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Shergar Cup belongs to Turner as Ladies triumph at Ascot

Hayley Turner is looking forward to taking home the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup for good after leading the Ladies team to victory in the 20th running of Ascot’s annual competition.

Turner is the most successful jockey in the Cup’s history, having claimed eight winners in 13 previous appearances.

She was leading rider at the fixture in both 2018 and 2019 – and with the competition having to be cancelled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, she was delighted to again be leading the team which this year also contained Mickaëlle Michel, from France, and Scottish rider Nicola Currie.

Earlier in the week, Turner made a plea to keep the Shergar Cup for good if she could complete a hat-trick of jockey crowns.

“My dad was telling me if you win the World Cup for three years you get to actually keep it, so I’m thinking if I win it for a third year, surely I get to keep the actual Shergar Cup?” she said.

While riding honours went emphatically to Currie, whose double on the card helped her claim the Alistair Haggis Silver Saddle award, Shergar Cup organisers confirmed Turner can keep the team silverware – having racked up 304 Shergar Cup points.

Another trophy will be produced for 2022.

Turner said: “I think I’m going to need a bigger house to put it in! I’m absolutely delighted.

“Well done to Nicola – she has ridden out of her skin today. The Shergar Cup has helped me over the years by projecting my career and hopefully it will be the same for Nicola, because she deserves more quality rides than she is getting.

“Nicola is amazing, and it’s so good for her – I’m delighted. I love the Shergar Cup, it is so much fun.”

The Ladies team, previously known as the Girls, was introduced in 2012 to create a four-way competition along with Europe, Rest of the World and Great Britain and Ireland.

The sides have tweaked slightly in the current pandemic era, with GB and Ireland split and Europe on hold for 2021.

Currie’s two winners on the card were a major contribution to the Ladies Team’s table-topping tally of 69 points.

Jockey Nicola Currie holding the Alistair Haggis Silver Saddle Trophy
Jockey Nicola Currie holding the Alistair Haggis Silver Saddle Trophy (Steven Paston/PA)

She said: “What a team. In the end they were straightforward rides and straightforward winners. It’s been a fantastic day, and thanks to all the owners and trainers who have helped today.

“All the publicity is great – it’s hard work being a jockey, and any publicity is good publicity.

“It’s great to have two winners on the board. It’s fantastic and it’s just been a great day.”

Team Ireland were second best in the overall competition on 66 points, with Britain third on 64 and Rest of the World last of the four on 53.

While she did not manage to get among the winners, Michel was delighted to take part, saying: “I’ve loved riding today.

“I was close on a second, and it would have been lovely to win a race, but riding at Ascot has been brilliant.”

Currie delight at Silver Saddle award

Nicola Currie was delighted after an Ascot double helped her claim the Alistair Haggis Silver Saddle award in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup.

Making her debut in the competition, the Scottish rider was joined by Shergar Cup regular Hayley Turner and French jockey Mickaelle Michel in a strong-looking Ladies team.

Currie first struck gold aboard 11-1 shot Just Hubert in the Shergar Cup Stayers, for the training team of William Muir and Chris Grassick.

She was beaten just a head into second place on HMS President in the following Shergar Cup Challenge, before getting back in the number one spot courtesy of the Mark Johnston-trained State Of Bliss (9-2) in the Shergar Cup Classic.

Currie ended the day on 47 points overall, a tally which helped the Ladies secure victory in the team competition.

“What a day – it’s unbelievable to win the Silver Saddle,” she said.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet. I was hoping I might nick one today or the team could win on points, but to have a double is unbelievable.

“I thought this leading jockey’s armband would be harder to keep than a driver’s licence!”

Currie hopes her achievement will help take her riding career to the next level.

She added: “I really hope so. It’s tough for everybody, especially at the minute – there are so many jockeys and so many good jockeys out there.

“You need a few winners to get the flag going again, and this is really going to help. I want to keep the ball rolling.

“I don’t want to just sit on the sidelines and do it just to get by. I want to make a good go of it, so hopefully this can pick things back up again.”

Ireland’s David Egan was second on the rider’s list with 29 points, and his team-mate Joe Fanning shared third place with the British pair of James Doyle and Cieren Fallon – all on 27 points.

Tis Marvellous again in Shergar Cup Dash

Tis Marvellous got the Rest of the World team and Danish jockey Kevin Stott off to a flying start with a narrow victory in the opening race of the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot.

The Clive Cox-trained gelding was a 9-2 joint-favourite to record a second win in the five-furlong Shergar Cup Dash, having struck gold for Hollie Doyle and the Ladies Team in 2018.

After tracking the pace-setting King Of Stars for much of the race on the far side of the track, Tis Marvellous moved powerfully to the lead inside the final two furlongs and briefly looked set to score decisively.

However, both 6-1 shot Desert Safari and the other joint-favourite Magical Spirit flashed home in the group that raced nearer the stands side, and there was little to choose between the trio passing the post.

After a brief wait, the judge confirmed Tis Marvellous had held on by a short head from Desert Safari, with Magical Spirit the same distance further away in third.

Stott said: “I thought I would try to get a nice lead and see if he (King Of Stars) could take me there, and he took me the furthest.

“I sat on him as long as possible. He’s a gentleman of a horse who made my job easy on that nice, soft ground.”

Cox was delighted to saddle a winner, saying: “We’ve been lucky at this meeting, many times. It’s a fun day, and as long as the owners are behind and enjoy it, that’s what it is all about. It’s good prize-money – what’s not to like?”

Just Hubert and Nicola Currie after winning at Ascot
Just Hubert and Nicola Currie after winning at Ascot (Steven Paston/PA)

Just Hubert led home a one-two for the Ladies Team in the Shergar Cup Stayers.

Ridden by Nicola Currie, 11-1 shot Just Hubert raced on the pace throughout the two-mile contest.

The five-year-old was strongly pressed in the final furlong by the hat-trick seeking Call My Bluff – on whom Currie’s French team-mate Mickaelle Michel was closing all the time, but William Muir and Chris Grassick’s charge clung on by a short head.

“I decided to try to make it into a test of stamina from the turn for home, and throughout the race the more I tried to take a pull the quicker he went,” said Currie.

“There’s a great buzz in the weighing room, and everyone is right behind it.”

Currie came close to completing a double in the following Shergar Cup Challenge, but was narrowly denied by Ireland’s David Egan and 18-1 shot Graphite.

Terry Kent’s grey went by the Currie-ridden HMS President – but the latter fought back admirably, and there was just a head between the pair at the line.

Egan said: “I’m pleased for the fact we needed the points, but just as much for Terry Kent. He was assistant to Roger Varian, who I’ve ridden for for a long time.

“As a boy, I grew up watching the big overseas jockeys ride in the Shergar Cup. My horse was very brave, and it means a lot to me.

“Looking up at the crowds there, it’s fantastic to see. Ascot, although it’s about great horses, it’s also about the great crowds, and at least we’ve got them back.”

Dashing Roger in the Ascot winner's enclosure
Dashing Roger in the Ascot winner’s enclosure (Steven Paston/PA)

Shergar Cup debutant Cieren Fallon claimed a first winner on the afternoon for Britain in the Mile, with Dashing Roger coming out on top.

Fallon, whose father Kieren won the Alistair Haggis Silver Saddle as the event’s leading rider in 2003 and was on the winning team in 2001 and 2002, drove William Stone’s 5-1 chance to a one-and-three-quarter-length success over Young Fire.

“I was on the best horse in the race,” he said.

“He broke well and gained a comfortable position – and when I gave him a squeeze he really picked up, putting the race to bed in a matter of strides.

“He was off a low mark at the start of the year, and hasn’t stopped improving.

“It’s good that David and I have each ridden a winner, because we go back a long way.”

State Of Bliss and Nicola Currie at the Shergar Cup
State Of Bliss and Nicola Currie at the Shergar Cup (Steven Paston/PA)

Currie notched her second winner aboard State Of Bliss in the Shergar Cup Classic, a victory which confirmed she would take the Alistair Haggis “Silver Saddle” Trophy as the day’s leading rider.

Star Caliber led his rivals a merry dance for much of the race, but was beginning to tire inside the final two furlongs and ultimately faded.

Mark Johnston’s 9-2 shot State Of Bliss stayed on best under the Currie drive to prevail by three and three-quarter lengths, with his stablemate Annandale beating 100-30 favourite Star Caliber to the runner-up spot.

Currie said: “It’s been a fantastic day, and this horse is a typical Johnston straightforward ride

“They went a really hard gallop, and my job was to fill him up because I knew he would keep finding. I wanted to get him rolling, and he got better and better as the race developed.”

The Irish team dominated in the concluding Shergar Cup Sprint, with team captain Joe Fanning and Mitrosonfire (17-2) pipping Crazy Luck and team-mate Tadhg O’Shea to top honours.

The victory completed a double on the day for the Muir-Grassick training combination, while Currie’s third place aboard Royal Scimitar confirmed the Ladies team as the overall winners of the Shergar Cup.

Fanning said: “I had to come from further back than I wanted, but he kept going for me.”

Fallon factor back at the Shergar Cup

Cieren Fallon will try to emulate his father, Kieren, by winning the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot on Saturday.

Fallon snr was the leading rider at the meeting in 2003, bagging the Alistair Haggis Silver Saddle award, while he also formed part of the overall winning team in 2001 and 2002.

His son has certainly been making his own name over the last couple of seasons, claiming back-to-back apprentice titles and racking up two Group One wins on Oxted in the July Cup and King’s Stand Stakes.

Fallon jnr now makes his Shergar Cup debut as part of the Great Britain team along with James Doyle and captain Adam Kirby.

Cieren Fallon celebrates winning the King's Stand with Oxted
Cieren Fallon celebrates winning the King’s Stand with Oxted (David Davies/PA)

He said: “It’s very exciting. My father Kieren has won the competition twice and has also won the Silver Saddle.

“Racing is such an individual sport, so it’s great to be in a team. James Doyle and Adam Kirby are among the best in the world and I’m representing my country, so it’s exciting and should be a great day.

“I’m really looking forward to it.”

Fallon believes team events can help the public to engage more with the sport, while after a concert after racing is always a popular finish.

He said: “I think team events are huge. If you look in every other big sport you have loads of team events. Look at football, rugby, cricket, tennis – all these different sports have embraced team events and it helps get crowds involved as they start to get attached to certain teams.

“It’s better in terms of the public eye as people can get into the team events and then start learning more about their favourite horses or jockeys.”

Cieren Fallon with his father, Kieren, at Newmarket
Cieren Fallon with his father, Kieren, at Newmarket (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

With rain in the forecast, Fallon – second-favourite at 5-1 behind Nicola Currie with Paddy Power to be top rider – thinks conditions could suit Dashing Roger in the Mile in particular.

He said: “I’ve been lucky to be drawn on some good rides. I ride Snazzy Jazzy in the opener. He was fourth in a Listed race at York last time behind Winter Power and Moss Girl, so the form looks strong and that is a really nice ride to get.

“Island Brave is a horse I have won on previously and he ran a huge race in the Northumberland Plate when fourth despite being caught wide.

“Dashing Roger has winning form at Sandown and then ran well when third at Salisbury last time out. He seems to go well on ground with a bit of ease in it and with the rain on the way, that could prove to be a good ride and is one I’m looking forward to.

“My other two rides Buxted Too and Temple Bruer have both got good chances, so I’m hopeful of doing well.”

Turner has eyes on Shergar Cup glory once more

Hayley Turner would love to take home the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot on Saturday – quite literally.

Turner, who describes the team competition as her favourite event in the calendar, is on a roll as she was the leading rider at the fixture in both 2018 and 2019 and she once again captains the Ladies team in this year’s six-race contest.

Should she complete a hat-trick of jockey crowns in 2021, Turner feels she has a strong case for making the Shergar Cup trophy her own.

She said: “I’d like to think (I could win again). My dad was telling me if you win the World Cup for three years you get to actually keep it, so I’m thinking if I win it for a third year, surely I get to keep the actual Shergar Cup?

Hayley Turner celebrates winning the Shergar Cup Classic on Sapa Inca
Hayley Turner celebrates winning the Shergar Cup Classic on Sapa Inca (Simon Cooper/PA)

“I’ll google it to make sure before I speak with Nick Smith (Ascot’s director of racing and public affairs)!”

Turner has been the poster girl for Ascot’s team event in recent years, contesting 13 renewals and winning the competition with the Ladies team in both 2015 and 2018.

While travel restrictions have limited the scope of rider recruitment this year, with French jockey Mickaëlle Michel and Team Ireland’s Tadgh O’Shea the only riders primarily based outside of Britain, Turner is still anticipating another exciting afternoon at the Berkshire track.

She said: “It’s my favourite day of the year, it’s a lot of fun. Although it’s not going to be how it usually is, they’ve made a great effort to get people involved with the teams.

“It’s just something a bit different to the day to day grind that we do, especially this time of year, it’s the same sort of thing every day. It’s quite refreshing to do it a little bit differently, it’s nice to have the teams, get your rides drawn out of a hat rather than getting picked for rides – the trainers get stuck with you!”

Michel will be making her British debut, but the rider, who has set records in France and enjoyed success in Japan, is no stranger to Turner, who plied her trade across the Channel after returning from a brief retirement, taking full advantage of a weight allowance introduced by France Galop for horses ridden by women.

Mickaëlle Michel will make her Shergar Cup debut at Ascot this weekend
Mickaëlle Michel will make her Shergar Cup debut at Ascot this weekend (Ascot Racecourse)

She said: “I went over to France for a while and she was there then. It’s been nice to see her progress through her career. She’s really improved and I’m delighted she’s been given the opportunity to ride at Ascot because I know it will mean a lot to her.

“To be honest, I think the French are slightly behind with the progression of female jockeys and I know they’ve tried to elevate it with the claim, but at the same time I think that does restrict the girls more from riding in the big races because they don’t claim.

“I don’t think the rules are necessary, even though that’s why I went over there, but it was just a way of getting back into racing and if someone gives you 20 quid you take it don’t you?

“I think she certainly deserves the opportunities in big races over there and it’s a shame she’s not getting them yet, but hopefully she will if she keeps working hard.”

The Ladies team, previously known as the Girls, was introduced in 2012 to make it a four-way competition along with Europe, Rest of the World and Great Britain and Ireland, although the sides have tweaked slightly in the current pandemic era, with GB and Ireland split and Europe on hold for 2021.

Female riders have made relentless progress over the last nine years, with Hollie Doyle regularly smashing records and contesting Group One races while Rachael Blackmore famously won the Grand National and was crowned leading rider at the Cheltenham Festival during the last jumps season.

Josephine Gordon, Hollie Doyle and Hayley Turner celebrate winning the Shergar Cup in 2018
Josephine Gordon, Hollie Doyle and Hayley Turner celebrate winning the Shergar Cup in 2018 (Julian Herbert/PA)

Doyle herself was part of the 2018 Shergar Cup and Turner maintains there is still a place for the Ladies team and believes it offers a fine platform for riders of both sexes to forge new alliances.

She said: “The thing with the girls’ team is it’s not a sexist thing, it’s a bit of fun.

“We get lots of young girls and people there who support our team and follow us. I think the people who keep saying they shouldn’t have a girls’ team are just reading into it a little bit too much, it’s a bit of fun and I like the support we get as well. I think we’re probably one of the most popular teams to follow so it’s great.

“Certainly for me it’s been a great help – for example, I had a winner for Mark Johnston there one year and the same horse ran again a month later in a Listed race and I kept the ride on her because I obviously got on well with her and she won that.

“I’ve had a winner for Stuart Williams who I’d never ridden for before and I’ve ended up riding for him since then. It would be the same for the lads as much as the girls I think, but it’s a great opportunity for us.”

Nicola Currie, another Shergar Cup debutante, is the third member of the Ladies team and she is an early favourite to take the top rider prize, with her side also the market leader for the competition overall with Betfair.

Turner rates her best chance on the card as the Roger Charlton-trained Barn Owl in the 12-furlong Classic.

She added: “The first two I’m riding I’ve actually ridden and won on before. Tone The Barone is going to need a PB and then I’ve got Indigo Times whose best form is on the all-weather – I would imagine he’d have been favourite if it was on the all-weather.

“I think we’ve all got a decent chance on a few of them, but Barn Owl would probably be the stand out (for me). Hopefully she’s one who is progressing.”

Shergar Cup 2021 Tips and Preview

Let’s get this out there early – I like the Shergar Cup…

I couldn’t care less about which team of jockeys win but we are presented with six races, all with ten runners so they aren’t too hard to figure out and most races tend to be 3/1 or 4/1 the field so the majority tend to be backable prices.

The twist of course is the jockeys but in every race we should account for the quality of the jockeys. If you think a particular jockey isn’t of the required quality to back you can handicap the horses accordingly. Most years you can probably rule two or three of the ten runners out simply because the jockey has never ridden the course, ridden right handed, etc.

This year the jockey choices are very ‘safe’. The Rest of the World team includes Sean Levey, Andrea Atzeni and Kevin Stott who are hardly strangers to Ascot. The only real wildcard jockey selection seems to be Mickaelle Michel, a 26 year old French rider who has joined the Ladies Team. To be honest I’m not particularly familiar with her skills but you’d think the majority of the jockeys who are riding here week in, week out might have a slight edge on her.

I’m going to change the format of these previews this week and go through all of the races at the Shergar Cup, but in slightly less detail than usual. Hopefully I’ll be able to demonstrate that it can be a punter friendly card!

Unfortunately it is yet another weekend where we are playing guess the going due to an uncertain weather forecast. At the time of writing the ground is good but there are thunderstorms coming. It doesn’t look like a substantial amount is forecast so I’m going to assume good ground, maybe just on the easy side. If anything handles good and slightly softer that would be ideal.

Shergar Cup Preview and Tips

12.50 – Shergar Cup Dash – 5f

The draw isn’t going to have much of an impact at this meeting with the ten runner fields, especially on the straight course with the stalls positioned in the centre. Pace will have an impact in all races so let’s take a look at the pace map for this one.

The first thing to note here is that two of the pace angles, Mokaatil and First Edition, are both reserves for this race and will only get a run if there are non runners. This means King Of Stars may well get an uncontested early lead. It can be difficult to make all on the straight course at Ascot but it is far easier to do so over the minimum trip so don't write off front runners here. King Of  Stars will be one that wants the rain to stay away and he’s been beaten off 7lb and 5lb lower marks recently on his favoured ground so whilst he should fare better than at Goodwood, he may be unlikely to take advantage of an easy lead.

Count D’Orsay would be fairly interesting if lots of rain came but he’s been disappointing in two trips to Ascot and it’s possible this isn’t his track.

It is certainly Tis Marvellous’ track.

Pretty much all his best form has come here, he was even 4th in last year’s King’s Stand behind Battaash on ground that was a bit softer than ideal. Having run well here in a big field handicap last month on ground that was again slightly softer than ideal (probably similar to how it will ride here) it was disappointing he wasn’t able to add to his Ascot record last time out when the ground was in his favour. There didn’t seem any excuses that day but there has to be a suspicion that wasn’t him at his best. It would be easy to suggest he’s not been at his best this season but on seasonal debut he was just behind Came From The Dark (now rated 7lbs higher), Garrus (now rated 6lbs higher) and King’s Lynn (now 14lbs higher) and that run came away from Tis Marvellous’ beloved Ascot off a 1lb higher mark. The less rain the better his chance.

Stone Of Destiny is capable on his day but predicting which is his day is becoming increasingly difficult. He has a slightly disappointing strike rate for one of his ability and he’s only placed once from six handicap runs on triple figure marks so he’s opposable enough. He ideally needs a very strongly run race.

Tone The Barone has an impressive strike rate and has won twice over course and distance from three attempts. He’s been off since April for an unknown reason but has won off this sort of absence before. He was in decent enough form before his break (won over 5f and then didn’t stay 6f). Goes on good ground but probably wouldn’t too much rain.

Snazzy Jazzy is well served by deep ground and further so his run over 5f at York on good ground in listed company last time has to be considered very promising. This stiffer track will suit but it probably won’t be stiff enough unless they get a lot of rain.

Desert Safari ran twice at Glorious Goodwood and caught the eye on both occasions. The ground was probably a bit softer than ideal when he ran over 5f and then he found 6f a bit far in the Steward’s Cup. He’s not been the most consistent this season but is definitely in form, it’s just a case of catching him on a going day. He is however still completely unexposed at 5f on turf and unbeaten in that scenario away from soft ground (from one run).

Summary

Not the deepest of races and TIS MARVELLOUS ticks an awful lot of boxes. He probably doesn’t need to improve on his last two recent efforts here to take this and he’s tactically flexible. If backing him it may be best to wait until it looks like the ground shouldn't be too bad.

There are a lot of ifs and buts about the rest. Desert Safari and to a slightly lesser extent Stone Of Destiny could go close if on a going day, the former makes more appeal of that pair. Tone The Barone could be a big danger if  fit after a break whilst King Of Stars should run well if there is very little rain.

If it was more testing than expected then perhaps Snazzy Jazzy and Count D'Orsay would be the ones to concentrate on as most of the market fancies seem to want decent ground.

1.25 – Shergar Cup Stayers – 2m

Here’s the pace map for this contest, and there isn’t seemingly a whole lot of pace in this race so it may not be a severe stamina test.

Hochfeld looks most likely to go forward with Call My Bluff potentially happy to track the Mark Johnston runner. It would be no surprise to see this develop into a bit of a sprint finish so a stayer with a bit of speed might be best here.

The two most likely pace angles fit that bill to a certain extent but Hochfeld is inconsistent and his better runs this season haven’t really worked out whilst Call My Bluff will want a lot of rain, potentially more than they get.

Uber Cool looks likely to go off favourite. He returned from a whopping 959 day break at Chester in May with a comfortable victory and a long break since (70 days) has presumably been the plan in an attempt to avoid the dreaded bounce factor. The ground doesn’t seem to bother him whichever way it goes and he’s won an impressive seven of his fourteen starts. He’s 4lbs higher than when beating Elegiac in 2018 and that runner quickly went up 10lbs in the rating so he looks well handicapped from that run. He has been beaten three of the four times he’s raced at two miles or further thought, but he has won over this trip at Goodwood (just held on) and this might not be too much of a stamina test, especially if there isn’t lots of rain.

Island Brave won this race last season but that was a shock, he’s 6lbs higher here and hasn’t been in as good form this season. He was 4th in the Northumberland Plate last time out but that was a different surface and the form hasn’t worked out.

East Asia seemingly improved for the switch to turf this season and won three on the trot on ground ranging from soft to good. He isn’t as good on the all weather so is forgiven a flop at Newcastle next time but he bounced back to form over two furlongs shy of this trip on the fastest ground he’s encountered to date. That was a hotter race than this and he should improve for slightly easier ground and the step back up in trip here. He might not be done winning yet and whilst he should be okay on good ground, any more rain will help him further.

Indianapolis is a horse I selected in these previews a couple of weeks back at Newbury and he ran well enough in fifth given he was given too much to do. A return to a more prominent ride should suit and not only has he won at this meeting before, he was also in good form here two starts ago on good to soft ground and the winner and runner up have both come out of that race and run very well. Might not quite be up to winning but looks likely to be in the shake up.

Summary

Uber Cool is probably the one to beat but he might not want this to be too much of a test and he’s clearly been difficult to train so has become a riskier betting proposition.

I’s rather back either EAST ASIA or Indianapolis each way with the former making a bit more appeal as a likely winner. I respect Uber Cool enough to probably include him in some forecasts and tricasts with the other pair.

Call My Bluff would definitely be considered on good to soft or worse but even then East Asia is just as comfortable on that ground and possibly still better handicapped so an each way bet on the selection seems a safe play.

2.00 – Shergar Cup Challenge – 12f

Another pace map to look at, this time racing over 12f.

Torcello would be the only guaranteed pace here except he’s not guaranteed as he’s 2nd reserve and needs two non runners to get a run. Restorer did make the running on his penultimate start but normally tracks the pace so Group One Power could be the one who goes on. He has led early on his last three runs at this trip. It seems unlikely they’ll go hard so tactical speed and/or a prominent position could be important.

Sam Cooke had been struggling with keenness in his races but seemed to settle better in a hood last time out and ran his best race for some time as a result. He was a length and a quarter behind Group One Power that day at Chester and is 1lb better off here. He’s run well here before, is still lightly enough raced and has leading form claims. He might not settle if they go a slow gallop though and he'll want a fair bit of rain to fall to be at his absolute best.

Group One Power probably wouldn’t have beaten Sam Cooke last time out had that race been run over this trip instead of half a furlong shorter. He might have gone a little fast early in that race though as the other runners that were prominent early finished 6th, 7th and 10th, so to be beaten just half a length was a sound performance. He should be well placed in this and has run well here before twice. Joe Fanning is probably a lucky jockey draw given he knows very well how to set the fractions from the front.

HMS President ran on Thursday so could be a non runner in this. He ran well in a strong race at Windsor over half a furlong shorter on his penultimate start but didn’t conclusively prove his stamina that day. He’s not badly handicapped and was in good form on Thursday but could be found wanting late on if he does turn up here, for all he’s respected.

Spanish Kiss won a very hot York handicap in May (2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th have all won since) but he too has won again since, by a wide margin, and now finds himself 16lbs higher. He ran okay here in a decent race a few weeks ago but dropping back in trip might not be ideal plus the handicapper might now have him.

C’Est No Mour seems overpriced given he’s won two of his last three and was a little unlucky last time out. His win at Goodwood in June has worked out well with the runner up and 3rd both winning next time out. C’Est No Mour is only 4lbs higher here but that was over two furlongs further than this. He’s won on anything ranging from good to soft up to good to firm but is probably better on faster ground. He’s fairly handicapped but hasn’t placed in four runs here and his run style may leave him vulnerable here.

Summary

Much will depend on the ground here. GROUP ONE POWER is better than the bare result of his last few runs and could get a very easy lead in this for a good front running jockey. If the ground goes to good to soft Sam Cooke would probably be preferred whilst C’Est No Mour will probably be seen running on too late.

2.35 - Shergar Cup Mile – 1m

The pace map for this race, which is on the round course, not the straight course.

Corazon Espinado is the most likely pace angle but he’s a reserve for this and needs two to come out so he’s unlikely to get a run. In his absence Lord Rapscallion could lead but he’s not a guaranteed pace maker. Data Protection often makes the running but he was held up last time out and this is a shorter trip than he usually races over so he might not have the pace to lay up with them here. Vintager often only tracks the pace so he might not add much to the early speed meaning we are probably looking at no better than an even pace.

Dance Fever is the relatively warm favourite after a 3rd place in the much more competitive International Stakes here last time out over 7f. He’s up another 4lbs here, will be racing on slower ground (he’s been kept to very fast ground in his career so far) and has been beaten in both starts over a mile. Hopefully the rain doesn’t cause him to become a non runner because he’s opposable and helps make the market.

Dashing Roger likes to race prominently and enjoys plenty of cut in the ground. He bounced back to form two starts ago, winning at Sandown. He went up 6lbs for that but the runner up has won since. He was 3rd off a 1lb lower mark on good to soft last time out, the winner was 4th in the Golden Mile at Goodwood and the 4th won a competitive handicap there with ease so that was pretty strong form. He’s maybe slightly in the grip of the handicapper now but should run very well again from a decent early position if the word ‘soft’ appears in the going description.

Vintager has hit form in his last couple of starts but he won a fairly poor race at Windsor and then was a little unlucky on his latest start in an average race. If the ground doesn't soften much he could run okay. Of much more interest at a bigger price would be course specialist Raising Sand. He won this race comfortably back in 2017 and has four wins and a further four places at Ascot. It had looked like age had caught up with him until cheekpieces went on in the Buckingham Palace Stakes in June. He was drawn on the wrong side that day but still finished 6th overall and he ‘won’ on his side, finishing ahead of ten other runners. Last time out he ran in the International Stakes and he was 8th, 3rd in his centre group. He’s now 5lbs and 3lbs lower respectively from those races and crucially will get easier ground here. He’s never won on good to firm ground and those recent efforts are probably as well as he’s ever run on fast ground. He's now 12lbs lower than his highest mark (two years ago) and 6lbs below his last winning mark. He's raced more prominently than usual in the cheekpieces and that should help here.

Ouzo ran a very good 4th here in the Royal Hunt Cup and never got a clear run so could be marked up but he was perhaps flattered by racing close to the stands’ side rail that day as that looked easily a career best on ground that would have been plenty fast enough. He didn’t back that up next time out when behind Dashing Roger at Salisbury. He’s only 2lbs higher than when winning at York last season but he needs very soft ground to be at his absolute best.

Summary

RAISING SAND looks a pretty obvious one and I’m surprised, given his Ascot record, he’s not much shorter in the betting. Good to soft might be absolutely perfect over this trip but even good ground should be enough for him to go close. On good ground Vintager could be the one who gives him most to do.

If the word ‘soft’ did appear in the going description Dashing Roger would be worth including in a forecast whilst Ouzo would come into the reckoning if it did get very testing.

3.10 – Shergar Cup Classic – 12f

Here's the pace map for this 3yo race.

This could be the most truly run race of the day with three last time out leaders and another that has made the running in one of their last two starts. There are no reserves in this race.

Mark Johnston has a total of three entered in this, including State Of Bliss. That runner ran a blinder in what should be a warm Goodwood handicap but that was his fourth second place in six runs. He’s still lightly raced but is beginning to look like one of those that struggles to get its head in front. Johnston did win this in 2019 with a similar type though. Annandale almost certainly wants further and Harlem Soul needs to bounce back from two poorer runs.

Barn Owl is the early favourite. He scrambled home in a Ripon novice in June but that form has been franked with the runner up, who got 5lbs from Barn Owl, winning a handicap since. That runner up is now rated 82 so Barn Owl probably isn’t badly treated off 84. He looked like this trip might suit when runner up at Sandown on seasonal debut but that didn’t look a strong race and rain probably wouldn’t suit (withdrawn on good to soft at Goodwood).

Possible Man won a decent novice in December but he’s had some limitations exposed since then. He did win last time out off just a 1lb lower mark, just beating State Of Bliss who is 2lbs worse off here so unlikely to reverse form. Stamina doesn’t look guaranteed and he was last of four when facing soft ground so rain is unlikely to help him either. Seems to be one to take on.

Sky Cutter seems quite a tricky type who gives trouble before races. He’s proven over this trip and on ground with some cut in it (he’d probably want lots of rain) and has finished runner up on both starts in the UK, for all the form of those races doesn’t look anything special. He was given an enterprising ride last time out and almost got away with it but he’s likely to have more competition for the lead here. One of the more proven runners at the very least.

Star Calibre couldn’t take advantage of weight for age against elders here last time out over two miles despite having the run of the race and he’s now looking a bit tripless.

Contact is more exposed than a few of these but he has a likeable profile. He enjoyed the step up to this trip at Pontefract, winning by 5.5 lengths, and although raised 8lbs for that he was still a creditable 5th on testing ground at Haydock trying 14f for the first time in what is normally a strong race. The very soft ground that day probably didn’t suit and whilst Contact should enjoy that trip again in the future, a strong gallop at this distance might be perfect for now. A good ride for Mickaelle Michel.

Summary

I’m keen to oppose quite a few of those near the head of the market in this one with some form question marks and definitely ground question marks if there is more than a little rain.

Sky Cutter seems solid, especially if the ground softens appreciably, but he needs to step up again on his previous form and he’d have made more appeal if an easier lead looked likely. CONTACT will need a bit of luck in running but if they go hard early as expected it could play into his hands and he’s take to finish fast and late at a decent price. One of the more difficult races though.

3.45 – Shergar Cup Sprint – 6f

The pace map for the final race on the card.

There are a couple of pace angles here so the race should be run at a decent clip. Bowman has looked far better on fast ground (or artificial surfaces) to date so there is the chance he is pulled out after some rain, although he’s been allowed to take his chance on soft ground before so seems likely to run and help set this up for something a little more patiently ridden.

If there is a non runner Crazy Luck would look fairly interesting. He’s shown good form with cut in the ground and bumped into another progressive sort last time out. The main reason for non runners here could be softening ground so the likelihood is if he gets a run, he’ll probably get his ground too.

Slightly unsurprinsgly though the three who are clear in the betting look those open to most progress though.

Royal Scimitar is completely unexposed at sprint trips. He won over 6f on his debut (runner up now rated 110) but raced over further until dropping back to this trip last time out in a hotly contested handicap restricted to 3yos at the July Festival. He’s 5lbs better off with Popmaster having finished a short head behind that rival in 4th but softening ground would be a concern - he’s been a non runner on good to soft and soft this season. He pulled away from his group in that Newmarket handicap in good style, only beaten by much higher drawn rivals, so could be a good thing if the rain stays away.

Popmaster’s best hope of beating Royal Scimitar has to be the rain. He seems pretty versatile with regards to the ground but is arguably better on slightly softer ground, he even ran well on heavy here during the Royal Meeting over what seems to be an inadequate 5f from a poor draw. His form in 6f handicaps reads 32231 and he’s still only 11lbs higher than when bumping into both Rohaan and Diligent Harry in a Lingfield handicap in March, that pair are now rated 25lbs and 20lbs higher respectively. He still looks feasibly handicapped, is very consistent, is proven at the course and won’t mind any rain.

If it does rain heavily Dream Composer is the potential fly in the ointment for Popmaster. He was 2 lengths ahead of Popmaster at Royal Ascot and he’s now 4lbs better off. He may have been much better drawn than Popmaster that day but he actually ended up making his challenge on the same part of the course and finished much more strongly so should be well enough fancied to confirm that form with the extra furlong looking a big positive. He was actually supposed to face Popmaster last time out at Doncaster but was a non runner because of the good to soft ground, perhaps an indication that he wants it really soft. He did seem to enjoy the heavy ground at Ascot after all.

Summary

Picking between the three favourites seems quite tricky and it has to be an extremely ground dependent decision. If there is very little rain and the ground is no worse than good then Royal Scimitar could be chanced, but even 4-5mm of rain might be too much for him to show his best as he seems to get on well with very fast ground.

POPMASTER is the least ground dependent of the trio and should run well whatever happens but ground just on the soft side of good could suit him perfectly, especially as it would probably be too slow for Royal Scimitar and too fast for Dream Composer.

On good to soft or worse Dream Composer might be narrowly favoured over Popmaster but even good to soft ground might be deemed too fast for connections of Dream Composer, even if he did win on good to soft at Carlisle earlier this term beating two subsequent winners in the process.

I’ve predicted good ground so I’ll stick with Popmaster but out of all the races on this card this is the one where the slightest going change would sway my decision more than any other so it may pay to wait until closer to the race or until the likely forecast is clearer.

Michel savouring Shergar Cup opportunity

Mickaëlle Michel is intent on enjoying the occasion and the experience when she achieves her long-held ambition of taking part in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot.

Michel is France’s former champion apprentice, a Group Two winner in Italy and the toast of Japan after riding 30 winners there last year – a record tally for an overseas jockey in the second-tier National Association of Racing.

The 26-year-old will be setting foot on a British racecourse for the first time on Saturday when she joins Hayley Turner – the most successful jockey in Shergar Cup history – and Nicola Currie in the Ladies team for the 2021 edition.

Mickaëlle Michel was big in Japan, with 30 winners on the NAR circuit
Mickaëlle Michel was big in Japan, with 30 winners on the NAR circuit (Ascot Racecourse)

Michel has been an avid long-distance spectator – and, she admits, a “jealous” one too – of an annual event she put on her participation wish-list years ago.

She said: “I am really excited to ride in the Shergar Cup. It is a new experience for me – I have never ridden in the UK.

“It’s my first time visiting (any) British racecourse, so I can’t wait.

“It’s crazy for me, because I’m young – and I’ve just been (race-)riding for three and a half years – so I’m very lucky.”

In that short time, Michel has proved herself in France – where her 2018 tally of 72 victories is a national record for a female jockey – and abroad, notably on Walderbe, winning Italy’s Premio Jockey Club at San Siro last October and then finishing runner-up in the Dubai Gold Cup in March.

Nonetheless, a British debut in the rarefied environs of Ascot promises to be another huge step in her burgeoning career.

“I am riding at one of the most famous racecourses with famous jockeys, on Shergar Cup Day – and I know there will be a special atmosphere,” she said.

“I’ve watched the Shergar Cup every year.

“At the beginning of my career, I said to my agent ‘I’m jealous – I want to be there, it’s famous’.

“I’ve been to a lot of championships, but I’m very proud to be coming to the Shergar Cup – and I hope the French people are proud as well.

“So maybe the young girls, like me three years ago, will be saying they want to be there too.”

Michel knows an Ascot victory will boost her profile exponentially and fast-track hopes of becoming an international Group One star – but she is determined to savour the experience too.

She added: “I want to be an international jockey, like Frankie Dettori or Christophe Soumillon.

“I have already ridden in many different countries. The Shergar Cup was a goal for me – and now I will enjoy the day.

Hayley Turner will be Mickaëlle Michel's Shergar Cup captain in the Ladies team at Ascot on Saturday
Hayley Turner will be Mickaëlle Michel’s Shergar Cup captain in the Ladies team at Ascot on Saturday (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Whether I win or not, I really want to enjoy it. I’m sure it will be a fantastic day.”

Michel is confident the Ladies team will acquit themselves well against their British, Irish and Rest of the World opponents.

“I am very happy that Hayley Turner is captain,” she said.

“I know her and have ridden with her before. She knows Ascot and the Shergar Cup very well, so it is a good advantage for the team – and I’m sure we will be a good team together.

“I have had very good experiences across the world and do lots of research to know the horses before the race. I have watched many races in the UK and have ridden a few races with British jockeys.

“I will walk the track in the morning. I spoke to Christophe Soumillon a few days ago, and he has given me some advice about the track.”

She hopes to upgrade to the Japan Racing Association next year, but would also dearly love to find the opportunities she craves in her native country.

Michel acknowledges she, and all female French jockeys in France, are indebted to British record-breaker Hollie Doyle for demonstrating to both them and prospective connections that women can ride the winners of the best races.

“My next goal is to win a Group One – and also, I would also like to pass the JRA exam to become a jockey in Japan next year,” she added.

“I really want to stay in France, because we have very good horses, but I think they are not ready to have female jockeys riding in big races.

“I have worked hard for that change.

“I’m very happy with my career, but I want a chance to ride in Group races – I don’t want to stay (just) a handicap jockey.

“The female jockeys in France love seeing Hollie Doyle win a Group One – because it is great publicity for her, but also every female jockey.

“She shows that she can do it, but also that we can do it!

“It shows you (must) never give up, and I think we are going the right way.”

A successful day at Ascot will, of course, provide new impetus for her and others.

She added: “Every winner can change your career – a small winner or a big one.

“If I can win one race in Ascot, it is famous.

“I know it is rare to come to Ascot, and for a female international jockey even more rare.

“It is therefore a big opportunity to ride at the Shergar Cup – and if I can ride a winner, then that will be a big impact for me.”

Teams all set for Shergar Cup action

Ascot has confirmed the riders that will make up the four new-look teams that will do battle for the Saturday’s Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup.

Great Britain and Ireland will be split into two teams for the 20th running of the event, with Great Britain captained by this year’s Derby-winning jockey Adam Kirby.

He will be joined by James Doyle, who will making his third appearances in the competition, and Shergar Cup debutant Cieren Fallon, whose father Kieren won the Alistair Haggis Silver Saddle in 2003 and was on the winning team in 2001 and 2002.

This season’s Gold Cup hero Joe Fanning will captain the Ireland side and will have the help of rising star David Egan and veteran rider Tadhg O’Shea, while Hayley Turner will lead a formidable Ladies team.

Turner is the most successful jockey in the history of the Shergar Cup with eight winners from 13 appearances. This year she will ride alongside Mickaëlle Michel from France and Scottish jockey Nicola Currie, who makes her first appearance.

The fourth and final team is the Rest of the World, with Swaziland-born Sean Levey taking captaincy honours.

Kevin Stott from Denmark and Italian Andrea Atzeni are his teammates.

Nick Smith, director of racing and public affairs at Ascot, said: “We’re thrilled with the jockey line-up for the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup this year. Obviously Covid-19 has made international travel very difficult so to pull together such a strong set of teams that still has a global feel is really pleasing.

“It should be a great day’s racing and another thrilling renewal of the competition which sadly didn’t take place last year, but we look forward to building the day back up in the years to come.”

A total prize fund of £252,000 is up for grabs, which each of the six races worth £42,000.

Dubai Duty Free executive vice president and CEO Colm McLoughlin said: “The Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup is undoubtedly one of the highlights of our horseracing sponsorship portfolio and one of Ascot’s most popular events.

“Unfortunately the ongoing Covid-19 travel restrictions will prevent us from being there in person this year, but we will be following all the action closely from Dubai as the day unfolds and we wish all the jockeys and the horses’ connections a great day.”

French star Mickaëlle Michel booked for British bow at Shergar Cup

Mickaëlle Michel will make her Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup debut at Ascot next month after being confirmed as part of the Ladies Team.

The globetrotting French jockey was the leading female rider in her homeland in 2018 and has since enjoyed record-breaking success around the world, most notably in Japan.

The 26-year-old competed in the World All-Star Jockeys Championship in Sapporo in 2019, where she rode one winner and finished third overall, while last autumn she claimed her biggest career success in Europe aboard Walderbe in the Group Two Premio Jockey Club in Italy.

Michel also partnered the German-trained stayer to be second in the Dubai Gold Cup in March and is looking forward to making her British debut at Ascot alongside Hayley Turner, who it was recently announced will also be in the Ladies Team.

“I’m really excited to be riding in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup this year. It will be my first experience of riding in Britain and there is no better place to do it than Ascot,” said Michel.

“The Shergar Cup is a competition that all the top jockeys around the world want to ride in and I’m looking forward to being part of the Ladies Team and hopefully lifting the trophy.”