Wathnan splash the cash in search of more Royal Ascot glory

Haatem will sport the colours of Wathnan Racing when he drops back in trip for the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The Qatari-based operation made an immediate impact to their ownership enterprise when striking with Courage Mon Ami and Gregory at the Royal meeting 12 months ago, the former taking home the feature Gold Cup.

Now Wathnan have opened their chequebook once again to sign for a number of promising acquisitions prior to this year’s summer showpiece, with Richard Hannon’s 2000 Guineas third and Irish 2,000 Guineas runner-up the stand-out name among their list of new recruits.

Keen to avoid locking horns with impressive Newmarket winner Notable Speech, and meeting stablemate Rosallion for a third time this season, the Craven Stakes scorer will revert to seven furlongs in Berkshire – where his proven stamina is anticipated to be an asset for the Jersey.

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“We are delighted to get him and it is very hard to buy horses who are proven at Classic level, but he looks a really tough, likeable horse,” said Wathnan’s racing adviser Richard Brown.

“James (Doyle) was very taken by him and he had obviously ridden him at Newmarket and is a great addition to the team.

“There are a few reasons for dropping back to seven furlongs, most notably Notable Speech and Rosallion are going to be tough nuts to crack. We also think he showed plenty of speed in Ireland and with it being a very stiff seven at Ascot, as we all know, I think he will be very strong at the line.

“He will have a penalty, but he’s a big, strong horse and he should be able to carry it and will hopefully go to the Jersey with a strong chance.”

Also now lining up for Wathnan on the Saturday of Royal Ascot will be Shartash, who is two from two since joining Archie Watson and will head for the six-furlong Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes.

“We were really impressed with him on his first start this year (at Thirsk) and we nearly made a move for him then,” continued Brown.

“We thought we’d better see him again first and was then impressed again (at Haydock). He has improved for being gelded and he is going to be a six or seven-furlong horse this year, and I think the stiff six (at Ascot) could be just about perfect for him.

“It’s an open division and Archie is very good with these sprinters, so we’re really looking forward to running him.”

Another new name to the Wathnan ranks trained by Watson is the unbeaten Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes-bound Dyrholaey, while John and Thady Gosden’s Torito and Richard Fahey’s Shadow Army are others set to represent the Emir of Qatar’s racing interest during the five-day festival.

The latter saw the form of his taking debut win at York given a timely boost by Adrian Keatley’s Francisco’s Piece at the weekend and will remain at five furlongs for a tilt at the Norfolk Stakes.

York winner Shadow Army will head to the Norfolk Stakes
York winner Shadow Army will head to the Norfolk Stakes (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I was really impressed with Shadow Army at York,” added Brown. “He did everything wrong, everything went against him and he was very green and babyish, but he still got there at the line with his ears pricked.

“Seeing the runner-up come out and win the Listed race at Chantilly is fantastic and has given us a real boost and he has come out of the race in great form, with Richard really happy.

“I imagine he will run in the Norfolk. I think six furlongs will definitely be within his compass later in the year, but I think the stiff five at Ascot will be ideal.”

He went on: “Our remit was to produce a team of horses for Ascot that the Emir can enjoy and be proud of.

“There is a group of horses here that can hopefully do that. Last year was amazing, with two winners, and with this team added to what we already have, there is hopefully going to be plenty of horses with chances.

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“However, you do not count your chickens at Ascot. You need a lot of luck and a lot of things to go your way and it is as hard a place as any to have a winner. Hopefully we have a team that goes there with plenty of live chances.”

Also among the plethora of purchases is the talented daughter of Lope De Vega, Lope De Lilas, who although set to skip the Royal meeting, could fulfil Classic dreams for the owners when she heads for the Juddmonte Irish Oaks in July.

The three-year-old is Wathnan’s first horse trained by Willie Mullins and connections are thrilled to link up with the Irish champion jumps trainer.

Lope De Lilas in winning action at Leopardstown
Lope De Lilas in winning action at Leopardstown (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

“If you had told me at the beginning of the year we would have a horse with Willie Mullins, I would have questioned your sanity, because I didn’t realise we were moving into his main field, the jumping field,” quipped Brown.

“However, I was very impressed with Lope De Lilas at Leopardstown, she galloped out miles and I loved seeing that.

“She’s a very well-bred filly and a big filly who is going to need time and she is only going to get better with age.

“She could have been a Ribblesdale candidate, but we have put a line through that and Willie is keen to go to the Irish Oaks with her. It’s not for me to tell Willie Mullins how to train, so that is what we will be doing.”

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