Platinum Jubilee Stakes favourite Home Affairs and his fellow Australian raider Nature Strip had their first taste of Ascot with a racecourse spin on Friday morning.
Both are trained by Chris Waller, who counts the great Winx and last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Verry Elleegant among his most famous alumni, and he was on hand to watch the duo go through their paces.
Home Affairs has two Group One wins to his name while the seven-year-old Nature Strip, who is due to tackle the King’s Stand Stakes, has eight wins at the highest level during an illustrious career.
Waller reports the duo to have taken the trip to Britain in their stride and settled in well their temporary Lambourn home.
The handler said: “It was pretty much a perfect trip – they had two stopovers, one in Singapore and one in Dubai.
“Collectively they drank 120 litres of water on the flight and I think that’s the key for anyone travelling, just making sure they’re well hydrated.
“They put on a couple of kilos on the flight but now they’re back to their normal weights, so they needed to do a little bit of work this morning.
“Today was their first piece of fast work for two weeks, they just needed a little bit of stimulation and I was pretty happy with what they did.”
A handful of international raiders have based themselves in Newmarket while American handler Wesley Ward has taken his team to Chelmsford racecourse in the build up to next week’s Royal meeting.
Waller was full of praise for the facilities in Lambourn, a racing centre more celebrated for its jumps inhabitants, as well as his European training colleagues.
He said: “It’s been great, a lovely relaxed environment. It’s amazing, the facilities over here, it’s awesome – the horses just enjoy themselves and are very relaxed.
“Like a lot of training centres around the world, we train in the city and everything is a rush. There’s a lot of horses in a small area, but not here, it’s all about the horse and it’s no wonder the English, Irish and French turn up so many good winners.
“You train to your own environment, we know what works in Australia. I have the utmost respect for how hard it must be to train a horse here.
“In particular they’ve got to have their horses right for six months of the year, we have 12 months to get things right. If you miss a carnival, you’ve got another one two or three months later – but there’s only one Royal Ascot.
“The way the English and Irish trainers, and the French as well, the way they prepare them for their races is quite unique. We have prep runs, we don’t get them ready for a 2000 metre race first time.”
While Winx never made the trip to Ascot that so many fans hoped for, Waller is not a total stranger to Royal Ascot having sent Brazen Beau to race in 2015.
The son of I Am Invincible came close to victory in the then Diamond Jubilee Stakes, finding only the Ward-trained Undrafted half a length too good.
Asked what he learnt from his experience with Brazen Beau, Waller said: “That it would be achievable to win a race here one day.
“He ran very well and he was a good Australian sprinter, a young horse with a similar profile to Home Affairs. You’ve got to have a horse with a good temperament, they’ve got to be quick, they’ve got to be able to cope with good tracks or perhaps a bit of rain on the day as well.
“We almost pulled it off, so not much has changed really, we almost got it right and we’ll try to get it right this time.”