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Quick Suzy set for Phoenix Stakes

Quick Suzy is likely to take on the boys in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh next weekend.

Trained by Gavin Cromwell, the filly was an impressive winner of the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot for her American-based syndicate Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.

The original plan after Ascot had been to wait until the Cheveley Park at Newmarket at the end of next month, but she was added to the Phoenix at the second entry stage.

Bloodstock agent Joseph Burke, who facilitated the sale, said on behalf of the owners: “We added her at the second entry stage, and I’d say it’s 95 per cent that she’ll run. She just needs to do a bit of work in the week.

“I think she’s a filly who loves her work, and it would have been a long time to wait until the Cheveley Park.

“As a Group Two winner we didn’t see much point in going for the Lowther, and if she can get Group One black type in the first Group One of the season for juveniles in Ireland that will be a big thing and make her a valuable breeding prospect.

“She’ll do a piece either Monday or Tuesday, depending on (jockey) Gary Carroll’s availability, but at the moment it looks like she’s going.”

Sunday’s race promises to be typically strong, and Burke added: “It looks like the first two from the Railway Stakes are heading there too, Go Bears Go and Castle Star, and I’d imagine Go Bears Go will be favourite – because the Railway looked the strongest two-year-old race of the season at the time to me.

“I don’t think we’ll be far behind, along with Ger Lyons’ Beauty Inspire.

“The race is only down the road for Quick Suzy. She doesn’t have to travel this time, and I know travel in 2021 is a big deal – it must be a bonus to spend the night in your own stable.”

Top apprentice Marco Ghiani savouring super summer

Life in 2021 just keeps getting better and better for Marco Ghiani.

This is proving to be a landmark year for the 22-year-old Italian, who is setting a strong pace in the race to be champion apprentice.

Not only has he ridden out his claim, but he had his first Royal Ascot winner this summer on Real World and opened his Listed account on the same horse at Newbury.

His first ever treble at Newmarket on Saturday extended his advantage over closest pursuer Mark Crehan to 18.

“Yes it’s going really well. I’m ahead in the apprentice title race, but there’s a long way to go,” he said.

“Mark has obviously now got a ban for 28 days so it gives me a good chance to get a bit further clear, but you never know anything could happen.

“I could break a leg or get banned for a long time. I’ve just got to try to keep going how I am.”

Ghiani may only be 22 and not from a racing background, but he has been driven to be a jockey since the age of 14 and sat on a racehorse for the first time at 15.

He was noticed by Dario Vargiu, multiple champion jockey in Italy, who contacted him and encouraged him to take the route his heart was telling him.

“I was riding in the Sartiglia in Sardinia. It was a carnival thing with the horses. The champion jockey in Italy texted me and it went from there,” said Ghiani.

He took the brave decision to leave home in Sardinia and enrolled at the British Racing School at 16 and joined Luca Cumani’s stable in Newmarket.

 Marco Ghiani spent his formative years with Luca Cumani
Marco Ghiani spent his formative years with Luca Cumani (Nigel French/PA)

He said: “I was with Luca Cumani for three and a half years. He was helpful and it was exciting.”

Ghiani followed in the footsteps of Frankie Dettori, who was mentored by Cumani, while Andrea Atzeni is a fellow Sardinian who has made his mark in racing here and abroad.

After Cumani retired in October 2018, Ghiani rode out for another Newmarket trainer Stuart Williams.

“He wanted someone to ride out and then I started to ride for him,” he said.

Ghiani had his first ride in June 2018 and his first winner in March the following year. He rode out his claim on July 1 on Surprise Picture for trainer Hugo Palmer at Yarmouth.

The horse who thrust him into the limelight was Real World when the pair took the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot.

“It was just amazing. I can’t describe it,” he said.

Then earlier this month Ghiani gained his first Pattern-race success on the Saeed bin Suroor-trained four-year-old in the bet365 Steventon Stakes at Newbury.

“As soon as he saw daylight he just took off. He is some horse,” he said.

“Riding for Saeed bin Suroor is a good experience and everything. I’m quite grateful.

Marco Ghiani drives Real World (blue) to victory in the Steventon Stakes at Newbury
Marco Ghiani drives Real World (blue) to victory in the Steventon Stakes at Newbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“It’s the Goodwood Festival so hopefully I can get a winner next week.”

Ghiani has also had plenty to celebrate on a personal front with his partner Brooke Brown giving birth to a boy, Louis, in May.

The baby was just 15 days old when he was taken to his first race meeting at Brighton and Ghiani promptly rode a double to mark the occasion.

“It has changed my life a lot. I feel more grown up quite a lot,” he said.

Being a jockey can involve long hours away from home but Ghiani is taking that in is stride.

“I get up at about five o’clock and I can be late getting home to Newmarket. Hopefully I can keep going from strength to strength,” he said.

**Marco Ghiani is currently in first place in the 2021 Apprentice Jockeys’ Championship. For more info please visit greatbritishracing.com.

Commonwealth Cup result unchanged following appeal

Connections of Dragon Symbol have lost their appeal against the decision of the Ascot stewards to award the Commonwealth Cup to Campanelle.

The pair fought out a thrilling finish to the Group One contest at the Royal meeting, with Oisin Murphy steering Dragon Symbol to a head victory over the Frankie Dettori-ridden Campanelle.

But Dragon Symbol made contact with Campanelle on more than one occasion during the final furlong and a half, with the stewards deeming the interference significant enough to merit reversing the placings.

Dragon Symbol’s owner Yoshiro Kubota and trainer Archie Watson opted to contest that decision via a British Horseracing Authority disciplinary panel hearing, which took place on Thursday morning.

The panel viewed recordings of the race from a variety of positions, including head on, side on and from behind the field, as well as hearing extensive evidence from Dettori and Murphy, plus a brief submission from Watson.

In his evidence, Dettori explained he felt there were three instances of contact in the race, that the interference had caused Campanelle to lose her balance and combined with Dragon Symbol’s “intimidation” he had been “unable to win the race” as he was taken off his his true line and “had no chance of keeping my horse straight”.

Dettori was asked by Louis Weston, representing the BHA, to estimate the distance the interference cost his mount and he said: “It’s hard to say, but approximately 15 metres.”

Frankie Dettori at the Commonwealth Cup trophy presentation
Frankie Dettori at the Commonwealth Cup trophy presentation (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Graeme McPherson, for Dragon Symbol’s connections, contested that opinion, suggesting the distance was more in the region of six or seven metres, although all sides agreed Campanelle had moved across by around six horse widths.

Dettori also agreed he had not had to stop riding during the interference, but said his horse had been “intimidated” and “taken off balance” by the incidents.

In a post-race interview on the day, Murphy reported Dettori had said Dragon Symbol was the best in the race, but Dettori insisted Murphy was mistaken.

He said: “There was a conversation, he possibly misheard me or misinterpreted, but I did not say that.”

Murphy reiterated during his evidence the conversation did take place, although he could not recall if it occurred before or after going into the stewards’ room when pressed on the timing.

He said: “After the race, Frankie going into the stewards’ inquiry, he didn’t say to me either way he felt he was going to win the race in the stewards’ inquiry, but he did say to me ‘sorry kid, this is horse racing, you were on the best horse but that’s life’.”

Oisin Murphy celebrates aboard Dragon Symbol before the placings were reversed
Oisin Murphy celebrates aboard Dragon Symbol before the placings were reversed (David Davies/PA)

Murphy outlined in his evidence that he “didn’t want to hit the front too soon” and was mindful of conditions on the day, but “the acceleration he showed when given a little squeeze saw him go from a length or two behind to half a length in front in a short period of time, he showed a real burst”.

Murphy further stated that before he asked his mount for maximum effort, Dragon Symbol drifted right and “almost put the brakes on having gone clear”, the rider saying his mount had “leaned on (Campanelle) fractionally” before “running straight and true again”.

He also added he had no recollection of a third instance of contact, with the last interference occurring more than 100 metres from the line, with Campanelle not heading him inside the final half furlong and feeling his horse was “good value” for the winning distance, with something “still to give while Campanelle had given her all”.

During some sparky exchanges with Weston – who accused the rider of being “argumentative” – Murphy admitted to careless riding – for which he received an uncontested four-day ban – but felt the subsequent interference had not affected Campanelle’s ultimate performance, adding he felt she “had every chance to win the race”.

During his evidence, Watson outlined how inexperienced Dragon Symbol was, progressing in a “very short period of time” and having his first race in front of a crowd of “more than stable staff and connections”.

He added that Dragon Symbol does not hang at home and had not shifted in previous races.

Archie Watson, trainer of Dragon Symbol
Archie Watson, trainer of Dragon Symbol (Simon Cooper/PA)

Having considered all the evidence, the panel, which comprised of chairman HH Brian Barker QC, Tim Etherington and Steve Winfield, dismissed the appeal but the Dragon Symbol team will have their deposit returned.

Written reasons for the panel’s decision will be provided in due course, but in summing up Barker said: “We have given careful attention to the rules and guidelines and taken great care to consider the factual matters and arguments placed before us.

“Our conclusion is that the stewards did come to the right conclusion and that the appeal fails.

“In our view this was absolutely a debatable appeal, something which should have been given careful consideration and in our view the deposit should be returned.”

Royal Ascot 2021 Clock Watcher: Sectional Horses of Interest

The searing heat of battle that is Royal Ascot is now a fading memory but its impact on the form book will permeate throughout the remainder of this season and beyond. Picking performances of extreme merit is not difficult - Poetic Flare's demolition in the St James's Palace Stakes, Subjectivist's similar one horse show in the Gold Cup to name two - but profiting from such knockout efforts is more challenging, unless you have deep pockets, a fearless outlook and no eye for value.

In this post, then, I'd like to look a bit further down the running orders in search of a few horses who may have achieved more than their notation in the records suggests; and I'll undertake this act of faint clairvoyance (after all, every soothsayer performs their oracle on the basis of what they see before them that the recipient cannot necessarily yet see for themselves) through the prism of sectional timing information.

There is, I hope, slightly less smoke and mirrors than your average gypsy caravan crystal ball encounter in what follows but, as with tarot readings, time will tell on that!

One final note before I begin: this article was inspired by one covering the same subject produced by the perma-excellent Simon Rowlands, which can be read here. We are both looking at the TPD sectional data so there will be commonalities; but there is also sufficient differentiation - as well as an opportunity for me to highlight how readily such performances advertise themselves on these pages - to justify treading a similar path.

A Quick Whizz Through The Mechanics

First of all, finding results for a specific meeting on a given date is as easy as selecting the date, either from the 'Recent Results' or 'Results Search' buttons, and then choosing the meeting in question from the dropdown.

Finding racing results for a specific meeting on a specific date

 

Clicking the red 'Full Result' button for a race takes you to that result. Gold subscribers will see on the right hand side of the result a column called 'UP':

 

This is the sectional upgrade figure our algorithm has allocated to the horse in question. For example, in the above image Palace Pier got an upgrade of 3. You can also see these upgrades highlighted in certain circumstances on our Fast Finishers report (rightmost column):

 

I'll not go into detail on how the upgrade figure is calculated but it is of course important to understand what the number is attempting to measure. It is in essence a barometer of how much more a horse may have to give in a more agreeable race setup; put another way, it seeks to quantify the degree to which the way a horse ran compromised its chance. A third way of couching is how sub-optimal, or inefficient, was the performance in terms of energy distribution.

Management summary: the bigger the upgrade figure, the more - notionally - the horse may have had to offer.

To the races... (at last, Ed.)

Tuesday

On the opening day, the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes was quick through the middle section and commensurately slow at the end (finishing speed in the turquoise box of 97% - the colour coding is a little unreliable at Ascot where there is, at this stage, a small sample of data with which to work).

Oxted was a fine, and thoroughly efficient, winner of the race, he and second-placed Arecibo benefiting from well-timed rides. Of the first four home it is clear from the UP column that Battaash should be marked up most. He served it up in that rapid middle section and faded late on. Given that he was coming back from surgery for his seasonal bow, this was a performance of promise and presumably he'll now head to Goodwood for the King George Stakes and then on to York for the Nunthorpe as he has done with metronomic regularity in each of the past four seasons.

But down in the cheap seats are a couple of double digit upgrades. Care does need to be taken sometimes with big UP figures far from the podium positions, especially when achieved by big-priced outsiders. In this case, we have a brace of 11's for 7/1 Winter Power and 40/1 Maven.

And, in this case, my contention is that both should be treated as of just about equal merit. They were drawn next to each other, they were both within a length (or so) of the lead to the furlong pole, and they both faded late. As a Wes wunner, it may be that we don't see Maven again until this time next year, but Winter Power is likely to attend all the midsummer five furlong dances if her nine races in little more than four months last season is any gauge.

In the 1m6f Copper Horse Stakes, the Charlie Fellowes-trained Dubious Affair closed well but just too late. Depending on your view of jockey Jamie Spencer, it was either a great but unlucky ride or a shocking cockup. Very few seemingly take a neutral view of that particular pilot. Personally, I'm in the great rider camp, and he was unlucky here, as were connections of course.

Fellowes' Royal Ascot handicap record is worthy of a mention. After a couple of years getting the hang of things, he's recorded three winners, two seconds and a fourth from ten runners since 2017. The winners were 33/1 twice and 20/1, and Dubious Affair would have been a third 33/1 score.

Wednesday

The feature of the Queen's Vase, a 1m6f Group 2 for three-year-olds, was the steady tempo at which is was run, borne out by upgrades in the teens for most of the first eight home. Kemari benefited from his prominent position, getting first run on waited with rivals. Stowell and Benaud, both 6 1/4 lengths off the lead at the half mile pole closed well but could never overcome the head start they'd afforded those up top. Of the pair, Stowell may be of slightly more interest in future, though both retain plenty of upside in staying company.

I've highlighted the in-running comment for Wordsworth, because he too was probably inconvenienced by the run of the race. Not in a sectional sense but, rather, by dint of the fact that he would likely have benefited from a more truly run event. He's a definite St Leger player in my view.

 

Indie Angel was a big price but an unambiguous winner of the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes. Coming from near last to win going away, she could be a live one for a Group 1 like the Sun Chariot in early October.

In the Windsor Castle, Ruthin ran a stormer despite finishing no better than 7th. Drawn 12 of 27, the least favoured part of the track, Frankie jumped in front and tacked left across to the near (stands') rail. Before considering the fuel guzzled in trapping and making the running in a big field five furlong juvenile contest, there is the ground covered in manoeuvring 15 stall widths across the track, quite probably more than the eventual 3 1/2 length margin of defeat.

It may of course all be moot anyway unless you wager US racing because we're unlikely to see Ruthin this side of the pond any time soon. That said, she's one to follow and could end up at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, hosted at Del Mar in early November.

Just behind Ruthin was Guilded, now a three race maiden and a 66/1 shot this time. She too was on the speed and, though berthed better than the US runner, still deserves plenty of credit for this effort. She looks a near certainty (don't quote me!) in an ordinary novice event perhaps on a slightly easier track.

Thursday

Mohaafeth was an exciting winner of the Hampton Court Stakes and looks destined for greater things. In behind, perhaps Movin Time is another to take from the race. Getting no cover and racing wide early was not the plan, and then being interfered with would have lit him up a little; in that context, the fact he hit the front two from home before fading is creditable. A lesser Pattern score is within his grasp.

 

In the Ribblesdale, Eshaada was an unlucky second. While the winner received an enterprising ride, Rab Havlin controlling the pace through the second half of the race, those in behind were all compromised to some degree - as is generally the case when one gets an easy lead. Havlin kicked at the optimal time for his filly and the others were varying degrees of unable to pull back the leash. Eshaada got nearest in spite of being remarkably weak in the markets all day. Divinely is another who closed from too far back.

The Britannia Stakes featured a number of significant upgrades and, by now, I hope you'll be able to spot them, and add to your tracker if you'd like, by yourself:

 

Friday

Between Thursday and Friday, it got wet. Very wet. The going pendulum swung a full arc and was heavy for the penultimate day. That will have ruined the chances of many more than those officially declared non-runners.

The opening Albany Stakes was a personal triumph for geegeez-sponsored jockey David Probert, who rode the winner, Sandrine. But it was the filly who followed her home, Hello You, that goes (actually, stays) on my list. A massive sectional eye-catcher (and, in truth, an eye eye-catcher!) on debut when scooting away from her (uncharacteristically well-touted for the track) field at Wolverhampton, she built on that here, travelling nicely to lead at the furlong pole before, I presume, finding her closing kick blunted by the ground. She could be a very smart filly over six and seven furlongs this season.

 

The six furlong Commonwealth Cup, a Group 1, was controversial as a result of the revised placings of the first two home. Further back were two performances also of merit for the future. While Suesa was on everyone's radar beforehand - the French filly was sent off 9/4 favourite - and ran better than her finishing position suggests, it is the Irish-trained filly Mooneista I'm most interested in.

Trained by the unfashionable Jack Davison, she's been running consistently well, largely in defeat, for two seasons. Here, she closed to within two lengths of the lead at the furlong pole before folding to an eight-length beating at the line. But most of her best form is over five furlongs. When returned to that trip I expect she'll be very competitive.

 

There were three more sectional possibles for the Tracker in the Sandringham, which I'll again allow you to pick out if you'd like:

 

Saturday

The Wokingham was a classic two for one race, the far side having much the best of it. But it is the eighth horse home, Punchbowl Flyer, who goes on my list. First of nine home on the stands' side, history tells us he had no chance of taking this race, instead convincingly scoring in his division. Left on 99 by the handicapper, that arguably makes him a winner without a penalty and, given he'd won his previous two he looks likely to be competitive wherever he shows up next. For similar reasons, Lampang may also step forward next time.

 

Summary

There were some incredible performances last week in Berkshire, and some less obvious ones which might pay their way going forwards. I hope the above has offered a few for the notebooks and, more than that, I hope it's tempted you to play around with this intel on the results. The sectional data appears on results a day or two after the races and it takes, literally, a few seconds to scan a race for big UP figures. Thereafter, a quick squint at the context in which that figure was attributed will leave you with a decision about whether to note the horse for a future assignment.

It's simple enough because we've done most of the legwork: do take a look!

Good luck,

Matt

Prix Niel on long-range radar for Tasman Bay

Sir Mark Todd is considering a trip to ParisLongchamp for the Prix Niel with Tasman Bay after his second-placed finish in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The Le Havre colt was beaten only by William Haggas’ Alenquer in the Group Two contest, having started as the outsider of the field of six at a price of 10-1.

A deluge over the Berkshire track left conditions heavy on the day, something Todd felt the three-year-old coped well with in spite of his ground-covering stride.

“We were very pleased, I thought he ran as well as we could have hoped and he just ran into a good one on the day,” the trainer said.

“I think he handled it pretty well, maybe not as well as the winner, but he’s got that big huge stride which I think makes it difficult to quicken. But he coped and proved that he’s a decent horse.”

Tasman Bay – who was narrowly beaten by the well-regarded John Leeper in a Listed affair at Newmarket – will be given time to recuperate before an immediate next target is decided, but the Group Two Prix Niel is pencilled in for what could be one of the final runs of his three-year-old campaign.

“We’re mulling things over at the moment, he knew he’d had a race so we’ll just give him a few days to get over that and then we’ll have a think,” Todd said.

“I’m not quite sure where we’ll go yet, but long term we’re probably aiming to race in France and maybe go for the Prix Niel, what we do before that we haven’t quite decided.

“I think next year he’s going to be a better horse, we don’t want to overcook him this year.

“He’s had four runs now, we might end up only doing another couple of runs with him (this season).

“We’ll see how he takes it, he’s progressing through the season and he’s like a great big teenager, he looks big and strong but he’s got such a big body that he just needs a bit more time to give himself the strength to really handle himself.”

Tasman Bay has become a flag bearer for Todd’s yard since the gold medal-winning Olympian took out his training licence in 2019 following his retirement from three-day eventing.

“I’ve been very lucky having a horse like him to make these choices with, I’m very thankful to Sir Peter Vela (owner) for putting him with us,” he said.

“We’ve had a bit more interest in the yard since he ran at Ascot which is great.”

Dream Of Dreams ‘very, very well’ after deserved Ascot success

Dream Of Dreams’ connections were left delighted after he made it third time lucky when taking the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The Sir Michael Stoute-trained seven-year-old avenged his two prior narrow losses in the race when claiming a one-length victory under Ryan Moore in the Group One contest.

Beaten by just a head in both 2019 and 2020, the chestnut was this time victorious as he battled past Glen Shiel and Art Power to prevail as the 3-1 favourite.

Bruce Raymond, racing manager to owner Saaed Suhail, reported Dream Of Dreams to have taken his exertions well.

“We were delighted, and he’s come out of the race very, very well,” he said.

“He’s usually a bit stiff but this time he wasn’t, most sprinters are a bit stiff afterwards and whether it was the easy ground, I don’t know, but he’s come out of it remarkably well.

“His owner was absolutely delighted, he wanted to know if he can keep the trophy so I said ‘no, you have to win it twice’ and he just said ‘well we’ll do it next year then!’.”

Raymond also praised the training performance of Stoute, who produced the horse to a Group One victory having only run once this term when taking the Listed Leisure Stakes at Windsor in May.

Sir Michael Stoute walks in with Dream Of Dreams
Sir Michael Stoute walks in with Dream Of Dreams (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“It was a fantastic performance, of course from the horse but I think also from Michael,” he said.

“He looks straightforward but he’s a horse that doesn’t work with any other horses at all and exercises mostly on his own, not because he’s crazy or anything, I just think it suits him better.

“I haven’t seen him gallop, he just breezes on his own and to do it with a seven-year-old is good, to get him there in a top-class race without a prep run is pretty clever.”

Dream Of Dreams holds an entry for the six-furlong July Cup at Newmarket in just under three weeks, but his presence is not guaranteed as there are some questions over the suitability of the July course track.

“I don’t know (if he’ll run) but I would doubt it, I’m just not sure about him going down the hill at Newmarket,” Raymond said.

Ryan Moore explains how it was done on Dream Of Dreams
Ryan Moore explains how it was done on Dream Of Dreams (David Davies/PA)

“Maybe the race in Deauville over six and a half furlongs (Prix Maurice de Gheest), we might step him up, there’s only certain races we can go for when you’ve got to stick to a pattern.”

The Diamond Jubilee Stakes was a ‘win and you’re in’ contest for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, a race that will this year be run over five furlongs as the meeting is due to be hosted by Del Mar racecourse, a track that cannot accommodate a sprint race over a longer distance.

As a result Raymond considers it unlikely that the son of Dream Ahead will venture to the States, though the race is still some time away and has not yet been discussed with all parties.

“I personally think the horse would get a mile in America, but it hasn’t been discussed, these are only just my thoughts,” he said.

“I think he’d get the mile in America, I really do, because he stays the seven (furlongs) well at Newbury.

“The Breeders’ Cup Sprint I think would be too sharp for him, they’d be gone.”

Sir Michael Stoute has plenty to look forward to with Dream Of Dreams and Astro King
Sir Michael Stoute has plenty to look forward to with Dream Of Dreams and Astro King (David Davies/PA)

Alongside Dream Of Dream’s triumph, Royal Ascot also provided Suhail with a second-placed finish in the Royal Hunt Cup when Astro King took the runner-up spot behind Saeed bin Suroor’s Real World.

“Astro King ran a great race,” Raymond said of the performance.

“I think he’s progressive, we expected him to run like that.

“I think he’s one of those horses that could continue to improve.”

Sir Busker team eyeing Canadian trip for Woodbine Mile

Sir Busker could take aim at the Woodbine Mile after his third place in Royal Ascot’s Queen Anne Stakes.

The William Knight-trained five-year-old was a 22-1 shot for the Group One contest and performed admirably when finishing behind only John and Thady Gosden’s Palace Pier and Aidan O’Brien’s Lope Y Fernandez.

Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds, who own the five-year-old, were delighted with his effort, particularly considering the value of the two horses that surpassed him.

“We were thrilled with his run, he was absolutely brilliant,” said Sam Hoskins, racing manager for the syndicate.

“He was very much David against Goliath. The two horses in front of us cost a million and a half between them, so we were thrilled to be third with him having cost €25,000.

“It felt like a winner for us, we’re really excited for the future and he’s come out of the race well.”

Further Group One targets are now on the horizon for the gelding, with both the Woodbine Mile and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes long-term targets for the bay, the latter a race in which he finished fourth last season.

“The Queen Elizabeth II will be a big longer-term aim in October, but we could consider going to Woodbine in September for the Mile,” Hoskins said.

“More immediately, something like the Summer Mile at Ascot could be under consideration, and I did notice that he’s been moved up 5lb in the handicap this morning, which is 5lb well in in the Bunbury Cup at the July meeting.

Sir Busker has been a real star for his connections
Sir Busker has been a real star for his connections (Edwward Whitaker/PA)

“Maybe that’s a bit unlikely and we’re probably a bit uncertain about the next step, but longer term I think Canada and the Woodbine Mile would be very much on the radar.”

Victory at the Canadian track would be hugely valuable to Sir Busker’s owners, with the race run for a purse of $1million, though the son of Sir Prancelot has already earned far more than his purchase price from his five victories and nine placed efforts.

“He’s just such a star, he’s come up the ranks and everyone loves him,” Hoskins said.

“We beat Lord Glitters at Ascot and he’s a similar horse. These types of horses are amazing and hopefully he can carry on giving everyone so much fun as he’s a real star.”

Top Rank poised for either Newmarket or Windsor

James Tate has both Windsor and Newmarket options as Top Rank bids to bounce back to winning ways after Royal Ascot.

The Lockinge third travelled well for a long way in the Group One Queen Anne Stakes, the opening race of the Royal meeting, but fell away in the latter stages of the contest to finish sixth behind Palace Pier.

Tate reports the grey to be in fine fettle after the effort and intends to strike while the iron is hot with a follow-up run on Saturday.

Newmarket’s Group Three Criterion Stakes and Windsor’s Listed Midsummer Stakes are both under consideration, with the trainer likely to be drawn to the fixture that offers the softest going.

“He came out of Ascot very well, fresh and bouncing,” he said.

“It just didn’t happen for him, whether that is because he was drawn on the wrong side or the ground was a bit quick – I don’t know.

“It just didn’t happen for him but he’s very well, so we’ve got him in on Saturday to back him up like we have in the past.

“At this stage I don’t know what’s more likely, a mile at Windsor, Listed, or the Group Three at Newmarket.

“We’d prefer to win a Group Three than a Listed race, but we might be more likely to get easy ground at Windsor.”

Top Rank was victorious in Haydock’s Group Three Superior Mile Stakes on soft ground in September – a factor that leaves Tate more likely to opt for the Windsor contest as conditions at the track are evidently very soft given their cancellation of Monday’s fixture.

“The quickest ground he’s run on was at Ascot and we were slightly disappointed with his effort,” he said.

“He came out of it so well, I think we’d have to say that he is a heavy ground Group Three winner.

“Windsor was abandoned so we’re probably more likely to get give there.

“He’s bouncing, fresh and well, I’m anxious to run him somewhere at the weekend because he’s in really good form.”

Monday Musings: Of Long Days and the Classic Generation

June 21st is upon us. The longest day was to be the freest day until the timid medical advisors to the UK government put the wind up them with fears that the D variant – the virus formerly known as Indian – would cause another surge in infections, writes Tony Stafford.

Well it has, averaging around 10,000 a day for the last week or so, but they are testing many, many more nowadays. Anyone prepared to go anywhere near a racecourse will have enjoyed the experience of things up their nose or aimed at their tonsils.

Since mine were removed in 1952, the year of the Queen’s ascent to the throne – rewarded with a nice ice cream <me, not the Queen> as I recall – I would only be eligible for the nose job, but apparently it’s very much an officialdom-rich environment.

While the infections have risen, the numbers dying most emphatically have not, an average of ten a day for the last week when the “roadmap” was hastily and negatively redrawn. With massive numbers of older people fully vaccinated you wouldn’t expect many deaths, but the silly old advisors want it both ways.

As I’ve said numerous times, I won’t go until everyone is free to go everywhere. I contented myself with a Saturday night day-early Father’s Day celebration with my three 40-plus children and a selection of their issue. Lovely it was too.

So on to the summer and of course from tonight the days will shorten inexorably by three minutes for each of the next 182 and then the semi-cycle will start again the other way round. We’ve already had Royal Ascot and ten of the 12 spring/summer European Classic races – only Ireland’s Derby and Oaks remain in that part of the calendar, and then the St Legers in their various forms and degrees of credibility.

The Irish have won eight of the ten, Jim Bolger picking up the 2,000 Guineas with Poetic Flare and his domestic version with Mac Swiney. Poetic Flare’s demolition job in the St James’s Palace Stakes certainly puts him well ahead among the mile colts this year.

The two Classics decided so far and not to have been won by the Irish have been the Poule D’Essai des Pouliches (French 1,000) won by Coeursamba, trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, and  the Derby (Adayar, Charlie Appleby).

The remaining six have all been hoovered up by Aidan O’Brien and the Ballydoyle team and each of them boasts combinations of the increasingly complex Coolmore pedigrees.

Five individual horses have been involved in those all-important Classic victories, and four of them are fillies. I contend that St Mark’s Basilica, despite his workmanlike victory in the French 2,000 (Poulains) and a more comfortable Prix Du Jockey Club success, both under Ioritz Mendizabal, is vastly under-valued in official terms. He beat a big field in Chantilly and his female stable-companion Joan Of Arc (by Galileo, <really?!, Ed?>) was similarly too good for another large field of home fillies in yesterday’s French Oaks, the Prix de Diane. This time Coeursamba finished only 11th.

On Sunday Aidan relied on a single runner in a field of 17 and the 16 home defenders were no match for another Mendizabal mount who won by just over a length from the fast-finishing Fabre-trained and Godolphin-owned Philomene, a daughter of Dubawi.

That made it single-runner O’Brien challenges in three of the four French Classic races to be run so far – unplaced Van Gogh joined St Mark’s Basilica in the Jockey Club.  Therefore three wins and a close second (Mother Earth, ridden by Christophe Soumillon) in the French 1,000. That new-found minimalist approach also extended to Epsom and the Derby where Bolshoi Ballet, the favourite, was left as their only runner having been initially one of six expected to turn out.

Three of the four fillies in question improved markedly on juvenile form, the exception being 1,000 Guineas winner and then Pouliches runner-up Mother Earth, who had already earned her 111 rating for her second place in the Juvenile Fillies’ Turf race at Keeneland last November and remains on that figure despite her Classic exploits. She ran another game race in third in much the most testing ground she has faced in Friday’s Coronation Stakes at Ascot behind Andrew Balding’s Alcohol Free.

Joan Of Arc took a rating of 105 into the Irish 1,000 and was Ryan Moore’s choice for the race but Seamie Heffernan got up on the line that day aboard Empress Josephine (101) in a private duel between two Galileo fillies. She clearly improved on that yesterday while Emperor Josephine was assessed at 109 after her win.

But the biggest eye-opener was Snowfall, the 16-length Oaks winner at Epsom who went into her prep in the Musidora at York on an official mark of 90. That was upped to 108 after her Knavesmire romp but even so she was still believed by insiders to be second-best among a more normal Oaks quintet behind lightly-raced Santa Barbara, now beaten favourite in both this year’s fillies’ classics in the UK.

It seems to me a master-stroke of fudging by the BHA to restrict Snowfall’s latest mark to 120, not merely because that is 2lb lower than Enable after her Oaks defeat of Rhododendron – what that champion did after Epsom has nothing to do with the assessment - and also 1lb less than Adayar.

The give-away for me is to suggest that Mystery Angel, rated 100 after her fourth (four lengths back) in the Musidora had only equalled her York mark. That ignored she made the running at Epsom in a much bigger field and still had the resources left to stay on and retain second 16 lengths behind the Frankie Dettori-ridden winner, finishing well ahead of a trio of considerably more highly-rated fillies.

If the medical advisors who keep us wearing masks and touching fists rather than shaking hands are timid, they have nothing on the BHA men who fear giving too high a rating to a Classic winner, even one who has set a record winning distance for any UK Classic in living memory and beyond.

Snowfall has made the first big statement that she might be a challenger to Love, her predecessor as an outstanding Oaks winner and star of the stable’s slightly disappointing Royal Ascot, as the season progresses. Love, dropping back two furlongs after a ten-month absence since the 2020 Yorkshire Oaks, made all to win the Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.

A third female deserving of mention in that elite grouping must be the David Menuisier-trained four-year-old filly, Wonderful Tonight. She got first run on Broome to win Saturday’s Hardwicke Stakes in style despite its being her first appearance of the year. Her French-born Sussex-based trainer has the Arc, where she has a good chance of getting the soft ground she favours, as her main target.

Broome may not have won but earlier that afternoon his close relative by Australia, the two-year-old Point Lonsdale, won the Chesham Stakes, a race often reserved for the best of the earlier O’Brien juveniles. Ryan had a battle keeping him straight, first going right and as they got close home, more markedly left, but they had enough in hand to beat the Queen’s promising colt Reach For The Moon – Sea The Stars/ Gosdens / Dettori – by half a length.

We had wondered why she chose Saturday to make an appearance. That highly-encouraging performance and the good run later of her King’s Lynn in the Wokingham made it a bit more like Royal Ascot, even when viewed from Hackney Wick. Hopefully, Your Majesty, you and me (and many others besides) can be there for the whole five days in 2022.

The astonishing thing about all four female Coolmore Classic winners is that at no time did anyone at Ballydoyle, and certainly not the trainer nor the owners, believe any of them was within hailing distance of Santa Barbara. My guess from Epsom was that the favourite probably did not stay the mile and a half under the conditions and in the quirky way the race was run, up the stands side with all the direction changing that inevitably happens.

I’m looking forward to seeing her, in what still will be only her fourth race and with a highly-creditable close fourth to Mother Earth at Newmarket on her record, in a suitable race over ten furlongs. The Nassau would be nice, but maybe she won’t be the only one from her stable appearing in that Goodwood Group 1.

 

Bradley delighted by Royal Ascot efforts

Nick Bradley reflected on Royal Ascot with pride after a busy and successful meeting for his eponymous racing partnerships.

The syndicate had entrants on all five days of the Royal meeting, with Eldrickjones coming closest to victory when finishing second behind Berkshire Shadow in the Group Two Coventry Stakes.

The son of Cotai Glory was beaten by a length and a quarter having started at huge odds of 66-1, and Bradley feels the Roger Fell-trained bay could have gone one better had luck been on his side.

“The two two-year-old colts ran really well, with Eldrickjones finishing second in the Coventry,” he said.

Eldrickjones (right) finishing second in the Coventry Stakes
Eldrickjones (right) finishing second in the Coventry Stakes (David Davies/PA)

“I think if you ran that race again and it worked out slightly differently, he’d probably win.”

Bradley’s other two-year-old colt was racecourse debutant Kaboo, who finished sixth in the Windsor Castle Stakes after finding himself at the centre of a huge gamble that saw him backed from 66-1 down to 15-2.

“That was an almighty debut to finish sixth,” Bradley said of the colt’s run.

“Again, I think if you ran that race on a different day he’d be finishing better than sixth.

“Both are exciting colts to take forwards. We’ve only got three two-year-old colts in training, so for two of them to run so well at Royal Ascot, it says a lot about what we’re trying to do.”

The syndicate enjoyed a third-placed finish in the Group Three Albany Stakes, a race they won last season with Dandalla, with George Boughey’s Oscula this time carrying the hopes of the partnership when galloping alone down the inside rail to cross the line two lengths behind the winner.

“We took a brave man’s tactic in that race, I sent both of them up the rail,” Bradley said of the tactics employed by Oscula and Hellomydarlin, his second runner in the contest.

“I said to the jockeys ‘if we get it right, you can claim the glory, if we get it wrong, it’s my fault’.

“I just thought, with the way the races were running previous to that, that the rail would be the place to be.

“We very nearly pulled it off. I think if we had won I would be smiling for a very long time, especially having won it the previous year.

“Mark (Crehan, jockey) gave her (Oscula) a great ride, she’s a filly that we didn’t pay a lot of money for competing against Dubawis and £400,000 yearlings.

“We were proud of her performance.”

Dandalla returned to the fixture after her success last year, this time taking aim at the Group One Commonwealth Cup and finishing fourth at 33-1 after failing to fire in previous runs at Newbury and Haydock.

Dandalla winning the Albany Stakes during the 2020 Royal meeting
Dandalla winning the Albany Stakes during the 2020 Royal meeting (Edward Whitaker/PA)

“Myself and Karl always had faith in Dandalla, we knew that the engine was still there,” Bradley said.

“It was just a case of getting things wrong at Haydock and we’ve put the record straight.

“To put the record straight in a race like the Commonwealth Cup was very rewarding. Fourth in a race like that, behind two rockets that finished first and second (Campanelle and Dragon Symbol), it’s probably a career best run.”

After a busy Royal Ascot the syndicate will now look forward to Newmarket’s July meeting as their next target.

“We have had runners there every day of the week, I think we took over 200 owners there in total,” said Bradley.

“It was rewarding and we’re now going to look forward to the next one and try to get things right for fixtures like the Newmarket July meeting.”

Logician team satisfied following Newbury return

Logician pleased connections when finishing third behind impressive winner Al Aasy in last week’s Aston Park Stakes at Newbury.

John and Thady Gosden’s 2019 St Leger winner has had an interrupted career to date.

Unraced at two, he won all five races at three, culminating in Classic glory at Doncaster.

His comeback was delayed last year due to a potentially life-threatening case of peritonitis, but he returned to action at Doncaster in September with a win, although he was last of four on his only other outing at York last season.

“We were quite pleased. I know he didn’t win, but he came back fine and showed good enthusiasm,” said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for his owner, Juddmonte.

“Obviously he needed the race, but he’s recovered from it well and we were encouraged by that, really.

“He stuck to his task well, he stayed on, so his next race will hopefully show he’s back on track.

“He’s in the Hardwicke, which could be a possibility, but the family (of Juddmonte founder Khalid Abdullah) will decide on that.”

In a similar situation was Sir Michael Stoute’s Sangarius, who has endured several issues during his career but performed creditably behind Armory in the Huxley Stakes at Chester.

Sangarius (pink hat) chased home Armory (left) at Chester
Sangarius (pink hat) chased home Armory (left) at Chester (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Sangarius has come out of the race well,” said Grimthorpe of the 2019 Hampton Court winner.

“I thought it was a nice performance. He got hemmed in slightly, but that wouldn’t have made the difference between winning and losing, I don’t think.

“We just need a clear run with him this season, injury free.

“He has several possibilities and the family will ultimately decide, but he could run in something like the Brigadier Gerard.”

Whether the famous Juddmonte colours will be carried in the Cazoo Oaks by Musidora runner-up Noon Star has still to be decided.

“There’s no decision on Noon Star yet, the family will let me know whether she goes to Epsom or not,” said Grimthorpe.

Charlie Hills upbeat on Battaash’s Royal Ascot run

Charlie Hills has issued a positive bulletin regarding the possibility of Battaash defending his crown in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The seven-year-old, who went unbeaten last season, picked up a small fracture in the winter which led to a longer lay off than usual.

After finishing second to Blue Point in 2018 and 2019 in the King’s Stand, Battaash went one better when beating stablemate Equilateral in the race last June before going on to win the King George Stakes at Goodwood for a fourth time and the Nunthorpe at York for a second time.

“He’s been back with us a week now and straight away he’s settled back into his routine of what he has done for the last few years. I’m really pleased with him,” said Hills.

“He’s not backward in his coat, which is nice as it has been pretty cold weather. I’m really pleased with where we are with him actually.

“At the moment there’s no reason why he wouldn’t make it (Ascot). His weight is pretty good and he’s showing all the same levels of enthusiasm that he always has done, so I’m happy.”

Evergreen Dettori still revelling in the big occasion

Frankie Dettori freely admits that, at 50 years old and in the 34th season of his career, the humdrum days no longer get his juices flowing. But it is very different when he is on his stage.

The Italian has ridden winners around the world, but the place where he comes alive is on a lush green strip of turf in Berkshire.

The speculation is always rife when a seasoned professional with a glittering career behind him might be ready for the pipe and carpet slippers. Just ask six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady, who will be 44 when the season starts – ancient in NFL terms.

Yet certain things get you up in the morning. The aches and pains are lessened by the soothing balm of enthusiasm for the biggest days.

Dettori comes alive in the spotlight. He may have lived in Flat racing’s HQ of Newmarket since arriving in this country from his homeland, but it is Ascot which is his professional home and the Royal meeting, in particular, is the time and place for a clutch of Dettori’s command performances.

And in Stradivarius, he will have a chance of another milestone at the showpiece fixture, after the seven-year-old came through his prep in the Longines Sagaro Stakes on Wednesday with flying colours, beating Ocean Wind by an easy length.

It was Dettori’s fifth Sagaro Stakes success, although the last winner of the race to go on to land the Gold Cup was Estimate in 2013. Dettori is now seeking a ninth Gold Cup triumph, and a fourth consecutive one with the Bjorn Nielsen-owned Stradivarius, who has the chance to equal Yeats’ four-timer between 2006-2009.

Dettori said: “Horses like Stradivarius are what you get up for. He had been a progressive three-year-old the season before his first Gold Cup when he had improved as the summer had gone on. We knew he had strengthened up over the winter and we genuinely thought we had a real Gold Cup contender on our hands.

“And he has just been so consistent ever since.”

Frankie Dettori leaves the weighing room ahead of the Sagaro Stakes
Frankie Dettori leaves the weighing room ahead of the Sagaro Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Much like his partner, who is as addicted to the adrenaline kick of a big winner as much he ever was. Probably more so.

Dettori and his trainer, John Gosden, realised that in Stradivarius, a chestnut with distinctive white socks on his legs, they had a rare commodity – a stayer with a turn of foot.

Dettori said: “The ground was against him on his last two runs last year, but he’s been in great form at home and he has the same old enthusiasm he has always had. He has shown us all the right signs throughout the winter.

“Bjorn was a little worried that he may not have the enthusiasm, but he has always had that and he’s shown me no signs that he has lost that. John has been very happy with him and he has the ability to win over shorter trips than the Gold Cup.

“Today, I wanted to be closer to the pace and didn’t want them to get away from me, but he has got a turn of foot and when I asked him to quicken, he got there too soon.

“He is an incredible horse and he has that extra burst.”

Dettori shows no signs of calling it a day just yet. He admitted: “Riding horses like those obviously gives you a spring in your step. I feel like a teenager when the season starts, and I still can’t wait to get going. I am as fit as I have ever been, spending time in the gym, and I look after myself, but I also must be realistic.

“I am very lucky to have a boss like John. He understands me. He’d rather have me up for the weekends and the big days, fresh and hungry, rather than slogging around the country chasing smaller prizes that just don’t motivate me anymore.

“There was a time when I wanted to win every race. I’d have driven miles for a winner, even if it was just a seller. But it is impossible to maintain that level of motivation.

“You never know what is around the corner, but horses like Stradivarius are what it is all about.”

And rather like Stradivarius at the end of his races, Dettori’s stride is not shortening. He is looking forwards. There will be plenty of time for reflection.

He said: “Yeats won four Gold Cup and people said that would never be done again, but for us, the dream is still alive!”

There is a statue of Yeats in the parade ring at Ascot. “Let’s hope they will have to make space for one of Stradivarius,” he added.

Super Stradivarius seals Sagaro success on return to action

Stradivarius returned to action with a smooth success in the Longines Sagaro Stakes at Ascot.

Now a seven-year-old, Bjorn Nielsen’s superstar stayer showed all his old enthusiasm remains intact.

Kept in training in an attempt to emulate Yeats by winning a fourth Gold Cup back at the Royal meeting in June, the Sea The Stars entire cemented his claims as still being very much the one to beat.

Ridden by his old ally Frankie Dettori, he was content to let Stag Horn and Nayef Road set an honest gallop.

With half a mile to run Dettori had been shuffled to the back of the six-runner field, which meant he had to go from the inside rail to right around the pack just after the turn into the straight.

As Stag Horn dropped away John and Thady Gosden could watch on contently as Dettori was still going sweetly with over a furlong to run on the 4-6 favourite.

His customary turn of foot was in evidence as he went two lengths clear and while he did begin to tire as Ocean Wind and Nayef Road closed in, Dettori did not need to get serious and just kept him up to his work to beat Ocean Wind – who ran well up in class – by a length.

As the chestnut had been well beaten in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and on Champions Day in his final two outings, the Gosdens will have been pleased with what they witnessed and the general reaction from the bookmakers was to cut Stradivarius to 6-4 to win a fourth Gold Cup.

Gosden senior said: “He (Nielsen) is incredibly sporting. To have a horse like this who has won three Gold Cups and four Goodwood Cups and a number of other races has been a dream come true. The old horse has got his enthusiasm still, as you can see. The last two races were bottomless ground and bottomless ground and he didn’t like either of them.

Stradivarius was a joy to behold at Ascot
Stradivarius was a joy to behold at Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Frankie has been and sat on him since he has got out of quarantine twice. I’ve been thrilled with him all winter, he’s happy with him. All the people who work around the horse – we’ve all been very pleased with him. The horse has been his normal self.

“He ran a great race with poor old Anthony Van Dyck in the Prix Foy on decent ground. Then it was like a bicycle velodrome race in the Arc, when they trotted then sprinted in heavy ground and he didn’t like it and then the ground here was close to unraceable (on Champions Day), so I ruled those two races out.

“So I had every confidence that the enthusiasm was there. Frankie was over the moon with him – he travelled well and he thought ‘Oh, I’d better not let them get too much rope on me, and the next thing I gave him a click and he’s taken four lengths out of them in half a furlong and I hit the front too soon,’ so that’s a good sign.

“He is comfortable over this trip (two miles). He ran third to Ghaiyyath in a track-record time in the Jockey Club Stakes first time out last year in order to give him a prep. He was in the mix until the last furlong, but it was a track record and he was probably four and a half lengths off the track record over a mile and a half on fast ground.”

All roads now point towards the Gold Cup, without another run, according to Gosden.

He said: “He’s fine. He’s got the speed, but obviously he likes the Gold Cup distance, and I think we’ll come straight back here for the Gold Cup – I don’t see the point in running him anywhere else in between.

“His best surface is good ground like most horses. The summer soft, which we had last year, he can deal with. But when you get autumn, bottomless ground, no – that is not his scene. He has too good an action for that.”

A delighted Dettori said: “These horses are what you get up for. He’s been in great form at home and he has the same old enthusiasm he has always had. I wanted to be close and didn’t want them to get away from me, but he has got a turn of foot and when I asked him to quicken, he got there too soon. He is an incredible horse.

“Bjorn was a little worried that he may not have the enthusiasm, but he has always had that and he’s shown me no signs that he has lost that. John has been very happy with him all winter and he has the ability to win over shorter trips than the Gold Cup.

“Yeats won four Gold Cup and people said that would never be done again, but for us, the dream is still alive!”

Campanelle and Aunt Pearl headline American aces in line for Royal Ascot

Camapanelle and Aunt Pearl head the star quality on course to travel to Royal Ascot this year from America.

Brad Cox’s unbeaten Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Aunt Pearl is in the reckoning for the Coronation Stakes on June 18 – one of eight Group Ones throughout the famous five-day meeting, at which entries for 12 races have been published.

Aunt Pearl’s credentials are due to be tested on her comeback run in the Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs later this week.

She is one of eight US-trained Ascot entries, also including Campanelle – winner of last year’s Queen Mary Stakes and fourth to Aunt Pearl at Keeneland, for Wesley Ward – and Brendan Walsh’s top sprinter Extravagant Kid, who could bid to pull off the King’s Stand and Diamond Jubilee Group One double.

Liz Crow, who represents Aunt Pearl’s owners, reports the filly in great form as she bids to extend her record on her three-year-old debut.

“We first want to see how Aunt Pearl performs on Friday in the Edgewood,” she said.

“She is doing great at the moment. She has been training really well and we are excited to see her back out.

“Hopefully, she comes back and wins well – and then we will be able to move forward with the plan of running at Royal Ascot.”

Campanelle provided Ward with his 11th Royal Ascot success last year, before beating the boys in the Prix Morny at Deauville two months later.

She is one of Ward’s two entries in the Commonwealth Cup, alongside Illegal Smile, while he also has Diamond Jubilee and King’s Stand aspirations with Bound For Nowhere and Maven respectively.

Frankie Dettori celebrates with Campanelle
Frankie Dettori celebrates with Campanelle (Edward Whitaker/PA)

He said: “Campanelle did us proud last year, and the owners are really excited about bringing her back for the Commonwealth Cup.

“I have had my eye on this for some time, because I think the stiff six furlongs on the straight course will suit her really well.

“We are looking to give her a prep race about a month out from Ascot, although where that will be I am not sure yet.

“Our other filly in the Commonwealth Cup, Illegal Smile, will be out in a five-furlong race on the grass at Churchill Downs. How she gets on there will determine whether she travels.”

Bound For Nowhere is a veteran of three Royal Ascot missions already, but it is not yet certain he will return.

Ward added: “Bound For Nowhere made a really exciting comeback at Keeneland recently.

“With him, we are jostling over bringing him to Ascot again or going for a Grade One sprint on Belmont Stakes day. It will be a while before we make a decision on that.”

Wesley Ward is always to be feared at Royal Ascot
Wesley Ward is always to be feared at Royal Ascot (Steve Parsons/PA)

Ward also has high hopes for Maven, and singled out recent Keeneland winner Ruthin as a major contender to add to the yard’s four previous Queen Mary victories

“The filly by Ribchester, Ruthin, produced an eye-opening performance at Keeneland last week,” he said.

“We expected her to run well going into the race. Not all horses produce in the afternoon what they show you in the morning, but she did, and it was great to see.

“She is on a direct course for the Queen Mary Stakes.”

Extravagant Kid has taken his form to a new level at the age of eight, having won the Al Quoz Sprint under Ryan Moore at the Dubai World Cup on his most recent start.

Walsh said: “Everything has been good with Extravagant Kid, and Royal Ascot is the target if all goes well between now and then.

“It was a proper performance from the horse in Dubai.

“Extravagant Kid has entries in the King’s Stand and Diamond Jubilee. Both races have their appeal, and it made sense to enter for both because he is quite versatile.

“We will see how each race is shaping and make our minds up nearer the time. I would not write off him running in both just yet, although I would say it is unlikely.”

A stellar home and European challenge will of course await the trans-Atlantic travellers.

John Gosden’s Lord North holds an entry to defend his Prince of Wales’s Stakes crown – with Aidan O’Brien’s dual Classic-winning filly Love and William Haggas’ globetrotter Addeybb, runner-up last year, also in the mix.

O’Brien’s Battleground won the Chesham Stakes in 2020, and may be back in the St James’s Palace Stakes this time.