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Draw concerns for Balmoral hotpot Sunray Major

A high draw is a concern for connections after ante-post favourite Sunray Major just made the cut for the Balmoral Handicap at Ascot on Saturday.

The lightly-raced four-year-old – a half-brother to the brilliant Kingman – crept in at the bottom of the 20-runner maximum field, but looks to be positioned on the wrong side of the course in stall 21.

Even so, Sunray Major is a warm order for the one-mile cavalry charge after comfortably winning a seven-furlong handicap on this course two weeks ago. Frankie Dettori will again do the steering.

“He just managed to sneak in at the bottom there which is very fortunate. He needed that penalty to get in so it was a good job he won,” said Thady Gosden, who trains the son of Dubawi jointly with his father, John.

“He’s very well bred and we’ve always liked him, but we haven’t had the smoothest of times with him over the last two years.

“He’s in good form at the moment, but the draw can be important in a race like this. You normally want to be low, so I’m not sure how stall 21 will play out, stuck in the middle of the track. Hopefully, he can overcome that.”

The team at Clarehaven have two other strings to their bow, in King Leonidas and Magical Morning.

“King Leonidas has had his issues as well and is still lightly raced. He’s been improving and he should handle the ground fine,” Gosden added.

“Magical Morning has been running in the big handicaps through the year, winning one and finishing second in another. He’s a bit in and out, but he’s run two very good races this year.”

Aldaary (top left) bids to repeat this success over the course in the Balmoral Handicap
Aldaary (top left) bids to repeat this success over the course in the Balmoral Handicap (John Walton/PA)

William Haggas is triple handed with Aldaary, Montatham and Johan – but describes Sunray Major as “a certainty” after getting a run.

“I’d been desperately trying to knock John’s (Gosden) horse out, who I think is a certainty,” Haggas told Sky Sports Racing.

“Montatham and Johan have not got anything in hand weight-wise and Aldaary has got a 6lb penalty and he went up 5lb for a facile success at Ascot. He’s a lovely horse, but he’ll probably have too much weight. I think John’s horse is a good thing.”

Sir Busker, fourth in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes 12 months ago, drops into handicap company for the first time time this season.

The William Knight-trained five-year-old relishes the straight mile at Ascot and was third to Palace Pier in the Queen Anne Stakes at the Royal meeting this summer.

It is not surprising he has to give weight to all his rivals, but connections still expect him to put up a good show.

“We’re really looking forward to it. He’s obviously got a lot of weight to carry, but he’s a big horse and should be able to carry the weight,” Sam Hoskins, racing manager for owners Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds.

“He loves the straight course at Ascot. The ground is perfect and he’ll love the quick pace.

“Although it will be a stiff task trying to give a lot of weight to unexposed horses, this race will suit him better than some of the small runner-tactical races he’s been in. And obviously we’ve got Oisin (Murphy), who knows him so well.

“We did talk about the QEII again but it is a very strong race this year, so we’re going to try to win this race. He is a Group One horse in a handicap, but he has got a lot of weight.”

Sacred Bridge will start in Guineas trial next season

Sacred Bridge will return to action next season in a 1000 Guineas trial.

The Ger Lyons-trained filly lost her unbeaten record when disappointing in the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket.

Connections feel that might have just been one run too many at the end of a fairly busy season – but having not tried further than six furlongs to date, it remains uncertain which trip may eventually be best for Sacred Bridge next year.

“Nothing really came to light after Newmarket,” said Barry Mahon, spokesman for owners Juddmonte.

“She’d gone a little bit woolly in her coat and she got a bit sweaty beforehand.

“There’s a possibility with fillies at this time of year that it was one race too many. She came out of the race well, she’s fine – (but) she’s gone a bit wintry looking, so we’ll put it down to it being late in the year for a filly.

“We’ll probably start her off in a Guineas trial and take it from there. We were hoping to find out a bit more in the Cheveley Park, but obviously we didn’t.”

Sunray Major was impressive at Ascot on Friday
Sunray Major was impressive at Ascot on Friday (Steven Paston/PA)

The same colours were carried to victory at Ascot on Friday by John and Thady Gosden’s Sunray Major – a half-brother to Kingman, who could return to the same track on Champions Day, ground permitting.

“He’s a beautiful looking horse and has always been held in high regard by John and Thady and the team there,” said Mahon.

“He’s a horse that is progressing. Obviously he’s had a few setbacks, but we’ll probably look towards the Balmoral Handicap. He’d only run if the ground wasn’t too testing, though.

“Good to soft is fine for him, but he wouldn’t want it any softer.”

Sunray Major set to run again this season

Sunray Major is likely to have a second run before the end of the current campaign following his successful return to action at Chelmsford.

As a half-brother to the brilliant miler Kingman, plenty was of course always expected of John and Thady Gosden’s Dubawi colt.

He could hardly have been more impressive on his racecourse debut at Newmarket in June of last year, but could then finish only fourth under a penalty a fortnight later on what proved to be his final start as a three-year-old.

Sunray Major returned from 15 months off the track in a minor event last week, and ultimately won comfortably in the hands of Frankie Dettori – suggesting he should be capable of stepping up in class.

“He’s obviously exceptionally well-bred and had a good bit of time off,” said Thady Gosden.

“He was a little bit rusty at Chelmsford, as you’d expect, but he did well to win.

“I’m sure the team at (owners) Juddmonte will assess it and work out where to go next. We’ll try and find something before the end of the season.

“Happily he is back, and has retained his ability so far.”