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Lights On waltzes to Pipalong Stakes success

Ryan Moore headed for the rail on Lights On and waltzed clear to win the Weatherbys Bloodstock Pro Pipalong Stakes at Pontefract in splendid fashion.

Sir Michael Stoute’s filly had been in good form this season, winning at Nottingham and Ascot, and had excuses when eighth in the Kensington Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot last time out.

Drawn wide on that occasion, Moore could never get into the position he wanted – but in this much smaller field he was able to manoeuvre his mount into exactly where he needed to be.

However, his task was made much easier than it might have been when four of the six runners shunned the near side rail, which is heavily favoured when the ground rides soft.

Sent off a 3-1 chance, the Siyouni filly had the race almost won by the turn into the straight when the jockeys who had decided to take the normal racing route, including David Egan on the favourite Waliyak, realised they were way of the pace.

As the stagger evened itself out, Lights On was a long way clear and she came home in splendid isolation, beating Agincourt, the only other runner to take the same route as the winner, by 10 lengths.

It was a fifth win in the race for Cheveley Park Stud, after Chorist (2004), Red Bloom (2005), Exhort (2019) and Romola last year.

Lights On ridden by jockey Ryan Moore stuck tight to the rail
Lights On ridden by jockey Ryan Moore stuck tight to the rail (Nigel French/PA)

Managing director Chris Richardson said: “Ascot just didn’t work out, she was drawn too wide and Ryan looked after her.

“Ryan gave her a lovely ride today and she was really impressive. She’s continuing to improve and that’s three wins on the trot in this race.

“I think we’ll look at the Valiant Stakes at Ascot next. She goes well at Ascot and a Group Three is the next logical step.

“I think she would have won on any ground today, but she clearly handles soft with the Pivotal and Siyouni coming through.”

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes Betting Trends

Staged at Ascot racecourse, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is run over a distance of 1m4f and is generally regarded as Britain’s most prestigious all-aged flat horse race.

With over £600,000 up for grabs for the winner the it goes without saying the race always attracts horses from the best yards around the country with Sir Michael Stoute and Saeed Bin Suroor, who have won the King George six and five times, are the trainers with the best recent record in the contest, while the powerful Aidan O’Brien yard have won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes four times. Don’t forget the John Gosden yard either – they’ve won the race 3 times in the last 6 years.

12 months ago, in 2020 we saw the popular mare – Enable – win the race for a third time after winning the race in 2019 and 2017 too.

Here at GeeGeez, we take a look back at the recent winners of the race and gives you the key trends to look out for ahead of the 2021 renewal – this year run on Saturday 24th July.

 

Recent King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes Winners

2020 – Enable (4/9 fav)
2019 – Enable (8/15 fav)
2018 – Poet’s Word (7/4)
2017 – Enable (5/4 fav)
2016 – Highland Reel (13/8 fav)
2015 – Postponed (6/1)
2014 – Taghrooda (7/2)
2013 – Novellist (13/2)
2012 – Danedream (9/1)
2011 – Nathaniel (11/2)
2010 – Harbinger (4/1)
2009 – Conduit (13/8 fav)
2008 – Duke of Marmalade (4/6 fav)
2007 – Dylan Thomas (5/4 fav)
2006 – Hurricane Run (5/6 fav)
2005 – Azamour (5/2 fav)
2004 – Doyen (11/10 fav)
2003 – Alamshar (13/2)
2002 – Golan (11/2)

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes Trends

19/19 – Previous Group 1 or 2 winners
17/19 – Had won over 1m4f before
16/19 – Aged 3 or 4 years-old
16/19 – Had 2 or more runs already that season
16/19 – Returned 6/1 or shorter in the betting
16/19 – Placed last time out
15/19 – Previous Group 1 winner
12/19 – aged 4 years-old
12/19 – Had run Ascot before
11/19 – Won their previous race
10/19 – Favourites that won
8/19 – Ran at Royal Ascot last time out
8/19 – Won at Ascot before
5/19 – Trained by John Gosden
4/19 – Trained by Sir Michael Stoute
3/19 – Trained by Aidan O’Brien
Frankie Dettori has ridden the winner in 1995, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2017, 2019 and 2020
2 of the last 7 winners were that season’s Epsom Oaks winner
Galileo (2001) was the last horse to do the Derby/King George double
Trainer John Gosden won the race in 2011, 2014, 2017, 2019 & 2020
Trainer Sir Michael Stoute won the race in 1981, 1983, 2002, 2009, 2010 & 2018
Trainer Saeed Bin Suroor won the race in 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999 & 2004
Trainer Aidan O’Brien won the race in 2001, 2007, 2008 & 2016
The average winning SP in the last 19 runnings is 10/3

 

 

 

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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.”

Katara bounces back to form with Pontefract Listed verdict

Katara claimed a second Listed race when taking the Sky Bet Pontefract Castle Fillies’ Stakes at the Yorkshire track for Ryan Moore and Sir Michael Stoute.

The four-year-old raced at the rear of the field and struck late to pass race leader and runner-up Golden Pass just as the two horses approached the post.

The winning distance was recorded as a head, with third-placed Urban Artist (15-8 favourite) a further two and a half lengths back.

The victory follows a previous Listed win in August last year, when the bay took the Chalice Stakes at Newmarket.

“It wasn’t a dream run, I ended up where I didn’t want to be,” Moore told Racing TV.

“She was in good form last year, she was an impressive winner at Newmarket.

“She’s in good shape, I’m glad she could come back and win today, hopefully she can build on that.

“(She’s a) nice filly, good pedigree, you’d like to think there’d be more to come.”

Karl Burke enjoyed back-to-back successes as horses from his yard took both divisions of the Northern Commercials Iveco “X” Way Tipper EBF Fillies’ Restricted Novice.

Almohandesah was victorious in the first section of the contest when starting as 9-4 favourite under Tom Marquand, with Favourite Child then the winner of the second division at 6-1 for Clifford Lee.

The Flying Ginger took the Volkswagen Van Centre Ltd Fillies’ Handicap as the 6-4 favourite, prevailing by a length and a half ahead of Majestic Tejaan after making all of the running.

“She tried hard, she stays well,” Tudhope said.

“With the other horses in the race, there were stamina doubts for a few of them so I wanted to make sure it was a good test of stamina, she’ll probably suit 10 furlongs.

“It’s very hard to peg them back here so if you can take control, it’s hard to make up ground.

“She’s run into form today, but you can flatter yourself here. I don’t think she’s won with a lot in hand but she’s a grand filly, she’s going places and there’s a lot to look forward to.”

Let Me Be tallied a fifth win this season when triumphing in the Sky Bet Pontefract Cup Handicap for Keith Dalgleish and Callum Rodriguez.

The five-year-old crossed the line a length ahead of his nearest rival after starting as 11-4 favourite.

“He’s a very economical horse, he only does as much as he needs to all the way round and then you see when he hits the front he only does enough as well,” said Rodriguez.

“He just keeps progressing and he’s obviously going the right way.

“We were keen to give him a go over this two-mile-two (furlong trip), we thought he would be tailor-made for these sort of races and he’s proved he is.

“He’s a brilliant horse and if he keeps on progressing, there should be more races to be won with him.”

Dream Of Dreams comes good in Diamond Jubilee

Dream Of Dreams finally won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes after two previous near-misses in the final day feature of Royal Ascot.

Sir Michael Stoute – who has trained more winners at the meeting than anyone else – was recording his 82nd success at the fixture and having been beaten in two photo-finishes in the past two runnings, he will be delighted to have won with the chestnut.

Blue Point edged him out in 2019, while 12 months ago it was Hello Youmzain, and he was sent off the 3-1 favourite to make amends.

Tim Easterby’s Art Power – a winner 12 months ago in handicap company – set out to make it a real test and by halfway had most of his rivals in trouble.

They included Glen Shiel – successful on Champions Day last season for Hollie Doyle – but to his credit, he battled all the way to the line.

As Art Power’s stride began to shorten Ryan Moore sensed the time was right to attack on Dream Of Dreams, and despite having two lengths to make up when he started his challenge with a furlong to run he was almost on terms.

Glen Shiel did not go down with a fight, and Art Power stuck on gamely, but with Moore in full cry and a willing partner there was only going to be one outcome as the seven-year-old prevailed by a length, with three-quarters back to the third.

For Glen Shiel’s trainer Archie Watson it was a second agonising reverse of the week having had Dragon Symbol lose the Commonwealth Cup in the stewards’ room on Friday.

Stoute said: “The horse really deserved it. He’s a top-class sprinter and the previous two years one more stride and he wins, but that is not what it’s about. You’ve got to get there first. I’m really happy for him today.

“I was pretty hopeful from two out. He finishes well and he’s very effective at seven furlongs as well.

“He won a Group One last year at Haydock and he’s won Group races, but it has been frustrating because he has been beaten so narrowly in the past.

“He’s such a good racehorse and as he’s got older and mature, he’s relaxed more and got better.

“The team have done a great job, as have the two that ride him out, and he’s not run many below-par races but he is probably a little bit better now. That is because he is more relaxed.

“He was my last chance of the meeting. Group Ones have never been easy and it’s probably a little harder now and experience often gets beaten by these young pups.

“I don’t know where he’ll go next. He’s in the July Cup, but he didn’t go there last year as the ground was too quick. I don’t like running him on fast ground.”

It was thrilling finish to the Diamond Jubilee
It was thrilling finish to the Diamond Jubilee (David Davies/PA)

Moore said: “Any winner here is important, but especially a prestigious race like this.

“(Sir) Michael has been great to me my whole career, but he’s got this horse to perform in this race three times in a row so fair play to him.

“He’s been a great horse, he’s got better every year but a stiff six furlongs with cut in the ground is perfect.”

Doyle was pleased with Glen Shiel, who was returning to his best having been fourth on his reappearance in Ireland.

She said: “That was a pleasing run and shows the horse is back to his best.”

Easterby said of Art Power: “It was a cracking run, he was out on his own and just got a bit tired in the last half a furlong. He ran to the line.

“I wouldn’t be against bringing him back to five for the King George at Goodwood.”

Mother Earth and Empress Josephine give O’Brien strong Coronation hand

Aidan O’Brien is in the enviable position of being able to run two 1000 Guineas winners in Mother Earth and Empress Josephine in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot on Friday.

Mother Earth was ridden by Frankie Dettori to victory at Newmarket, where Ryan Moore preferred Santa Barbara, and she subsequently went on to finish second in the French equivalent.

Empress Josephine, meanwhile, caused something of a surprise in the Irish Guineas and has been supplemented for this latest Group One assignment.

“Mother Earth is very well. We were happy with her in the Guineas (at Newmarket) and at Longchamp. We thought this race was really going to suit her,” said O’Brien.

“She’s versatile enough – fast ground or easy ground (won’t bother her).

“Empress Josephine won her maiden very well, then disappointed next time on fast ground over seven furlongs in Leopardstown – but we think it was the pace. It was too strong and she got caught in the middle of it.

“We think that was the reason. She handled very soft ground at the Curragh, but we are going to know a lot more (after this). She’s in good form and I’m looking forward to seeing her run.”

It could perhaps been seen as a tip in itself that Sir Michael Stoute has decided to run Potapova after just two wins at Chelsmford and Redcar – but she is certainly bred for the job hailing as she does from a famous Cheveley Park Stud family.

“Sir Michael has always believed she is hugely talented. I know she has only run twice, but she has impressed on both occasions,” said Cheveley’s managing director Chris Richardson.

“I think it was a 50-50 call. It’s a tall order putting her in against such proven opposition, but she has been working nicely and he felt she deserved to take her chance.

“She’s in good form and she shouldn’t mind the ground if we get the rain that is forecast.

“She’s from a family we know well, Russian Rhythm (grand-dam) won several Group Ones and Safina (dam) was placed in the Sandringham at Royal Ascot for us.

“This is the last chance to run her just against three-year-olds, and she was never going to be ready in time for a Guineas.”

Richard Hannon’s Snow Lantern has already shown her jockey Sean Levey, and trainer, great potential as she seeks to emulate her dam Sky Lantern as a Coronation Stakes winner.

Levey has won a Newbury maiden impressively on Snow Lantern, and rode her mother on the Marlborough gallops when she was in her racing prime several years ago.

“I rode Sky Lantern at home when she was around,” he said.

“Snow Lantern is a lot more forward-going, being by Frankel. Her mother was the other way around – she was inclined not to light up the gallops, whereas this filly is not shy of putting her best foot forward.

“I think me and Richard both stand together as far as thinking she’s a very good filly.”

Hannon tells the same tale, from what he has seen at home.

“It would sound arrogant to say that I doubt she’ll get beat because she’s not good enough – but if she does everything right she’s an extremely good filly,” he said.

“At York she just didn’t settle and she did everything wrong. Sean said that when she took hold of the bridle after just a furlong and a half she held her breath.

“She didn’t breathe properly through the race, and that’s why she finished so tired. But she’s done everything right at home, and also when we took her to Newbury last week for a gallop down the back straight with Mums Tipple and Ouzo.”

Alcohol Free (purple) just prevailed in the Fred Darling at Newbury
Alcohol Free (purple) just prevailed in the Fred Darling at Newbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Andrew Balding’s 2020 Cheveley Park Stakes heroine Alcohol Free followed her successful Fred Darling return by finishing only fifth behind Mother Earth back at Newmarket for the 1000 Guineas.

Her trainer Andrew Balding said: “I think and hope that she’s better than her Guineas run.

“Things didn’t pan out for her there – she was drawn on a wing slightly and gave away a couple of lengths by lugging into space. She’s better than that.”

Noon Star is back for Ribblesdale Stakes

Sir Michael Stoute’s Noon Star heads a field of 13 in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The Juddmonte-owned filly is beautifully bred, being by champion sire Galileo out of multiple Group One winner Midday, and she has shown plenty of promise in her short career to date.

A good winner at Wetherby earlier in the season, she was second to subsequent easy Oaks winner Snowfall in the Musidora at York before a small setback ruled her out of the Epsom Classic.

Mark Johnston’s Dubai Fountain is the highest-rated filly in Thursday’s Group Two, having shown Group One form at two and won the Cheshire Oaks on her reappearance this season. She was, however, beaten a long way at Epsom and needs to bounce back.

Roger Varian’s Eshaada is defending the only unbeaten record in the race, and arrives off the back of a Listed win at Newbury.

John and Thady Gosden run three – with Frankie Dettori on Gloria Mundi, second to Eshaada at Newbury. Robert Havlin rides Loving Dream, and David Egan is on Taslima.

Aidan O’Brien is represented by the Oaks third Divinely – who was 18 lengths behind her stablemate at Epsom – while his son Donnacha runs Nicest.

David Simcock’s Ad Infinitum was emphatic when causing a shock in the Height Of Fashion Stakes, and County Kildare trainer Johnny Murtagh sends over Annerville – with Aristia, Gwenhwyvar  and Twisted Reality completing the field.

Aidan O’Brien’s Cadamosto is likely to be popular in the Norfolk Stakes, given the way he won on his debut at Dundalk.

He has been declared to run several times since, but the trainer has been insistent that the son of No Nay Never needs top of the ground.

Wesley Ward runs two in Lucci and Nakatomi – while William Haggas’ Second Wind seeks to extend his unbeaten career record to three.

George Boughey’s Navello saw his winning run come to an end in the National Stakes but has experience on his side because he will be having his sixth run.

Project Dante made a successful debut for Bryan Smart at York, while Go Bears Go and Instinctive Move are also among a field of 16 after winning starts to their careers.

Mohaafeth missed the Derby on account of the ground
Mohaafeth missed the Derby on account of the ground (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Haggas’ late Derby absentee Mohaafeth is likely to be popular in the Hampton Court Stakes, for which 10 have been declared.

Charlie Appleby’s One Ruler, who finished sixth in both the Guineas and Derby, drops in class – while Aidan O’Brien’s Dante fourth Roman Empire also takes his chance.

Donnacha O’Brien’s Emporio is top weight in the Britannia Stakes, in which a maximum field of 30 will go to post.

Varian’s Raadobarg, Stoute’s Aerion Power and George Scott’s George Peabody all made the final cut.

One-time Derby hope Sir Lamorak will carry top weight for Aidan O’Brien in the King George V Stakes.

Ralph Beckett’s unbeaten Lord Protector and stablemate Surefire, Appleby’s Siskany and Act Of Wisdom and the Queen’s Just Fine are in a field of 19.

The closing Buckingham Palace Stakes sees two Godolphin runners at the top of the racecard in Appleby’s On The Warpath and Saeed bin Suroor’s Bedouin’s Story – along with Beckett’s Tomfre.

Ascot regulars Raising Sand and Ropey Guest appear among 29 runners.

Noon Star on course for Ribblesdale Stakes

Late Oaks absentee Noon Star tops 16 fillies still in contention for the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Sir Michael Stoute’s charge was ruled out of the Epsom Classic just 48 hours before the race because of a blood disorder, having previously finished second to impressive Oaks winner Snowfall in the Musidora at York.

Noon Star may bid for Group Two redemption in Berkshire on Thursday, in a race which features Oaks third Divinely – supplemented by connections – and 12th-placed Dubai Fountain.

Divinely was beaten 18 lengths by her Aidan O’Brien stablemate Snowfall – and she could be joined by another Ballydoyle contender next week in Curragh maiden winner Call Me Sweetheart.

Eshaada, Gloria Mundi, Aristia and Twisted Reality filled the first four places in the Haras De Bouquetot Fillies’ Trial Stakes at Newbury in May – and they could all re-oppose, while William Haggas has Sea Karats and Sea Sylph in the mix.

Another last-minute Classic absentee, Mohaafeth, heads 20 in the Hampton Court Stakes.

Haggas opted not to run the colt at Epsom, having deemed the ground unsuitable following heavy rain the day before the big race.

Derby sixth One Ruler stands his ground for this 10-furlong Group Three – one of three possibles for Charlie Appleby, along with Wirko and Yibir.

Joseph O’Brien has four under consideration in Benaud, Isle Of Sark, Snapraeterea and Visualisation – with father Aidan having Lough Derg, Matchless and Roman Empire, while brother Donnacha could get in on the act with Emporio.

American trainer Wes Ward has two live chances in the Norfolk Stakes with favourite Lucci and Nakatomi. The pair both won on their only starts to date, while Aidan O’Brien has the highly-rated Cadamosto and Amalfi Coast in contention.

National Stakes winner Ebro River could clash again with runner-up Little Earl, third-placed Navello and sixth home Chipotle – with Nymphadora, Dig Two and Second Wind also prominent names among 32 possibles.

Highest Ground too good for Leicester rivals

Highest Ground made the most of having his sights lowered with victory in the Sharnford Conditions Stakes at Leicester.

Sir Michael Stoute’s colt looked an exciting prospect when making a winning debut at the Midlands venue on his only start as a juvenile – a theory which was given more weight after he put the high-class Waldkonig in his place at Haydock 12 months ago.

He was a narrowly beaten favourite in the rescheduled Dante Stakes on his next appearance, but disappointed on his final start of 2020 in Newmarket’s Darley Stakes and finished a long way behind Waldkonig on his return to action in the Gordon Richards at Sandown in April.

Faced with just four rivals, the son of Frankel was a 10-11 shot for his latest assignment under Ryan Moore.

Odds-on backers would have been sweating with a couple of furlongs to run as the admirable Outbox galloped on in front, but Highest Ground eventually wore him down and passed the post a length to the good.

Alan Cooper, racing manager for owner-breeders the Niarchos Family, said: “I should think that was a nice confidence boosting race.

“After his first run of this season, we discovered he had the equivalent of a sore throat afterwards. That was the reason we have given him more time since, to let it all clear up.

“It’s nice to see him back in the winner’s enclosure.”

Highest Ground holds an entry in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot on Saturday week.

When asked whether that Group Two contest was a potential target, Cooper added: “I think that was one of the ideas behind running today, to consider the Hardwicke.

“Let’s get home and regroup with Sir Michael at the end of the week and take it from there.

“We’ll see what Sir Michael and Ryan recommend and work out the programme.”

Noon Star misses Oaks

Noon Star has been ruled out of the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom because of a blood disorder.

Sir Michael Stoute’s charge had been as low as 10-1 for the fillies’ Classic after winning two of her four starts and finishing second in the Musidora Stakes at York last time out.

However, a setback means the daughter of Galileo, who is out of multiple Group One winner Midday, will not line up at Epsom on Friday.

A statement issued on behalf of Stoute read: “Noon Star will not now be running in the Cazoo Oaks on Friday, due to a blood disorder.”

Royal Ascot could be the next port of call for Noon Star, however, with the Group Two Ribblesdale Stakes on June 17 a possible target.

Owner Juddmonte tweeted: “Noon Star has had a temporary setback so will not run in the Oaks on Friday. All being well, she could head to the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot.”

Aidan O’Brien is set to launch a five-pronged assault on the Oaks, headed by ante-post favourite Santa Barbara.

The daughter of Derby hero Camelot was joint-favourite for the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket on just her second career start following reports of spectacular workouts on the Ballydoyle gallops.

Santa Barbara is favourite for the Oaks
Santa Barbara is favourite for the Oaks (PA)

Santa Barbara ultimately came up a little short over the Rowley Mile, but was only beaten a length and a quarter into fourth place and her trainer has not lost any faith in his exciting filly.

He said: “Santa Barbara is very well and this was always pencilled in to be her second run this year.

“We were delighted with her run in the Guineas and everything has gone well with her since. That was a big ask for her. She passed every test we put in front of her with flying colours and probably to ask for any other result wouldn’t have been right.

“We were always going to go into the Oaks not knowing if she stays a mile and a half – I suppose we’re going to find that out. She’s by Camelot, which is a big help, and we know she’s got a lot of class.

“She’s only had the two runs, which is not a lot going into the Oaks, but we’re excited and looking forward to seeing her run.”

Next in the betting is stablemate Snowfall – winner of the Musidora Stakes at York.

“We were delighted with her (Snowfall) in York and she’s come out of that very well. We think maybe going up in trip on better ground and maybe having a year under her belt to get stronger has all been a help to her,” O’Brien said.

“She’s always been a very good home worker and always worked like a filly that had loads of class.”

The trainer is also preparing to saddle market springer Divinely, as well as outsiders La Joconde and Willow, adding: “We always liked Divinely a lot. She’s a sister to Found who won a Group Three last year and has had the one run in Lingfield this year.

“Ryan said he was delighted with the run. He said they went very slow and that didn’t suit her, but he was really happy with her.

“Her homework has been very nice since and all her figures from her works have been coming out very high – that’s usually a very good sign.

“La Joconde is another filly we always thought more of than she showed. We think there’s plenty to come from her – she’s a very solid filly and we think that she has loads of quality.

“Willow is out of Peeping Fawn and has progressed with every run and will progress more. She’ll love the trip and if there is any ease in the ground, that won’t bother her. Physically she’s done very well as well.

“We just think and feel that they’re all bred to be Oaks fillies and it might be very wrong to stop them from taking their chance.”

Shergar’s imperious Derby victory remains vivid – 40 years on

Shergar’s victory in the 1981 Derby at Epsom remains one of the most iconic moments in racing folklore.

His winning margin of 10 lengths is the biggest in the history of the premier Classic, which was first run in 1780.

It was a case of Shergar first, the rest nowhere – and was a dream first Derby call for Graham Goode, in his first year as commentator for ITV.

He admits owing Shergar’s jockey Walter Swinburn, who was 19 at the time, an enormous debt of gratitude for making his colossal task much simpler.

“The tag line for me was I was always very grateful to Walter Swinburn for winning so easily,” said Goode.

“It made my life on the most prestigious, most under-the-microscope race, very easy, and I was always grateful to him – which always brought a smile to his face.

“I also remember from the race John Matthias finishing second (on Glint Of Gold) saying he looked up, thought he’d won the Derby – and then he saw something many lengths ahead.

“Shergar always held a good position in the race, was always in the right place at the right time, he quickened and went on.

“He was an unbelievable horse.”

The racecard for the 1981 Derby at Epsom opened on the page featuring the reference to Shergar
The racecard for the 1981 Derby at Epsom opened on the page featuring the reference to Shergar

It was a staggering success that saw Shergar, who carried the famous colours of the Aga Khan, rise above the normal racehorse and become a legend on and off the track.

His racing career was guided by Sir Michael Stoute, who sent him out to win six of his eight races, taking the Sandown Classic Trial by 10 lengths and the Chester Vase by 12 on the way to Epsom, where he started a 10-11 chance and won in a stroll.

With Swinburn suspended, Shergar was ridden by Lester Piggott to win the Irish Derby by four lengths, but the young rider was back in the saddle for another four-length victory against the older generations in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

Both Shergar’s defeats came at Doncaster, where he closed his racing career with an inexplicable loss at long odds-on in the St Leger.

The wonder horse was syndicated for stud duties and arrived at the Aga Khan’s Ballymany Stud in County Kildare with everything ahead of him, but armed raiders stole him one winter’s night in 1983.

With the kidnappers apparently unaware that the Aga Khan was no longer the sole owner of the horse, demands for payment of a massive ransom came to nothing.

It all ended in tragedy, of course, and it remains a mystery as to where the horse’s remains are buried, in some unmarked grave with no plaque or statue to celebrate his glory.

Image of Shergar’s empty stable box where was taken from on February 8, 1983 at the Aga Khan's stud farm in Ballymany, County Kildare
Image of Shergar’s empty stable box where he was taken from on February 8, 1983 at the Aga Khan’s stud farm in Ballymany, County Kildare (PA)

Forty years on, Shergar’s name is as likely to be mentioned alongside that of another infamous absentee, Lord Lucan, as with the Derby, and feature films and TV documentaries have cast no more than a shadowy light on his final days.

The racing world, however, has not forgotten. The abiding memory will forever be of Epsom in 1981, and that wonderful moment rounding Tattenham Corner when Walter Swinburn flicked the switch and the afterburners powered on.

All that disappeared that day was the opposition as Shergar cleared away, his rivals withering to dots in the distance.

Sacred camp eye return to sprinting at Royal Ascot

High-class filly Sacred is likely to be dropped in distance for a tilt at the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.

An impressive debut winner at Newmarket last summer, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned three-year-old went on to finish second in the Queen Mary at the Royal meeting, the Lowther Stakes at York and the Flying Childers at Doncaster.

Having successfully stepped up to seven furlongs on her return to action in the Nell Gwyn Stakes at Newmarket in April, connections allowed the William Haggas-trained filly to return to the Rowley Mile for a tilt at Classic glory in the 1000 Guineas.

However, while she was not disgraced in finishing seventh, she is now set to return to sprint distances.

Sacred in winning action at Newmarket
Sacred in winning action at Newmarket (David Davies/PA)

Chris Richardson, Cheveley Park’s managing director, said: “That (Commonwealth Cup) is the wish at this point in time.

“We thought that she didn’t stay in the Guineas. The Commonwealth Cup is a tough race, but it’s the logical race for her.

“She was the last off the bridle at Newmarket, in fairness – she just ran out of puff.

“We think she’s come on well for the experience, and William is pleased with her, so we’ll roll the dice.”

Another exciting Cheveley Park filly in contention for the Royal meeting is Sir Michael Stoute’s Potapova.

The daughter of Invincible Spirit has made a huge impression in her two starts to date – winning by six and a half lengths at Chelmsford in November and eight lengths at Redcar this month.

Richardson confirmed a step up to Group One level for the Coronation Stakes is under serious consideration.

He added: “We haven’t made that decision yet. That is what I would favour personally, but Sir Michael is playing his cards close to his chest, so we’ll see.

“I know that he rates this filly very highly. She did take a while to come to herself last year, but obviously she has come earlier (this year) and she has plenty of potential, which we’ve already witnessed.

“We can’t commit (to the Coronation) just yet, but I’m hoping she might turn up there.

“She’s got plenty of talent and she’s one that we can bring along gradually – and I’m sure she’ll keep improving.”

Brigadier Gerard Stakes Trends

Run over 1m2f the Group Three Matchbook Brigadier Gerard Stakes is staged at Sandown racecourse each year towards the end of May.

In recent years, the valuable prize has been dominated by the 4 year-olds, with 13 of the last 18 going to that age bracket, while we’ve seen five winning favourites in the last 18 renewals and jockey Ryan Moore has ridden FOUR of the last five winners and six of the last ten!

Here at GeeGeez, we are on-hand to look back at past winners, plus have all the stats ahead of the 2021 race – this year run on Thursday 27th May.

Recent Brigadier Gerard Stakes Winners

2020 – LORD NORTH (3/1)
2019 – REGAL REALITY (9/4)
2018 – POET’S WORD (4/6 fav)
2017 – AUTOCRATIC (8/1)
2016 – TIME TEST (3/1)
2015 – WESTERN HYMN (11/4)
2014 – SHARESTAN (5/6 fav)
2013 – MUKHADRAM (3/1)
2012 – CARLTON HOUSE (10/11 fav)
2011 – WORKFORCE (Evs fav)
2010 – STOTSFOLD (7/1)
2009 – CIMA DE TRIOMPHE (4/1)
2008 – SMOKEY OAKEY (20/1)
2007 – TAKE A BOW (11/1)
2006 – NOTNOWCATO (5/4 fav)
2005 – NEW MORNING (12/1)
2004 – BANDARI (7/2)
2003 – SIGHTS ON GOLD (7/1)

Key Brigadier Gerard Stakes Betting Trends

18/18 – Had won at least twice before
16/18 – Had won over at least 1m2f before
14/18 – Favourites that finished in the top 3
14/18 – Returned 7/1 or shorter in the betting
14/18 – Had won a Group or Listed race before
14/18 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
14/18 – Had won between 2-4 times before
13/18 – Winning distance – 1 length or less
13/18 – Aged 4 years-old
13/18 – Rated 111 or higher
10/18 – Had won a Group Race before
10/18 – Raced within the last 7 weeks
8/18 – Drawn in stall 4 or lower
8/18 – Irish bred
6/18 – Trained by Sir Michael Stoute
6/18 – Ridden by Ryan Moore (6 of last 10)
6/18 – Won last time out
5/18 – Winning favourites
5/18 – Raced at Newmarket last time out
2/18 – Raced at the Curragh last time out
2/18 – Trained by John Gosden (2 of the last 6)
The average winning SP in the last 18 years is 5/1

Note: The 2020 running was staged at Haydock Park.

 

‘Important test’ for highly-regarded Sangarius in Brigadier Gerard

Hopes are high the well-entered Sangarius can give Sir Michael Stoute a 12th victory in the Coral Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown on Thursday.

The brilliant Pilsudski (1996), multiple Group One winner Notnowcato (2006) and Derby hero Workforce (2011) are among the former stars of Freemason Lodge to land the Group Three prize – and in Sangarius, Stoute has another major contender.

Winner of the 2019 Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot, the five-year-old made it to the track only twice in 2020, but enjoyed a promising start to the current campaign when runner-up to Aidan O’Brien’s Armory in the Huxley Stakes at Chester three weeks ago.

Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for owner-breeders Juddmonte, said: “He’s had some interruptions in his programme, to say the least. Do we think think he’s a talented horse? Absolutely.

“Everyone has shown great faith in him. There’s only five runners on Thursday, but they’re all pretty competitive.

“He had a really good run at Chester, probably against a pretty good horse. He got slightly hemmed in, but it wouldn’t have made a difference to the result.

“This is going to be an important to test with him to try to get him back on a roll if we can.

“He’s got some nice entries, should he be up to the task.”

Extra Elusive on his way to winning at Haydock last season
Extra Elusive on his way to winning at Haydock last season (Tim Goode/PA)

Among the four rivals to Sangarius is the Roger Charlton-trained Extra Elusive, who finished third in the Gordon Richards Stakes over the course and distance on his seasonal reappearance.

Hollie Doyle’s mount has already won twice at Group Three level, having landed the Rose of Lancaster at Haydock and the Winter Hill Stakes at Windsor last season.

“I think the track suits him and the ground shouldn’t be a problem, especially if it dries out a little,” said Charlton.

“He seems in good form, so we’re hopeful.”

Jim Goldie’s veteran Euchen Glen, Andrew Balding’s Fox Tal and Oriental Mystique from David Simcock’s yard complete the quintet.

Final decision ‘pending’ but Noon Star poised to take Oaks chance

Noon Star appears increasingly likely to take her chance in the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom on Friday week.

Sir Michael Stoute’s filly is an impeccably-bred product of the late Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte operation, being a daughter of Galileo out of the brilliant racemare Midday, who won six Group One races but was narrowly beaten by Sariska in the Oaks in 2009.

Noon Star won two of her first three career starts, including an impressive beginning to her three-year-old campaign at Wetherby in April.

Favourite-backers had their fingers burnt after she had to make do with the runner-up spot behind Aidan O’Brien’s Snowfall in the Musidora Stakes at York a fortnight ago, but connections are hopeful further improvement will be forthcoming when she steps up in distance.

Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Juddmonte, said: “We are looking towards the Oaks – the (Abdullah) family are happy for that.

“I think Sir Michael would like to decide a little bit later on. She hasn’t done much since York, so we’ll just make sure.

“I think when he’s happy, in principle the family are happy to go to the Oaks. But I would say a final decision is pending.”

Reflecting on her Musidora Stakes performance, Grimthorpe added: “I thought it was a slightly muddling pace, but if you get beaten you look for those false positives sometimes – it was the same for everybody.

“Her pedigree says that she ought to stay and that will be much more her game. However, over a mile and a half there will be no hiding place, either in the Oaks or the Ribblesdale (at Royal Ascot)

“York was encouraging and she still seems to be going the right way.”