Read what the trainers are saying ahead of the action on Day Four of Royal Ascot.
Keen form students will no doubt take a close interest in Born With Pride when she takes her chance in the Queen’s Vase on Day Four of Royal Ascot (Friday).
The William Haggas-trained filly went into the winter as a leading fancy for the Investec Oaks on the back of a taking debut success in a Listed event at Newmarket in November, her only start as a juvenile.
She made her eagerly-awaited reappearance in the Classic Trial at Sandown earlier this month, where she was on the face of it disappointing, but there remains real optimism that she can prove herself a smart performer.
Looking back to her Newmarket effort, the Born To Sea filly had Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Peaceful immediately behind her – while runaway Pretty Polly Stakes victor Run Wild was third.
Watch again as Born With Pride defeats Peaceful and Run Wild at Newmarket
In addition to that, even the Kempton race has turned out well, with runner-up Pyledriver winning the King Edward VII Stakes this week to put himself in the Derby picture.
Haggas had hoped to run in the Ribblesdale Stakes, but relatively quick ground on the opening day and the prospect of softer conditions later in the week led him to re-route to Friday.
The Newmarket trainer said: “We just felt the ground might not be soft enough in the Ribblesdale and we thought we’d wait until later in the week with some rain forecast.
“Her debut form looks very good now, obviously, but that was a long time ago.
“I think she’ll get the trip all right – she might even want it.”
Born With Pride faces eight rivals, with Aidan O’Brien running Santiago (Ryan Moore) and Nobel Prize (Frankie Dettori).
American trainer Wesley Ward is always to be feared on his trans-Atlantic raids – and his thoughts on Norfolk Stakes contender Golden Pal make fascinating reading.
A staunch ally of Dettori, Ward has booked Andrea Atzeni for the mount, with the former committed to the Mark Johnston-trained Eye Of Heaven.
Ward said: “We tried our best to persuade Frankie to ride. I know he really likes Mark Johnston’s colt, but in my opinion Golden Pal gives us our best chance of a winner at Royal Ascot this year.
“If all my horses running at Royal Ascot this year were to run against each other over five eighths of a mile, this guy would beat them all – he’s unbelievably fast.
“We had to run him on the dirt first time, because there were no turf races to run in. The jockey gave him a slap down the shoulder early in the race, and he just took off and ended up eight or 10 lengths clear. He was game when the other horse came to him- but the pace he went early on, no horse in America would have been able to keep that up, let alone a two-year-old.
“Ever since then I’ve been preparing him for the Norfolk – and here we are. I really think he is one of the best horses I’ve ever brought to Royal Ascot – believe me, this horse is the real deal.”
Ward is also represented in the Albany Stakes by Flying Aletha, who will be ridden by William Buick.
He said: “I see she’s favourite on the books and she is a filly with true quality – she’s not just a fast filly, which is why we think she can stretch out a little further.
“She did some eye-opening breezes prior to her first run. She ended up running on the dirt because the turf races were cancelled and still won really well, even though she’s a turf horse rather than a dirt horse.
“She isn’t a big, robust filly. She’s quite light and frail, which is keeping me a little grounded about her chances, but I’m still hopeful she’ll run a big race. If the race was in the States, I’d be a lot more confident.”
Haggas runs the once-raced Golden Melody, a winner at Haydock this month.
He said: “We’re all in the dark with the two-year-olds really, because we don’t really know how good they are.
“We think she’s a nice filly, and a bit of cut in the ground will suit her.”
Also unbeaten is Karl Burke’s Dandalla.
Burke said: “She looks fantastic. It was a toss up between five and six (furlongs). On pedigree she’ll stay a mile – so with Aidan (O’Brien) having what looks a speedball (More Beautiful) in the Queen Mary, we decided to duck that one.
“She goes to the Albany with some sort of chance. It was a good run at Newcastle.
“I declared her for the Queen Mary as well just in case the ground went very heavy and we might switch, but as long as it’s no worse than good to soft we”ll stick to six for the Albany.”
Wesley Ward is confident Kimari can strike Royal Ascot gold at the second attempt, in the Commonwealth Cup.
The popular American trainer was hopeful the speedy filly would provide him with a fourth victory in the Queen Mary at the showpiece meeting a year ago, but she was narrowly denied by the Mark Johnston-trained Raffle Prize – ridden by Ward’s regular ally, Frankie Dettori.
Kimari made a successful start to her three-year-old campaign in a Listed event in early April – and with Dettori onside again on Friday rather than in opposition, Ward is anticipating a bold showing.
He said: “She might have won at Royal Ascot last year but for Frankie – if you can’t beat ’em join ’em!
“Not all my horses do well from two to three, but she really has, which is why we’re bringing her back.
“My team tell me she is in really good form. Kieren Fallon has been riding my horses in Newmarket, and out of them all she is his pick for the week.
“It would be fantastic if she can go one better than last year.”
Roger Varian is keeping his fingers crossed the unbeaten Pierre Lapin’s raw ability can negate his lack of experience.
The son of Cappella Sansevero justified market confidence with a runaway success on his Haydock debut in May last year, and was equally impressive when stepped up to Group Two level for the Mill Reef at Newbury four months later.
With the coronavirus pandemic delaying the start of the season, Varian decided against a prep run for his charge, but is nevertheless confident he can make his presence felt in a race which forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series.
“We felt it was a bit tight running in the Pavilion at Newcastle (on June 4) beforehand and liked the idea of getting him to Ascot as a fresh horse,” said the Newmarket trainer.
“We’d have loved to have got a prep run into him in May, but he’s not a horse I wanted to go ‘bang-bang’ with, and so we took the decision to try and get him cherry-ripe for Ascot.
“He’s probably got to overcome a little bit of inexperience, but he is a very natural horse and he won in Group company after a four-month lay-off on only his second start. Hopefully, his ability will shine through and he will be streetwise enough for the big day.
“He’s got to prove himself at the top level but he’s got the gears, definitely, and I think he now has the strength.”
Pierre Lapin’s biggest rival from Britain is the more hardened Golden Horde, from Clive Cox’s yard.
The chestnut colt won the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood last summer before being placed at the highest level behind Earthlight in both the Prix Morny at Deauville and the Middle Park at Newmarket.
Cox said: “He has done very well over the winter after a terrific two-year-old campaign. He carries a real level of form into the race, and I believe he’s done as well as any horse possibly could from two to three.
“With the sprinting brigade, in particular, it’s all about maturity and strength. Once you’ve got that natural speed and ability, maturity is the curve you hope and pray continues upwards – and for me, he has matured as much as he possibly could since last year.
“I’m hoping we go there with a good chance.”
Last week’s Irish 2,000 Guineas third Lope Y Fernandez turns out just seven days later for Aidan O’Brien, who also saddles Pistoletto, Royal Lytham and Southern Hills.
Francis-Henri Graffard’s Wooded is an interesting contender from France, after impressing in a Group Three event at Chantilly in May.
Graffard told Sky Sports Racing: “He’s very well. Since his last run, the goal was always to take him to this race at Ascot, and his preparation has been perfect.
“The horse worked really well at Chantilly racecourse last Friday morning. He couldn’t be better, and we will find out if he is good enough or not.”
Other hopefuls include the Jessica Harrington-trained Millisle, Richard Hannon’s Mums Tipple and Pavilion Stakes victor Dubai Station from Karl Burke’s yard.
Burke said: “He would probably cope with a bit of juice in the ground, but I wouldn’t want it deep.
“I think they are underestimating his run at Newcastle. He travels very strongly and has a good turn of foot.
“I’m very happy with his condition. He looks fantastic.”
A field of 11 is set to go to post for an intriguing renewal of the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The mile-and-a-half contest usually takes place on the final day of the showpiece meeting, but has moved to Friday this year as part of the re-scheduling of races necessitated by the delayed start to the season following the coronavirus shutdown
Defoe defends his crown for Roger Varian, having been fifth in the Coronation Cup at Newmarket on his reappearance, a race in which Aidan O’Brien’s Derby hero Anthony Van Dyck finished runner-up. The pair re-oppose, as do Alounak (sixth) and Desert Encounter (seventh).
Mark Johnston has two contenders in the shape of Communique and Elarqam, the latter having last been seen running a fine race when just failing to reel in Lord North in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Haydock.
Lord North denies Elarqam at Haydock Park earlier this month
That form was significantly boosted when the winner impressed in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on Wednesday, and the five-year-old looks sure to be popular as he tries 12 furlongs for the first time.
Johnston’s son and assistant, Charlie, said: “(Owner) Sheikh Hamdan (Al Maktoum) left it in our hands to make the decision (this race or Prince of Wales’s) – and we felt it was the right race.
“We’re not ruling out going back to a mile and a quarter, and his big midsummer target will be the Juddmonte at York – a track at which he goes so well.
“In the short-term, though, we’re interested to try a mile and a half because there are signs he could improve for it – and if he does it opens up a lot more doors going forwards.
“He will improve a little for Haydock. He was built up in March and then again in May, so he’d done plenty of home work before Haydock.
“But like in that race, he’s not exuberant – he only does what he has to do, he’s quite laid back.”
Unraced at three, the William Haggas-trained Hamish had some solid efforts to his name last season, including winning the Melrose Handicap at York.
Haggas said: “It’s the first run of the year for him, but he is in cracking form.
“It’s a tough place to start. But we have to start somewhere, and opportunities are limited, so we thought it was worth giving it a go.”
Fanny Logan promises to be a major player for John Gosden and Frankie Dettori – while confirmed soft-ground specialist Morando represents Andrew Balding, and David Simcock saddles Spanish Mission, who was a winner in America last year. Michael Bell’s Eagles By Day completes the field.
Select any odd to add a bet