Tag Archive for: Starman

Alcohol Free one of the highlights for Murphy in another championship season

Oisin Murphy has enjoyed another fine season, with his 153 winners sealing a third jockeys’ championship. Here, we take a look at five of his high-profile domestic successes in 2021:

Alcohol Free – Sussex Stakes, Goodwood.

Oisin Murphy punches the air after winning the Sussex Stakes on Alcohol Free
Oisin Murphy punches the air after winning the Sussex Stakes on Alcohol Free (John Walton/PA)

Andrew Balding’s star filly has provided Murphy with some great days – but her victory in the Sussex Stakes against the boys gave him plenty of pleasure, and rightly so. Up against 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace winner Poetic Flare, Breeders’ Cup Mile victor Order Of St George, her Falmouth Stakes conqueror Snow Lantern and Summer Mile scorer Tilsit, Alcohol Free displayed a devastating turn of foot to give Murphy arguably his biggest thrill of the campaign.

Buzz – Cesarewitch, Newmarket

Oisin Murphy times it right on Buzz in the Cesarewitch
Oisin Murphy times it right on Buzz in the Cesarewitch (Tim Goode/PA)

There is nothing better in racing than when a long-term plan comes together and that was the case in the Cesarewitch. Nicky Henderson might be better known for his jumpers, but he was winning the race for the third time so it was perhaps quite surprising Buzz was as big as 8-1 when news got out the champion jockey had been booked weeks in advance. The grey looked to have plenty to do when Burning Victory shot clear, but Murphy had saved just enough for the closing furlong to win one of the biggest handicaps of the season.

Berkshire Shadow – Coventry Stakes, Royal Ascot

Oisin Murphy celebrates winning the Coventry Stakes on Berkshire Shadow
Oisin Murphy celebrates winning the Coventry Stakes on Berkshire Shadow (David Davies/PA)

It seems an age ago now, but the first day of Royal Ascot took place on fast ground in beautiful sunshine and Murphy got things spot on in the Coventry Stakes. A winner at Newbury on his debut, he was sent off 11-1 to remain unbeaten but had a wall of horses in front of him two furlongs out. As is typical of the Royal Ascot juvenile races, though, they had gone very fast in front – usually led by a Wesley Ward runner – and Murphy weaved his way through tired horses to hit the front close home.

Benbatl – Joel Stakes, Newmarket

Benbatl showed the fire still burns bright in the Joel Stakes
Benbatl showed the fire still burns bright in the Joel Stakes (Mike Egerton/PA)

Murphy will always hold Benbatl close to his heart given Saeed bin Suroor’s stalwart provided him with a first Royal Ascot winner in the Hampton Court Stakes way back in 2017. And the seven-year-old showed he is still capable of a high level of form at Newmarket. Narrowly denied on his return from a long absence in the Celebration Mile, the globetrotter had too much close home for some much younger rivals in the Group Two.

Starman – Duke of York Stakes, York

Starman edges out Nahaarr on his return
Starman edges out Nahaarr on his return (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

A slight setback prevented Ed Walker’s sprinter from turning up on Champions Day, meaning he was denied the crowning moment he probably deserved as he also won the July Cup and went close in the Prix Maurice de Gheest and Haydock Sprint Cup. Tom Marquand rode him in all those, but on his first run of the season he was claimed to ride Nahaarr for his boss William Haggas, meaning Murphy stepped in. The two fought out the finish with Starman just prevailing.

Starman retired due to setback

Ed Walker has called time on the racing career of July Cup hero Starman after a minor setback ruled out a potential swansong on Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot this weekend.

Unbeaten in his first three starts last season, the Dutch Art colt failed to fire on his final outing as a three-year-old on soft ground in the British Champions Sprint.

But Walker’s charge proved his top-level capabilities this term – winning the Duke of York Stakes and the July Cup before finishing third in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville and being beaten a short-head in the Sprint Cup at Haydock.

Connections had been eyeing Ascot redemption on Saturday, but he will now be retired to Tally-Ho Stud in Ireland, with owner David Ward retaining a share for his stallion career.

“It’s a huge shame as we were really looking forward to Saturday and confirming him to be the champion that he is,” said Walker.

“I’ve always thought he was the best around and he’s certainly the best I’ve ever trained.”

Starman won five of his eight career starts and earned over £476,000 in prize-money.

Tom Marquand after winning the July Cup
Tom Marquand after winning the July Cup (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Tom Marquand, who was on board for seven of those outings, told Sky Sports Racing: “It’s obviously disappointing that his career has been cut short prematurely, but we’re very lucky that he won a July Cup and has held an extraordinarily high level of form throughout.

“For David and Sue Ward he’s been an absolute superstar and he’s the horse of their dreams – so while it’s all come to an end a bit quicker than they’d have hoped, he’s out in one piece and can have a nice career now in the (breeding) sheds, which I’m sure he’ll enjoy.

“It’s been great to be part of the horse’s journey as there’s not too many like him come around.”

Starman heading for Ascot – if weather stays dry

Ed Walker hopes the weather is kind at Ascot next month to give Starman a chance to atone for his agonising defeat in Haydock’s Unibet Sprint Cup.

The Lambourn trainer admitted “it was a tough one to take” – but was still proud of his horse, who went within a head last weekend of adding to his impressive victory in the July Cup.

All roads therefore lead to Ascot for the Qipco British Champions Sprint on October 16 – as long as the ground is not too demanding. Starman could not handle the testing conditions in 2020, and was well-beaten in the six-furlong showpiece behind Glen Shiel.

“We’re all licking our wounds a bit,” said Walker, reflecting on Starman’s near miss at Haydock.

“It was a tough one to take – he ran a huge race but unfortunately he didn’t quite get rolling in time to peg back Emaraaty Ana, who is in the form of his life.

“I don’t think he lost anything in defeat – another stride, and he was in front.

“If someone could guarantee me good ground I’d say Ascot would be a certainty. I just don’t want it to be bad ground.

“We’d happily run on good to soft, and in anything apart from heavy ground. We just need a bit of luck with the weather.”

After the acute disappointment of Starman’s defeat, Walker enjoyed success with two more talented sprinters last weekend, Great Ambassador and Popmaster.

Great Ambassador took the Listed Garrowby Stakes at York, which Starman won in 2020, while Popmaster was successful in a six-furlong handicap at Ascot.

The pair could clash in the Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup on September 18.

“Great Ambassador was awesome,” said the Lambourn trainer.

“We were quite confident going into it that the race would really suit him – I know it seems madness to get a penalty going into the Ayr Gold Cup, but it just felt like the right race in the right conditions. I think we justified going there.

“We’ll see how he is, and the Gold Cup is still very much his target. He just needs to tell us he’s in cracking form. He seems to have come out of the race very well.

“If Popmaster gets into the Gold Cup, he’ll go.

“He won’t go for a consolation. He’s a sprinter going places, and I think he’ll have a good year next year.”

Walker has maximum faith in Sprint Cup favourite Starman

Ed Walker is confident Starman will “get the job done” in Saturday’s Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock.

The four-year-old has won two of his three starts so far this term and renews rivalry with a handful of opponents left trailing in his wake when he landed the July Cup at Newmarket.

Starman had the likes of Creative Force and Glen Shiel in behind at Headquarters in July, and Walker thinks his stable star is capable of confirming that form.

He said: “It looks a great opportunity for him. You can never be confident going into any race as anything can happen with horses, but you would think in similar form, on a track that would suit him better, on ground that we know he loves, he hopefully will get the job done.

“I think he’s the best horse in the race and he’s in the same form he was in at Newmarket and hopefully he will prove that.”

Walker admits he did not expect to be running Starman on Merseyside, but the recent spell of dry weather means conditions should be ideal for the fast-ground lover.

He said: “We’re quite surprised to be here really. We always wanted to come to the Sprint Cup, but historically, we thought it would be unlikely with his preference for faster ground.

“It’s a real bonus to be going into it with conditions looking like being in his favour.”

Starman with connections after winning the July Cup
Starman with connections after winning the July Cup (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Starman was last seen when coming home third in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville last month, one of only two defeats – both with cut in the ground – in his seven-race career.

Walker said: “He still ran a massive race and ran better than on really heavy ground on Champions Day last year. It was that proper stamina-testing ground – soft on the Saturday and then drying quite quickly.

“He coped with it, but I think his stamina was just really tested in those conditions and with the extra half-furlong.”

Walker thinks there is a “good chance” Starman will stay in training next seasons and expects this weekend’s race to help determine if the Dutch Art colt will be sent on his travels before the end of the year.

He added: “We’ve bandied around various ideas without having a real standout race.

“We’re obviously thrilled to have this race as a bonus we didn’t think we might have and we just thought we will get this out of the way and see.

“The Breeders’ Cup is probably not an option this year really, unless we go five furlongs on grass or six furlongs on dirt or a mile – none of which really jump out as being ideal.

“Then you’ve got Hong Kong, but Covid is making everything so uncertain and difficult. We just don’t really know.

“The Everest (in Australia) is getting a bit close now and I think we felt that would be an option if we weren’t going to Haydock.

“It’s a bit of an unknown, we thought let’s get Haydock out of the way, see how he goes and go from there.”

Creative Force winning at Newmarket
Creative Force winning at Newmarket (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The horse rated the biggest threat to Starman by bookmakers is the Charlie Appleby-trained Creative Force, who progressed from handicapper to Pattern-race performer by winning his first four starts of the season.

The Dubawi gelding has since finished two lengths behind Starman when fifth in the July Cup and second in Goodwood’s Lennox Stakes.

“We have been very pleased with Creative Force’s preparation. We thought it was a very respectable first run at this level in the July Cup, when he learned plenty about sprinting, and we are hoping that a more polished performer will be turning up here,” Appleby told www.godolphin.com.

“James Doyle felt that he rode like a sprinter in the Lennox Stakes. He hit the lids that day, was up in the van the whole way and possibly did a bit too much early on, so the return to six furlongs should suit.”

One place behind Creative Force in the July Cup was Archie Watson’s Glen Shiel.

The seven-year-old memorably provided jockey Hollie Doyle with a first Group One success on Champions Day at Ascot in October, but has been unable to add to that tally so far in 2021 – most recently finishing down the field in the Prix Maurice de Gheest.

Cosmo Charlton, head racing manager for owners Hambleton Racing, said: “He’s been a real success story – possibly the best in-training purchase in the last few years, I would have thought, with what he’s achieved for us already.

“He’s run so many good races, and we’re looking forward to running in another good one on Saturday.”

Hollie Doyle after the victory of Glen Shiel at Ascot
Hollie Doyle after the victory of Glen Shiel at Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Reflecting on his most recent performance in France, Charlton added: “We’re not completely sure – I think drawn down the middle probably didn’t help. It can play a big part at Deauville, how races pan out, and it looked like a bit of a nightmare position.

“Obviously he travelled over as well, long journey, (and) he’d had two hard races as well – at Newmarket and Ascot. Maybe it was a combination of all that – and he didn’t quite feel himself, Hollie said, and he came back a bit tired.

“He’s really freshened well (since then), and he’s in great form.

“His better form is on slower ground, but he can handle it quicker – as he showed at Newmarket.

“If there was rain around, we’d be more confident. Starman is going to be hard to beat on the ground, but he should run really well anyway.”

Happy Romance has been a real money-spinner for her owners, with her six wins including a couple of valuable sales race victories and two Group Three triumphs.

Trainer Richard Hannon is confident she can make her mark at the highest level.

He said: “She’s in great form and we’ve picked this race out since she won at Newbury.

“The owners are keen to go there and I’m hopeful she’ll win a Group One next year if she doesn’t this year.”

Starman to face 10 rivals in Sprint Cup

Starman is set to face 10 rivals in his bid to add Haydock’s Betfair Sprint Cup to his July Cup success.

Ed Walker’s four-year-old will try to become the third horse this century to win both races in the same season, after Dream Ahead (2011) and Harry Angel (2017).

The Archie Watson-trained Glen Shiel, runner-up to Dream Of Dreams last year, is also in the line-up – along with Tim Easterby’s Art Power, who was back in fourth in 2020.

Garrus, winner of Deauville’s Prix de Meautry on Sunday, makes a quick reappearance – as does David O’Meara’s Summerghand, who took the Hopeful Stakes at Newmarket last weekend.

Godolphin hopes rest with the Charlie Appleby-trained Creative Force, who was fifth to Starman in the July Cup.

Clive Cox is two-handed with Supremacy and Nando Parrado, while Richard Hannon’s filly Happy Romance is the sole three-year-old in the field.

Kevin Ryan’s Emaraaty Ana and Chil Chil, from Andrew Balding’s yard, complete the 11 contenders.

Last year's Sprint Cup runner-up Glen Shiel will be back to try again this weekend
Last year’s Sprint Cup runner-up Glen Shiel will be back to try again this weekend (Dan Abraham/PA)

The three withdrawals at the 48-hour final declaration stage were Brando, sole Irish-trained entry Gustavus Weston and Vadream.

Starman’s regular ride Tom Marquand believes his mount holds all the aces.

He said: “Starman showed the best sprinting form in Europe this year when he won the July Cup, and if he can reproduce that he’s going to be hard to beat. I thought he did particularly well there too – he was up against more experienced rivals, and it was only really his second proper race, because he barely had to do anything to win his races last year.

“Gaps closed on him that day, and he’s not the most nimble, so you have to give him credit for that too. Once he hit the front he was very good, and on that rising ground at Newmarket a horse who is going as well as he was can really put in a late shift. Starman flew, and to hit the line as well as he did was impressive.”

Starman was only third in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville last month, but Marquand puts that squarely down to the soft ground.

Tom Marquand is hoping to be celebrating again after the Betfair Sprint Cup
Tom Marquand hopes to be celebrating again after the Betfair Sprint Cup (David Davies/Jockey Club)

“It will be nice getting back on better ground, because in France it just felt as if he got stuck a bit on that tacky ground,” he said.

“It was an extra half-furlong as well, which may have been a factor too, because three-quarters of a furlong out I thought he was going to win – but when I got into him he struggled to extend in the way he had done at Newmarket.

“That July Cup form is about as rock solid as it gets, and if the conditions are suitable and the race is run to suit again we ought to be in exactly the same spot. We just want a genuinely run sprint – and having a horse like Glen Shiel (the mount of Marquand’s partner Hollie Doyle) in there again is quite handy, because that’s his gig as well.

“You have to respect Glen Shiel, because he’s been so tough and reliable at this level and he’s a former Qipco British Champions Sprint winner. He’s danced pretty much every dance – and once a sprinter has shown he’s got the ability to do it, you have to be prepared for him to do it again.”

Buick expects big Haydock run from Creative Force

As money continues to come for Starman in the Betfair Sprint Cup, William Buick has high hopes he can challenge the favourite in the Haydock showpiece aboard Creative Force.

The Godolphin-owned gelding met with defeat for the first time this season when two lengths behind Starman in fifth, as Ed Walker’s stable star came out on top in the Darley July Cup.

Creative Force subsequently missed out by a neck in the Lennox Stakes at Goodwood, while Starman was a close third in the Prix Maurice de Gheest over six and a half furlongs – which seemed to stretch him at Deauville.

Buick said of the Charlie Appleby-trained Creative Force: “We are on course for the Sprint Cup at the weekend, and he has done nothing wrong all season. I’m very much looking forward to riding him again on Saturday.

“Starman is a good horse, and we are having to take him on again, but hopefully we can close the gap a little bit with him this time round.

“It has not really surprised us what he has done this season, because he ran in the Coventry Stakes as a two-year-old. He has always been held in high regard, but he is just a lovely horse to be around.”

Starman on course for big sprint double at Haydock

July Cup hero Starman heads 14 confirmations for the Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock on Saturday.

Ed Walker’s four-year-old is on course to attempt to become the third horse this century to win both races in the same season, after Dream Ahead (2011) and Harry Angel (2017).

The Archie Watson-trained Glen Shiel, runner-up to Dream Of Dreams last year, has stood his ground, as has Art Power, from Tim Easterby’s stable, who was back in fourth in 2020.

Garrus won at Deauville at the weekend
Garrus won at Deauville at the weekend (PA)

Charlie Hills’ Garrus and David O’Meara Summerghand, who won Deauville’s Prix de Meautry and Newmarket’s Hopeful Stakes respectively at the weekend, have the option of making a quick return to action, while Godolphin hopes rest with the Charlie Appleby-trained Creative Force.

Clive Cox has left in his two entries, Supremacy and Nando Parrado.

“The drier autumn has given us a chance to include Supremacy, while Nando Parrado ran a blinder at Newbury in the Hungerford and this is an opportunity to run back over six,” he said.

Supremacy had outstanding form as a two-year-old
Supremacy had outstanding form as a two-year-old (Mark Cranham/PA)

“Supremacy is showing me the right signs and with the dry forecast we’re keen to have a look.

“We’ll assess the situation as the week goes by.”

The sole Irish-trained possible is Joseph Murphy’s Gustavus Weston, winner of the Group Three Phoenix Sprint at the Curragh. Dragon Symbol was the most notable absentee at the five-day stage.

Walker looking towards Haydock with Starman – and hoping for fast ground

Ed Walker is targeting Betfair Sprint Cup success for Starman after his gallant effort in defeat in Sunday’s Prix Maurice de Gheest.

The July Cup hero was well fancied to double his Group One tally at Deauville, but was beaten just under two lengths into third by the prolific Marianafoot.

Starman disappointed in a soft ground Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot last season, while he was taken out of the Diamond Jubilee at the Royal meeting on account of testing conditions.

Walker believes a combination of the easy surface and an extended trip of six and a half furlongs proved his stable star’s undoing in France, but he has no regrets about allowing him to take his chance.

He said: “I think we were right to run. The ground wasn’t as bad as it was at Ascot either on Champions Day or at Royal Ascot, when we took him out.

“We nearly got away with it. At the six-furlong pole he was nearly the winner. He came there to win his race and didn’t get home.

“I’m very proud of him. He ran a massive race and was very brave. He’s genuine and talented and the ground just blunted his speed and put more of an emphasis on stamina.

“He was beaten by a couple of horses that have got very good form over further.

“I think he lost nothing in defeat and credit to David Ward (owner) for being brave enough to give it a shot.”

Ed Walker was proud of Starman's performance in defeat
Ed Walker was proud of Starman’s performance in defeat (Simon Cooper/PA)

Walker is now praying for drying weather ahead of the Haydock showpiece on September 4.

“We live to fight another day and when we get him back on proper fast ground we’ll see his true colours again,” the trainer added.

“We’ve had so much rain we’re surely due a dry spell. We’ll aim for Haydock and see how we go.”

Starman primed for Maurice de Gheest challenge

Ed Walker believes July Cup hero Starman could be better than ever ahead of his bid for further Group One honours in France on Sunday.

The Dutch Art colt looked a top-class sprinter in the making after winning his first three career starts last season – and while he floundered in soft ground on Champions Day at Ascot, he made an impressive return in the Duke of York Stakes in May.

Testing conditions at the Royal meeting led to his withdrawal from the Diamond Jubilee, but he proved his Group One quality with a brilliant display on the July Course, and Walker could not have been happier with his stable star ahead of the Prix Maurice de Gheest.

He said: “I can’t wait, to be honest with you. I just wish it was scorching hot over there, but there’s always something to worry about.

“He’s in cracking form and we’re super excited, so fingers crossed.

“Everything has gone very well since the the July Cup. (Judged) on his last piece of work, I think he’s improving, dare I say it.

“He’s in flying form.”

The biggest threat to Starman could be Wesley Ward’s Campanelle.

Campanelle winning the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot
Campanelle winning the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot (Megan Ridgwell/PA)

The American challenger won the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot and the Prix Morny at Deauville last summer – and returns to France off the back of doubling her Ascot tally in the Commonwealth Cup.

“She’s there and in good shape and Frankie (Dettori) is riding, so there are no worries,” said Ward.

“I think there are a lot of showers around and that is going to suit Campanelle just fine.

“We’re excited.”

Rohaan is enjoying a fantastic season for trainer David Evans, with victory in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot his fourth of the campaign.

He disappointed behind Starman in the July Cup, but Evans is anticipating a much-improved performance in France.

He said: “He’s in good order and I’d just write off his run in the July Cup, to be honest. He’s better than that.

“Everything was against him – he was probably on the wrong side, we probably made too much use of him, the ground was a bit quick and I don’t think he likes that track.

“I the trip, the track and the ground will suit him much better this weekend.

“It makes a change to be involved these races – it’s a lot easier training a good one than a bad one!”

Ralph Beckett’s Lennox Stakes winner Kinross, the Archie Watson-trained Glen Shiel and Kevin Ryan’s veteran sprinter Brando add further weight to the British challenge.

Irish hopes are carried by Aidan O’Brien’s Lope Y Fernandez, Ken Condon’s Laws Of Indices and Joseph O’Brien’s Thunder Moon.

The latter pair were split by just a head when first and second in the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville four weeks ago.

Condon said: “Everything has been good since the Prix Jean Prat. It’s good he’s had a nice break and he’s been training nicely, so we’re looking forward to heading back over with him.

Ken Condon with Law Of Indices
Ken Condon with Law Of Indices (PA/INPHO)

“I think the ground might be a bit drier than the last time, but he’s versatile ground-wise.

“It’s a very good race, as you would expect for a prestigious Group One.

“We’re happy to having Olivier Peslier riding our horse again and we hope he runs well.”

Of Thunder Moon, O’Brien told Betfair: “We were thrilled to see Thunder Moon get back on track in the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville last time, as his first two runs of the season had been very disappointing.

Joseph O'Brien has high hopes for Thunder Moon
Joseph O’Brien has high hopes for Thunder Moon (PA)

“The drop in trip seemed to help him and he was only just touched off by Laws Of Indices. This even shorter trip should be fine for him and the less testing ground will definitely be in his favour, as we considered taking him out of the Prix Jean Prat on account of the softening ground.

“The better the ground, the better his chance.

The home team includes Marianafoot, who steps up to the top level for the first time following a remarkable winning sequence.

Trainer Jerome Reynier said: “He has won seven in a row and was tried over a straight course back in April at Chantilly and handled it well.

“Six and a half furlongs is a bit of a long trip for the sprinters, but he has won over seven and I think he’s got a good chance.

“This is the logical next step and we’re looking forward to it. It’s a pretty good race and it will be good to try him against this sort of opposition.

“If we can step up onto the podium, we will be delighted.”

Starman proves class act in July Cup

Starman powered to victory for Ed Walker and Tom Marquand in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket.

Always held in the highest regard by his trainer – who took the brave decision not to run in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot when the heavens opened – the Duke of York Stakes winner went off 9-2 here and looked like he had a bit to do over a furlong out.

But once meeting the highest ground, Marquand’s mount found overdrive to beat favourite Dragon Symbol and defending champion Oxted by a length and a quarter and a short head in this famous Group One sprint.

Art Power, who had blazed a trail on the far side, was just behind in fourth place.

Walker, saddling his first Group One winner, said: “It’s great. It’s taken its time, but better late than never as they say.

“I always believed so much in this horse. I put a lot of pressure on myself and it’s great that belief has been vindicated.

“His only blip was on bad ground at Ascot last season and we’ve been proved to have made the right call in missing the Royal meeting.

“I hoped he’d win a Group One and we dreamed that he’ll be a sprinter of a generation.

“A horse that was going through the grades as quickly as he was, you have to dream.”

While normally unwavering in his faith of his stable star, Walker admitted to having some pre-race doubts ahead of his latest assignment.

“He was so professional at York and today I was really negative before the race. He was messing around (in the pre-parade ring) and if you’d spoken to me then I’d have been pretty doom and gloom,” the trainer added.

“You always dream with a horse like this. They’re all champions when they walk into the yard, but this horse has never let us down.”

The Lambourn handler has another smart sprinter on his hands in recent Group Three winner Came From The Dark, but he does not anticipate the pair locking horns.

Jockey Tom Marquand celebrates winning the July Cup on Starman
Jockey Tom Marquand celebrates winning the July Cup on Starman (David Davies/Jockey Club)

A potential next port of call for Starman could be the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock on September 4.

Walker said: “Came From The Dark has to avoid this guy. In my mind, they’re not in the same league.

“He’s a very good horse, Came From The Dark, but this guy has that brilliance. Came From The Dark has got guts and battles it out.

“I think Came From The Dark is more of a five-furlong horse – whereas with this guy, it looks like six is the absolute minimum.

“We’ll look at the Sprint Cup and the Prix Maurice de Gheest.”

It was a special result, too, for Marquand, who was quick to praise Walker and the winner – and also William Haggas.

The rider said: “He was pretty exceptional and has confirmed what Ed has been saying all week. I’m not going to lie – even I was thinking ‘am I over-rating him a little bit?’. That confidence was justified today, and you have to put him in the top tier of sprinting in Europe after that.

“It was an incredible performance. The last few days everyone has been coming in saying it is one of the best July Cups we have seen for a good while. For a horse that has had six runs, I thought he showed relative signs of inexperience still.

“Ed’s comments a week ago were bold, and it is fantastic Starman has justified them today. You have to have seen something pretty exceptional at home to make you think like that. No doubt nerves were kicking in the last 24 hours, and that is why Ed might have found a few negatives – and he did get a bit warm and had other things on his mind.

“But he is a top-class racehorse – that turn of foot he showed up the hill was nothing short of top class.”

Marquand added he felt lucky to have the chance to ride the horse, and that Haggas played his part.

He explained: “Any Group One is special, as they are hard to win, especially on a day like today. I’m very fortunate I ride for the William Haggas stable a lot now. There was a conversation of where I go today. Primarily William is my biggest supporter, and he had horses all over the country – and good horses at that.

“It makes life pretty tricky when it comes to things like that, because loyalty is pretty hard to find in the game, and I’ve got that from William. Today I think it just came to the fore what a great trainer and person he is in that he let me come here and ride Starman, because he had some pretty important horses elsewhere.

“Days like this are hard to come by, and it is fantastic he knew the significance of it.”

Dragon Symbol (right) was second again
Dragon Symbol (right) was second again (David Davies/PA)

Oisin Murphy, who had steered Starman to victory at York, was this time on board Dragon Symbol.

First past the post in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot before being demoted to the runner-up spot after he was found to have interfered with American challenger Campanelle, Archie Watson’s charge again had to make do with minor honours.

Murphy said: “I’m thrilled for Ed Walker. I was given the choice and I picked the wrong one, but I’m thrilled for their team – and they’re having a fantastic season.

“I hope Dragon Symbol will get his day – we could well look to France next potentially for the Prix Maurice de Gheest.”

Starman could be champion in waiting for Walker this weekend

Ed Walker’s Starman is poised to take his place at the top of the sprint division when he lines up for the Darley July Cup.

The four-year-old is vying for favouritism in the Group One contest over six furlongs on Newmarket’s July course this Saturday.

Starman was last seen triumphing in the Duke of York Stakes at York, beating Naharr, Oxted and Summerghand in the process.

The performance was the bay’s first of 2021 and Walker was pleasantly surprised to see him strike first time out after a 207-day break.

Starman during his last performance in the Duke of York Stakes
Starman during his last performance in the Duke of York Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I was treating it as a prep race, I expected him to need the run and in a way was happy to get beaten as Ascot was the be all and end all,” he said.

“When he won like that and battled like he did, he certainly looked like he was going to tighten up and improve for the run.

“I’m not going to say he’ll be a stone better after York, but I’d like to say he’ll be better for that run.”

Roger Teal’s Oxted went on to take the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, a victory that further boosts the form of Starman’s York success.

“His form is solid, very solid, Oxted’s taken a bit of time to warm up this year, the Teals were a bit disappointed and now they’re rightly full of optimism again,” he said.

“He’s a very good horse, a two-time Group One winner, and just because we’ve beaten him doesn’t mean I don’t see him as a threat.”

Ed Walker has high hopes for Starman this weekend
Ed Walker has high hopes for Starman this weekend (Simon Cooper/PA)

Starman was also an intended runner in the King’s Stand, but a downpour over Ascot turned the going unfavourably soft and Walker was forced to withdraw him.

The weather left conditions at the Berkshire track similar to Champions Day last season, where the horse was beaten for the first and only time when finishing 14th of 19 rivals on soft ground in the British Champions Sprint Stakes.

“It was an easy decision, but brutal to have to make it. But he’s only been beaten once and that was on that track and in those conditions,” said Walker.

“It just felt like it would have been a brilliant mistake to make when all the horses that beat him on Champions Day were in there.

“I would have felt so stupid, any time you send any horse out into battle you risk injuries or disappointment and I just would have felt really stupid if he’d have been beaten six lengths again and only beaten two rivals and I had run him not liking the ground.”

Newmarket conditions are likely to be far less extreme, with the going at the July course currently described as good to firm and showers expected.

“It looks like it should just be nice ground,” Walker said.

“Worst case (scenario) good ground, probably a bit quicker than that if the rain doesn’t come, so there’s no excuses – may the best horse win.”

Starman winning at Lingfield on his racecourse debut
Starman winning at Lingfield on his racecourse debut (Mark Cranham/PA)

This weekend’s contest looks to be hugely competitive, with Starman and Oxted joined at the head of the market by Dragon Symbol – who was first past the post in a dramatic renewal of the Commonwealth Cup – and Jersey Stakes winner Creative Force, though Diamond Jubilee champion Dream Of Dreams is notably absent due to injury.

“It feels like a real championship race, you have all the best horses of the generation in there, but it’s a shame not to have the Diamond Jubilee winner there alongside the King’s Stand winner,” Walker said.

“Starman has got an opportunity to be the sprinter of his generation because he’s only got the one blip on his record, I’d love to think he could be the next Muhaarar.

“He’s done absolutely nothing wrong bar that run on bad ground, I just don’t know how much is up his sleeve – only he can answer that question and hopefully he does answer it on Saturday.”

Walker anticipating favourable ground for Starman at Newmarket

Trainer Ed Walker is confident conditions will be suitable for Starman in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket on Saturday week.

The Upper Lambourn handler was ruing his luck when rain fell at Royal Ascot, forcing him to withdraw his crack sprinter from the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.

The four-year-old was a leading fancy for that six-furlong Group One feature on the back of victory in the Duke of York Stakes on the Knavesmire.

His only defeat in five career starts came on soft ground at Ascot when he was well-beaten in the Qipco British Champions Sprint in October.

“He’s on track for the July Cup. He’s in good nick and he’ll work on Wednesday,” said Walker.

“I think we’ll be all right with the ground. Newmarket was very quick last week and they tend not to get much of the rain. I’d be very surprised if it’s any softer than it was when he won at York.

“We’d be seriously unlucky if we had to re-think again. It would be hard to re-think again as he hasn’t got many options. I’m sure it will be fine.”

A setback prevented Came From The Dark from running at the Royal meeting but he is fully recovered and on course to return to action in the Coral Charge at Sandown on Saturday.

Came From The Dark (second left) is set to return to action in the Coral Charge at Sandown
Came From The Dark (second left) is set to return to action in the Coral Charge at Sandown (David Davies/PA)

The five-year-old has his second attempt at a Group Three contest after finishing second in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket in May.

“I think we’re going to head to Sandown. It should be nice ground there,” said Walker.

“It was a real shame we missed Royal Ascot with him because the five there would have been perfect, but this stiff five will suit.

“You just tend to need a bit more luck at Sandown. I hope the race pans out for him but he’s in great shape. I’m looking forward to seeing him back.

“He had a setback after Newmarket which was not a major one but we couldn’t train him for 10 days or so. It was frustrating rather than disastrous.”

Royal Ascot day five – Glen aiming to sparkle in Diamond finale

The Group One Diamond Jubilee Stakes is the highlight as Royal Ascot draws to a close with a fifth day of top-class racing, featuring some of the finest horses in the world.

The complexion of the Diamond Jubilee has altered dramatically following the deluge which hit the track overnight on Thursday and through Friday.

The chances of several prominent contenders receded significantly as the going changed from good to firm to soft, heavy in places and the plain heavy – but the rain has come at just the right time for Glen Shiel and Hollie Doyle.

Record-breaking jockey Doyle was left without a ride in the showpiece race of the whole meeting when a forecast break in the weather did not arrive quickly enough for Trueshan in the Gold Cup on Thursday – and trainer Alan King decided not to run.

But it has delivered for Glen Shiel who, along with Trueshan on the same October card, provided a famous victory for Doyle in similar conditions on British Champions Day at Ascot last year.

Haydock Sprint Cup hero Dream Of Dreams joins Glen Shiel as a Group One winner already in the Diamond Jubilee field.

Elsewhere on the card, Aidan O’Brien team in the Hardwicke Stakes has been cut to two due to conditions, but the in-form Broome, last seen finishing just a short head behind Helvic Dream in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, will line up.

There is also Group Three action in the seven-furlong Jersey Stakes, with the Listed Chesham run over the same distance earlier on the card for two-year-olds.

The Wokingham and Golden Gate Stakes are the two handicap contests of the day, after which the long-distance Queen Alexandra Stakes concludes the final day of the the Royal meeting.

Glen Shiel to provide Ascot consolation for Watson

Hollie Doyle was all smiles after winning the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot last year
Hollie Doyle was all smiles after winning the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot last year (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Archie Watson endured a rollercoaster Friday, with his Dragon Symbol coming home in front in the Commonwealth Cup, only to lose the race in the stewards’ room following the tightest of tight finishes with Campanelle. His Glen Shiel must be among the leading lights for the Diamond Jubilee, with course form on deep ground already in the bag. Few would begrudge Watson a Group One winner on the final day to compensate for his Friday loss.

Can Broome clean up?

Broome is a leading Hardwicke contender
Broome is a leading Hardwicke contender (PA)

Ballydoyle are well represented in the Group Two Hardwicke Stakes, despite the absence of Mogul and Tiger Moth, with the in-form Broome currently at the head of the market after a busy and successful start to his campaign. Following a hat-trick of victories from Listed to Group Two level, the five-year-old was last seen coming home narrowly behind Helvic Dream in the Group One Tattersalls Gold Cup, a piece of form that has gained him favouritism as he steps back down a grade. Japan also lines up for O’Brien, but Broome’s chief rivals seem to be Owen Burrows’ Tapster Stakes winner Hukum and David Menuisier’s Group One-winning soft-ground specialist Wonderful Tonight.

The boys in blue the ones to beat

Naval Crown was last seen finishing fourth in the 2000 Guineas
Naval Crown was last seen finishing fourth in the 2000 Guineas (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Godolphin and Charlie Appleby have good reason to be hopeful in the Group Three Jersey Stakes as their two runners occupy the top spots in the market. Naval Crown will run for the first time since his fourth place in the 2000 Guineas, where he was beaten by subsequent St James’s Palace Stakes winner Poetic Flare, whereas Creative Force heads into the race off a hat-trick of victories that culminated in the Listed Carnarvon Stakes at Newbury.

A Royal rebound for King’s Lynn?

King’s Lynn (centre) who is owned and was bred by the Queen
King’s Lynn (centre) who is owned and was bred by the Queen (Tim Goode/PA)

There could be a Royal winner in the Wokingham Stakes through King’s Lynn, who takes his place in the race after finishing seventh behind Oxted in the King’s Stand Stakes on the opening day of the meeting. The Queen’s gelding should go on the ground and has been attracting ante-post support. David Evans’ Rohaan is arguably the horse to beat as he comes into the contest off the back of a Group Two victory in the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock.

Starman set to miss Diamond Jubilee date

Ed Walker will assess conditions at Ascot on Friday, but concedes Starman is “pretty unlikely” to line up in Saturday’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes.

The four-year-old had been the ante-post favourite for the six-furlong feature on the final day of the meeting before deluge of rain arrived in Berkshire overnight, turning the ground to heavy and forcing an inspection before racing.

Starman has won four of his five starts to date, with his only disappointing effort coming on soft ground over six furlongs at Ascot in October, and Walker feels conditions have gone against his stable star.

He said: “I think it’s pretty unlikely he will run. I’ve got a runner in the last race, so I’ll have a good look at the track and make a call, but I’d say it’s pretty unlikely.

“His only defeat so far came on soft ground here last year.

“It’s frustrating as not only is it a lovely opportunity at Royal Ascot, but some of the other races he might go for, like the Maurice de Gheest and the Sprint Cup at Haydock, are often run on soft ground, so it’s frustrating to lose a summer target to freakish weather.”

Starman holds an entry for next month’s July Cup at Newmarket and Walker added: “We’ve just got to hope the weather improves and it dries up now.

“He is entered in the July Cup, so that is an option if the ground dried up.”

The wet weather also forced the withdrawal of Walker’s Coronation Stakes contender Premio Bacio.

Newmarket is also an option for the filly, who impressed in victory at York.

Walker said: “I’m not sure where we will go yet.

“The Coronation had been her target since she crossed the line at York, so it’s frustrating we couldn’t run.

“She’s in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket, so we could have a look at that, but the ground would have to improve.”

Starman tops 13 in Diamond Jubilee

Starman will take on 13 rivals as he bids for a first Group One victory in Saturday’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Ed Walker’s charge made rapid strides last term, winning his first three starts before meeting with a first defeat when upped in company to the highest level on soft ground on Champions Day.

The four-year-old made a victorious start to 2021 when landing the Duke of York Stakes, where he beat the reopposing Nahaarr – trained by William Haggas – by a neck.

Summerghand (fourth), Ventura Rebel (fifth), Art Power (sixth), Emaraaty Ana (seventh) and Final Song (ninth) will all also try to reverse York form at Ascot.

The third home, Oxted, won the King’s Stand earlier in the week.

Dream Of Dreams was just denied by Hello Youmzain this race last year and he is back for more, while Glen Shiel, who landed the British Champions Sprint last autumn, returns to Group One level after finishing fourth in Ireland on his seasonal bow.

Ballyogan Stakes winner Sonaiyla is the sole Irish-trained runner for Paddy Twomey while Namos represents German trainer Dominik Moser.

Charlie Hills’ pair of Garrus and Royal Commando complete the field along with Happy Power, who is trained by Andrew Balding.

Broome headlines a four-strong team for Aidan O’Brien in the Hardwicke Stakes.

The five-year-old failed to sparkle in 2020, but has been in fine form so far this year, winning his first three starts before going down by just a short head to Helvic Dream in the Group One Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh last month.

Japan and Mogul finished third and sixth respectively in the Coronation Cup at Epsom two weeks ago and they line up again along with Tiger Moth, who finished second in last year’s Melbourne Cup but trailed home last in the Tattersalls Gold Cup on his return.

Hukum heads the home defence for Owen Burrows after winning a Goodwood Listed heat last time, with Haggas upping Ilaraab significantly in company to Group Two level after winning six handicaps on the bounce and rising to a rating of 111.

Haggas has a second string in Pablo Escobarr, while Wonderful Tonight, a dual Group One winner for David Menuisier at the end of last year, is set to make her seasonal bow.

Mark Johnston’s duo of Sir Ron Priestley and Thunderous, plus Bangkok, Deja, Highest Ground, Logician and Albaflora round out 15 declared runners.

A field of 19 runners has been declared for the Jersey Stakes, with Creative Force, Naval Crown and Khartoum prominent in the betting, while O’Brien’s Point Lonsdale leads 10 declarations for the Chesham Stakes.

The Wokingham has drawn a maximum field of 28 plus three reserves, with Snazzy Jazzy carrying top weight under claimer Laura Pearson.

A full field of 19 will go to post for the Golden Gates Stakes, with three reserves waiting in the wings, while 20 run in the Queen Alexandra Stakes, including Chester Cup hero Falcon Eight.