shepherd after winning at Goodwood (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Scott, who had originally planned on running his stable star in Thursday’s Brigadier Gerard Stakes before rain-softened ground at Sandown prompted a change of plan, believes there will be even more to come from his charge when he tackles a faster surface in the Hardwicke Stakes next month.

“He’ll certainly go to the Hardwicke now, back to a mile and a half on what will hopefully be fast ground and a fast pace – it should be absolutely perfect for him, really,” the trainer added.

“He’s come back from Bahrain, had a break and he was a bit fresh and a bit fizzy today in the preliminaries, so I expect that he’ll come on for the run.

“I’d be really confident that you’ll see an improved performer next time.”

Vandeek the star attraction in Sandy Lane comeback test

Ed Crisford has admitted the forecast testing conditions at Haydock will not be ideal for Vandeek’s eagerly-anticipated return to action in Saturday’s Betfred Supports Jack Berry House Sandy Lane Stakes.

The Havana Grey colt carried all before him in the juvenile sprinting division last season, winning each of his four starts, including Group One victories in the Prix Morny and the Middle Park Stakes.

His top-level triumph in France and his preceding Group Two success in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood were both achieved on soft ground, but with a tilt at the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot in four weeks’ time looming large, connections would prefer to be running on a quicker surface on his comeback.

Crisford, who trains Vandeek in partnership with his father Simon, said: “Vandeek has done well over the winter and his preparation has gone great. Obviously, starting him on this sort of ground isn’t that ideal, but he needs to run.

“We know he’s won on soft ground before, so it’s not too concerning, it’s just that it’s his first run of the year and they’re always entitled to improve, but bar that he’s in great order.

“This has been the long-term plan and the only thing you can’t control is the weather, so it is what it is. We know he goes on the ground, so it’s just a matter of getting him out now and giving him his first run of the year.

“All athletes will improve for that match practice and he’s entitled to improve for sure, but we’ve done as much as we can at home to get him ready for his first run.

“Hopefully he’s got a long year ahead of him, so we’ll see how he gets on on Saturday and off we go for the season.”

Inisherin (right) finishing second at Newmarket
Inisherin (right) finishing second at Newmarket (Tim Goode/PA)

The horse rated the biggest threat to Vandeek by bookmakers is the Kevin Ryan-trained Inisherin, who drops to six furlongs after finishing sixth over a mile in the 2000 Guineas three weeks ago.

Adam Ryan, assistant to his father, said: “I thought he ran a huge race in the Guineas, travelled well throughout and showed quite a lot of speed, so we thought we’d drop him back in trip for this.

“He’s in great order, we couldn’t be happier with him. Vandeek was a superstar last year and he’s obviously the one to beat, but we’re very happy with our fella and we’ll find out a lot more about him on Saturday.

“You never know whether they’ll handle soft ground until you try it, but if he does have a bit more stamina on his side, and obviously he’s won over a mile, it could be a positive.”

Other contenders include Andrew Balding’s Commonwealth Cup Trial third Purosangue, David O’Meara’s Greenham Stakes winner Esquire, Richard Fahey’s unbeaten dual winner Airman and the Stuart Williams-trained Pandora’s Gift, who switches to turf after winning her last four races on the all-weather.

“She’s been very straightforward and just progressed every race, and I think she’s come on again since her last race and I’m very happy with the condition of her,” said Williams.

“She’s fast and then she settles and then she can kick on again. We’ll find out if she doesn’t like soft ground if it’s soft, but I would imagine we’d run whatever happens.”

John and Thady Gosden’s Orne and Alaskan Gold from Karl Burke’s yard complete the line-up.

Promising Almaqam makes an impression in Heron Stakes

Almaqam knuckled down when it mattered most to secure a convincing victory in the Chasemore Farm Stud Staff Heron Stakes at Sandown.

Ed Walker’s colt had caused a few problems in the preliminaries to the one-mile Listed event, but turned in a professional performance out on the track to prevail by three and three-quarter lengths at 7-1.

William Buick was happy to flank the pacesetting Son early on but moved to the head of affairs when that runner lost ground by swinging very wide on the turn.

A furlong out, everything was to play for as Frankel’s half-brother Kikkuli and Ice Max tried to lay down a challenge, but Almaqam had lots more left in the tank and ultimately powered away in the closing stages.

This contest has been won in the past by some elite-level performers, including the likes of Kris, Kalanisi, Proclamation and Without Parole, and Almaqam was cut to as short as 16-1 with Coral for the St James’s Palace Stakes, although his trainer could opt to go up in trip at the Royal meeting.

Walker said: “I’m very happy, I was really impressed with how he hit the line so strongly in that ground. We were worried about the ground, I think everyone was worried about the ground, but he did it really well.

“I think 10 furlongs won’t be an issue, so we’ll see. That was a huge step forward, that was a strong race. I know plenty of horses may not have acted on the ground, sometimes those races can be a question of who acts best on the ground and you can be made to look better than you are, but he’s done nothing wrong in his career.

“He’s very straightforward, he’s a beautiful horse. I’m very grateful to His Highness Sheikh Ahmed (Al Maktoum) for sending him to me.

“It’ll be the St James’s Palace or the Hampton Court – I’m not sure yet.”

Of Kikkuli, trainer Harry Charlton said: “I’m very pleased with the run on that ground. He wouldn’t have enjoyed the going and I think a mile on better ground will suit him. There’s loads more to come.”

Royal Rhyme eases to Brigadier Gerard success

Royal Rhyme ran out a ready winner of the Chasemore Farm Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown under a confident ride from Clifford Lee.

Karl Burke’s charge justified his position as the 1-2 favourite by coming through late on to see off Certain Lad by a length.

After making it five wins from nine starts, the four-year-old remained unchanged at 20-1 with Coral for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Frederick Larson surged well clear on Miss Cantik in the early stages of this Group Three contest over 10 furlongs and must have been 10 lengths ahead turning for home.

But first Certain Lad picked off the pacesetter approaching the furlong pole and then Royal Rhyme timed his charge well enough to ease past and take top honours.

Lee said: “I always knew I was going to get there. I got the leader quite easily, it was more the second horse.

“My lad was only beaten five lengths in a Champion Stakes and can run like that in his first race of the season.

“Possibly (Royal Ascot), we’ll just see how he comes out of the race. I’m sure Karl and Sheikh Mohammed Obaid will have a plan.

“We’ve got plenty of good horses and with a horse like him, like I say he was only beaten five lengths in a Champion Stakes. He’s entitled to go for a good race, it just depends where.”

Sweet William and Havlin on the mark in Henry II Stakes

Robert Havlin highlighted why he is a jockey in demand when partnering Sweet William to victory in the Chasemore Farm Henry II Stakes at Sandown.

Having claimed Group One glory on board Audience in the Lockinge last weekend, the veteran jockey remained in the spotlight after being booked to ride Ambiente Friendly in the Derby.

He was at his best when cajoling the John and Thady Gosden-trained Sweet William (5-2) into this two-mile Group Three contest late on before getting the better of a battle with Caius Chorister.

Ryan Moore set out to make the running on Metier, with Trueshan and Chesspiece also taking up a prominent position.

The order stayed much the same until the home straight when Trueshan moved on, but Caius Chorister and Sweet William were travelling noticeably better in behind.

That pair went on to pull clear over the final furlong, but it was Sweet William who just came out on top by a head.

Sweet William was cut to 16-1 from 33-1 with Coral for the Ascot Gold Cup and is 14-1 with Betfair and Paddy Power for that two-and-a-half-mile marathon.

Havlin said: “He didn’t really travel for most of the race, but the further we went, the more he came on the bridle.

Robert Havlin is having a great time of things
Robert Havlin is having a great time of things (John Walton/PA)

“We put a visor on him today just to switch things up and it was a reversal with Caius Chorister from last time, when she pounced on me.

“I was able to keep an eye on everything in the race from where I was.

“He’s a hard horse to get there late, because he’s not really got that much of a turn of foot, so I don’t know how much he’s actually had in the tank there but he’s very talented and he got the job done.

“I think the further he goes, the better he goes. He’s untested beyond two miles but for me, I definitely think he’ll get two and a half miles.”

Referencing the Derby, in which he replaces Callum Shepherd on Lingfield winner Ambiente Friendly, the 50-year-old Scotsman said: “It was like getting six numbers on the lottery, it came out of the blue.

“I’ve got sympathy for Callum. At the end of the day I’m not listening to anything that’s been said, I’m not reading anything about it because I don’t want it to distract me.

“I was (riding him out in Newmarket), I did two canters, I’ll do the same tomorrow morning. He felt good.”

Meanwhile, the Cauis Chorister team are looking forward to a rematch in the Gold Cup.

“She ran a really good race, she nearly won – she didn’t, but it doesn’t matter,” said trainer David Menuisier.

“It’s a prep race for bigger things down the line. To me she’s better on quicker ground than this sort of ground, especially at this level because it really tests her stamina.

“I am delighted, she really belongs here. People were doubting her which they are allowed to, I think she put them straight this time around.”

Owner Clive Washbourn added: “It’s mindboggling, I love this horse. We’re going to the Gold Cup and that’s that, we’ve got to have a go!

“She doesn’t like this ground so that was a really gusty performance from her. Good to firm is better for her. I can’t moan, as you know I bred her. She’s amazing.

“What a week I’ve had, I bred the winner of the 2000 Guineas in Germany (Devil’s Point). But I love this mare.”

Enchanting performance sets Ffrench Davis filly up for Ascot

Enchanted Empress overcame a tardy start to land the Listed-class Orbital Veterinary Services National Stakes at Sandown.

Hawaiian was sent off favourite to further enhance the excellent record of Richard Hannon senior and junior in this contest and he set the pace after breaking swiftly.

However, the market leader failed to last home in testing conditions, with the Dominic Ffrench Davis-trained Enchanted Empress staying on strongly under David Egan to beat Rock Hunter by half a length.

The 4-1 winner had edged out the same runner-up by a neck at Ascot last time out to build on an opening Wolverhampton success, and in doing so continued the great early run of results for promising young sire Sergei Prokofiev.

Enchanting Empress (second left) on her way to victory
Enchanting Empress (second left) on her way to victory (John Walton/PA)

Brocklesby victor Zminiature was another doing all his best work at the finish to take an eyecatching third.

“She’s a tough filly, she just got herself out of trouble as she sat back in the stalls a little bit and missed the kick,” said Ffrench Davis.

“She had the class and speed to get herself out of trouble. We always thought she was an Albany filly, but I think we’re leaning now towards the Queen Mary because she’s got sharper with every run.

“It should be ideal, David was very much of the mind that five furlongs at Ascot was going to be fine.

“She’s got a fantastic attitude, she hadn’t done a lot between her last run and Ascot and here and she was actually a bit fresh today.

“She took a bit of waking up in her first run, but I think she knows what it’s all about now.”

Dominic Ffrench Davis can look forward to Royal Ascot
Dominic Ffrench Davis can look forward to Royal Ascot (John Walton/PA)

He added of the Amo Racing-owned winner: “Kia (Joorabchian) puts a great investment into the game and he deserves to have a few good ones. It’s great to be able to build up something good enough to go to Royal Ascot.

“She seems to cope with any ground, she won on the all-weather at Wolverhampton, she won goodish ground at Ascot and it didn’t bother her here today. A good horse will go on any ground.”

Sea Just In Time looks poised for Goodwood on Saturday

Sea Just In Time is in line to back up the impression she created on her Newmarket debut by way of the William Hill Height Of Fashion Stakes at Goodwood on Saturday.

The Sea The Stars filly is from the famous Time Charter family and looked booked for big things when bolting up by almost five lengths on her debut at the Guineas meeting.

Haggas resisted the temptation to rush her and prepare her for the Oaks and will instead keep her to calmer waters in Listed company, with options like the Ribblesdale and Irish Oaks potentially down the line.

“I think she’ll run. She’ll either run this weekend or at Goodwood’s next meeting (in the Agnes Keyser Stakes),” said Haggas.

“She’s a pretty nice filly so I think we’ll run. She’s just not quite thriving yet, she doesn’t really look much different from Newmarket and I don’t want to set her back.

“I’m not too worried about the ground or anything and I think she’s pretty good.

“I just don’t want to set her back, but she’s got to run some time if we want to start looking at a higher grade. You know me, I’m never in a rush, it’s no bad thing.

“Chorus will run if Sea Just In Time doesn’t.”

Haggas will also be represented in the colts’ race, the British Stallion Studs EBF Cocked Hat Stakes by Space Legend.

“Space Legend is quite a nice horse in the Cocked Hat as well, he won’t be last. He won nicely at Leicester,” he said.

Asfoora team eager to start British adventure with Temple of zoom

Australian filly Asfoora will look to launch a summer of British sprinting in the Betfred Temple Stakes at Haydock on Saturday.

The five-year-old, who is trained in Victoria, has been boarding at Amy Murphy’s Newmarket stable after jetting over nearly a month ago.

Asfoora is a multiple Group winner on her home turf, specialising at five- and five-and-a-half-furlong trips in a career that has seen her take eight of her 18 starts so far.

Now she will aim to make her presence felt on the speed scene here, with her trainer taking inspiration from the exploits of Australia’s Choisir, winner of both the King’s Stand and what was then the Golden Jubilee at Royal Ascot in 2003.

The mighty Black Caviar is another who made a successful foray to British shores, famously winning the renamed Diamond Jubilee in 2012, as Dwyer watched on from Melbourne.

“It’s had a big influence, particularly Choisir doing the Tuesday-Saturday double,” he said.

“With Black Caviar I was at Federation Square in Melbourne at the big screen, there were famous scenes of 20,000 or 30,000 people cheering her on in the middle of the night and I was one of them.”

Asfoora does not have the same profile as either horse, although Dwyer still feels the decision to fork out for the trip will be justified as the sprint division is seemingly lacking the standout performers who dominated in previous years.

“When we decided we were going to come over there was a little bit of surprise that this mare, who is possibly the ninth or 10th best sprinter in Australia, was going to chance her arm,” he said on a Jockey Club-hosted Zoom call.

“In reality she’s probably in the top three five-furlong sprinters in Australia, these races are much more suitable for her and it seems a very even year for sprinters over here – I think she can measure up.”

The Temple Stakes is the starting point, after which Dwyer is hoping to target all of the key meetings throughout the summer with Royal Ascot the next port of call ahead of the Nunthorpe, the King George at Goodwood and perhaps even a sojourn to Ireland or France.

He said: “The Betfred Temple Stakes would be a terrific race to win but it’s not our grand final, it’s a lead up run for Ascot. By the same token, we need to stamp ourselves here and say that we’re going to be highly competitive at Ascot.

“I was thinking of the quadruple crown! We’ll throw in the King George at Goodwood on the way.

“We’ve got a pretty ambitious plan but we’re not here for a haircut! We’re here to win some races and if we can kick off at Haydock, we’ll go to Ascot, then there’s six weeks to Goodwood and then you’ve got a bit of a break to the Nunthorpe.

“If we’re all still standing we can potentially go to Ireland for the Flying Five or France for the Abbaye.

“Her owner, Mr El-Fahkri, is a racing man and though he’s a breeder as well, he’s got no ambitions of retiring her anytime soon.

“He’s keen to treat her like a gelding and race her and to that end, we’ve got a pretty ambitious summer plan.”

No rush to firm up plans for smart-looking Lead Artist

Connections of Lead Artist are keen to let the dust settle on the exciting colt’s dominant display at York last week before considering the next plan of attack.

Beaten a nose by Charlie Appleby’s First Conquest on his debut in the Wood Ditton at Newmarket’s Craven meeting, the son of Dubawi reversed that form in some style in novice company on the Knavesmire, pulling almost five lengths clear of his rivals, with First Conquest 11 lengths back in fourth.

The John and Thady Gosden-trained winner holds an entry in the Group One St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, but he appears far from certain to take such a leap in class so early in his career.

Barry Mahon, racing manager for owner-breeders Juddmonte, said: “Lead Artist was very impressive, he’s a beautiful colt and has always been a beautiful colt.

“John and Thady have taken their time with him and we were disappointed to get beat the first day, even though it was the smallest of margins. In another few yards we would probably have got up, but it was probably no harm that he got to have another go at his maiden and we were delighted with him at York.

“I don’t really have a plan for him at this point in time. I think we’ll give him a week or 10 days, see how he comes out of it and then start thinking about where we’re going to go.”

On an appearance at Royal Ascot in the St James’s Palace, Mahon added: “It would be a massive step and it would be a conversation to be had, but I think in an ideal world you’d like to be going for an intermediary (race) before going for a race of that calibre. I’m sure John and Thady will come up with something next week.”

Witch Hunter earns Royal Ascot trip with Lockinge effort

Richard Hannon’s Witch Hunter has a Queen Anne aim after his gallant placed run in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

The five-year-old is a reliable campaigner who scaled new heights when claiming a Group Two success last season, with that Hungerford Stakes victory likely inspiring a course and distance return at the weekend.

Fifth behind Charyn in the bet365 Mile on his seasonal debut at Sandown in late April, the gelding was then third at Listed level when contesting the Spring Trophy at Haydock.

In against proven Group One horses, he was a 22-1 chance under Sean Levey on return to Newbury for the Lockinge, where the market just favoured John and Thady Gosden’s Inspiral over Maurizio Guarnieri’s Big Rock.

The eventual winner was none of the above, however, as the Gosden and Cheveley Park second string Audience prevailed at 22-1, having run into an unassailable lead when trying to set the pace for his stablemate Inspiral.

Behind him was Charyn, who diligently gave chase, and in third was Witch Hunter, another 22-1 chance who notably outran his odds.

With another solid run over a mile under his belt, Witch Hunter will now be aimed at the Queen Anne Stakes over the same trip at Royal Ascot in June.

“He ran a super race, it was a bit of a strange race in the end but I was very pleased with him,” said Hannon.

“He was the best of the rest on his side of the race, he ran a super race and I’m sure his day will come.

“We’ll look at the Queen Anne for him, definitely.”

O’Brien planning American adventure for Al Riffa

Al Riffa will head to America before Joseph O’Brien starts to plot a route towards the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

A Group One winner as a juvenile, his three-year-old season was disrupted by injury but he did manage two second place finishes.

He was beaten less than a length into fourth in the Prix Ganay on his reappearance and will now aim for glory in New York.

“Al Riffa is going to Saratoga for the Manhattan Stakes, a Grade One on June 8,” said O’Brien.

“He ran really well in France, his first run back. He was coming there but got a bit tired and the race didn’t set up nicely for him.

“He actually gets a 7lb allowance in America for not winning a Group race last year, so the conditions of the race suit him very well and it’s a lot of money.

“I think he’s going to stay well and we are kind of dreaming he may be an Arc horse, but the aim is to win a Group One first.

“The worry is he’s a big horse and the track might not suit but it’s a $2million race. His other options were the Tattersalls Gold Cup against Auguste Rodin or Royal Ascot and meet whatever there.”

Closer to home, Atlantic Coast will represent the yard in the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas this weekend.

Atlantic Coast (left) winning the Killavullen Stakes
Atlantic Coast (left) winning the Killavullen Stakes (Damien Eagers/PA)

“Atlantic Coast disappointed in Leopardstown on his first run back but he’s been training good since then. He’ll probably run in the Guineas because it’s a good spot for him,” said O’Brien.

“He could end up in the Jersey at Ascot but I think the Guineas is a good spot for him. He’s a smart colt but the Guineas looks like being a hot race. I think he just got stuck in the mud first time out but he’s a lovely horse.”

Raise You may be eight but after the best part of two years off, he returned with a decent comeback effort recently behind White Birch.

“We took him out to Sydney but it was a bit of a disaster because he got injured and couldn’t run,” explained O’Brien.

“It was a promising run on his comeback because he’d been off the track for 580 days, it was a really good run and he goes back for the Orby Stakes this weekend. He won it a couple of years ago so it should be a nice race for him.”

O’Brien is also building a strong team for Royal Ascot, adding: “Uxmal won at Killarney the other day and he’ll go for the Queen Alexandra because I think that will suit him.

“He could be a Melbourne Cup horse, I thought he won well the other day and he’s done nothing wrong. His form from last year has worked out. He’s a tallish horse and always took time. He got beat in a maiden at Gowran when we thought he’d win but A Piece Of Heaven beat him, then he won his maiden and just got beat in a Listed race in France going up to 106. I thought that looked steep but the horse that beat him did really well in Dubai.

“Nusret goes for the Ascot Stakes. He’s a staying handicapper who likes cover. He might end up in a Galway Hurdle or something as well.

“Stromberg ran well on his first run back behind Donnacha’s horse (Bremen). He’ll probably run in the Gallinule and then go to the Hampton Court at Ascot, that kind of a programme.

“Dawn Rising will head to Ascot. He took a bit of getting fit this year. His first run was only OK but his second run was a lot better. He loves the long distance. He always gets a bit hot, you’d think a guy of his age would know by now but that is just what he does. He’s done it since he was a young horse.”

One horse who O’Brien has especially high hopes for is Galen, who was kept on the sidelines after a very promising debut behind City Of Troy.

“Galen was second in a maiden last year and will have an entry in the Curragh this weekend,” he said.

“He had a bit of a hold up last year but I’ve been waiting for some nice ground. Hopefully he’s a stakes horse going forward, he’s done well over the winter. He’s still a maiden and has to go up through the ranks. We’ll take it slowly with him.”

Big-money buy Rogue Millennium to make Curragh bow

Rogue Millennium is set to have her first run for new connections in the Lanwades Stud Stakes at the Curragh this weekend.

A Royal Ascot winner last season for Tom Clover in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes, she also finished a fine second to Tahiyra in the Matron Stakes on Irish Champions Weekend.

Sold for a whopping 1,650,000 guineas to American Scott Heider and now in training with Joseph O’Brien, the five-year-old will have some fancy targets this year.

“The plan for Rogue Millennium is the Ridgewood Pearl (Lanwades Stud Stakes) at the weekend. She looks to have settled in well and the plan is to try to win a Group One with her, obviously she’s already a Group Two winner,” said O’Brien.

“She’s a real beauty, a daughter of Dubawi. She was Group One-placed, she’s a beautiful filly and the dream is a Group One. She’s a high-class filly and I’m delighted to have her.

“I’d love to win a Group One for Scott Heider, who is a big supporter of ours. We did enter her in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, she has won over 10 furlongs but we’ll start her over a mile and see how she gets on.

“She might go to Ascot but potentially she could go for something in America, so we’ll see how she gets on this weekend.

“Her Matron run was her real standout run, she has other good form but that was a serious run. She’s a big, strong mare – well over 500 kilograms – so she’ll probably just take a race or two but her work has been very nice.”

Lumiere Rock in winning action at the Curragh last year
Lumiere Rock in winning action at the Curragh last year (Damien Eagers/PA)

Another smart filly in O’Brien’s care is the Blandford Stakes winner Lumiere Rock, another due to make her seasonal debut this weekend up against Auguste Rodin.

“Lumiere Rock will run in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the weekend, hopefully. She’s been off since she ran in the Breeders’ Cup,” said O’Brien.

“She had a busy year last year so it was always our intention to start her this weekend. She won the Blandford last year, she had a good season, she was very busy, placed in a Group One in France (Prix de l’Opera) and ran great at the Breeders’ Cup.

“It’s the perfect starting point and she probably ran her career-best at the Curragh. She always takes a couple of races but I expect we’ll be able to keep her busy again. Maybe she’ll start off strong this year but she has taken a couple of runs in the past.”

Goldana has already won a Listed race this season and was just touched off under a penalty last time out. She could take on Rogue Millennium this weekend.

O’Brien said: “Goldana didn’t get the rub of the green in Gowran the other day. She might run in the Ridgewood Pearl at the weekend if the ground isn’t too firm. She was fourth in it last year. She’d have won in another stride or two, we got it a bit wrong on the day.

“Galileo Dame (fourth in Cheshire Oaks) might go for the Gowran Classic (June 3), we’ll see what the ground is like. It’s a new race so we’ll look at that and she’ll have an entry in the Gallinule as well.

“She ran a great race in Chester, she just got back a little bit back but she was staying on well. She should be a good performer, hopefully, for her owners in the second half of the season. Her maiden has worked out very well and she does handle soft ground well.”

Another filly with lofty targets in Maxux, owned by the footballer Alvaro Odriozola.

Maxux has some lofty targets
Maxux has some lofty targets (PA)

“Maxux, the last day was a bit of a mess for her. It was a very slow pace, she pulled very hard and she’s not the simplest of fillies in the world. She’s having an easy time of it now but we’ll bring her back for the Pretty Polly,” said O’Brien.

“The Pretty Polly and the (Prix Jean) Romanet will be her spots in the summer. She handles soft but has won on better ground. I think she’s pretty versatile.”

Two more fillies in the yard with Royal Ascot ambitions are Adelaise and Gregarina.

“Adelaise won a Listed at Kempton and she’s going to Ascot for the Kensington Palace,” said O’Brien.

“She ran in it last year and finished fourth and we felt she was a bit unlucky not to win it. She’s a nice, solid filly. She progressed well last year in handicaps and stakes company without winning, so it was nice to get her head in front.

“Gregarina won the Athasi, she’s in a race in America but she’s probably going to go to Ascot for the Duke of Cambridge. She won really well the other day, she came from the back and showed a big kick to get up late. She’s a nice filly so the plan is to go to Ascot.”