Laurens "about 95 per cent fit" for her return in Lockinge at Newbury

Mon 13 May 2019

Laurens is among 17 confirmations for Saturday’s Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

Karl Burke’s stable star is already a five-time Group One winner, and makes her reappearance in the first top-level contest in Britain for older horses so far this season.

While the Leyburn handler admits Laurens will improve slightly for the outing and would like to his horses in better form, he has still been pleased with the four-year-old's preparation at home – and a recent away day on the Tapeta at Newcastle.

'She's in great nick': PJ McDonald is looking forward to resuming his partnership with the high-class filly Laurens

“She will definitely improve, as most horses do for a run,” said Burke. “She’s been to Newcastle for a gallop – she’s done loads of work – and I’d say she’s about 95 per cent fit.

“She looks in great order, and she’s working well, but she’ll need to be all of that in a Group One. She’ll have another final blow on Tuesday, and hopefully that will be her good enough.

“As for ground, I think she’s very versatile. In Ireland (for last September’s Matron Stakes), it was very quick ground – and while we came out of it fine, unfortunately (runner-up) Alpha Centauri didn’t. But she was happy enough on good to soft ground in France too."

Laurens continues to impress her trainer, on and off the course.

Burke added: “She’s a fantastic specimen. I don’t think we’ve had a horse that looks so good, moves so well and has the form in the book to back it up – there aren’t many like her, she floats across the ground.

“The mile division probably lacks a real superstar and hopefully she is there to fill that gap. She is a high class horse. She has proved that each year she has run. We think she has improved again. She has certainly improved physically and as she has got stronger she has probably got quicker.

“That’s why we are happy to start at a mile and we’ll make a decision after Saturday and the Queen Anne Stakes as to whether we stay at a mile. I would be surprised if we go back up, certainly to a mile and a quarter. Maybe we would take on one mile, one furlong, but to be honest the pattern of races over a mile suits her perfectly after the Queen Anne.

“Her first two races against the colts could be her hardest of the year, as the other races, if we stick at a mile, are probably going to be against fillies, apart from the Breeders’ Cup if we go there at the end of the year.

“The Lockinge looks wide-open. That’s not to say we’re going to go and win it. You’d have to respect David O’Meara’s horse (Lord Glitters), because his are going very well – and that might be our concern, ours aren’t really firing on all cylinders just yet.

“But then again, they weren’t going into the Guineas and the Prix Saint-Alary last year – it was only after she’d won that the yard kicked into gear.

“We’re having the odd winner, but the majority are not performing as I would like. She’s done everything I’ve asked of her, though, so we’ve got to go and give it a shot.

“I was talking to Joe O’Gorman (head lad) this morning, and we both agreed the horses looked better in February when we had the nice weather –  then when it got colder, it has knocked them back.

“We’re used to getting beat in this game, but it’s frustrating when they don’t perform to the level you’re expecting.

“They are scoping clean, look fit and healthy and there’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t run – so we go there quietly confident.

"Just to win one more Group One with her this year would be brilliant. For her to win Group Ones at two, three and four really would be quite something, although there aren't easy ones. We know that."

Owner John Dance confirmed that he plans to breed from Laurens, having resisted a series of big-money offers last year from "all of the big boys".

“The chances of us getting a horse like her again are minimal,” he said. “There are a whole load of races this year that only she will ever take us to. We thought when we are ever going to get to go to races like the Lockinge, or whatever may come.

Danny Tudhope told Lydia Hislop more about Laurens after she gained her fifth Group One win at Newmarket in the autumn

“From the breeding perspective, it’s so hard to find one to compete with the likes of Godolphin, Coolmore or Juddmonte. If we are selling them our best breeding stock we are probably diminishing the chances even more. If she does breed something I would rather they were running in our colours.

”We are not going to be too despondent if her first run of the season doesn’t work out in her favour. But if it does we will be really excited because if she can win on her reappearance that would be a great sign for the rest of the year.”

Aidan O’Brien has left in former Andre Fabre inmate Le Brivido and I Can Fly this weekend, while last year’s Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Romanised completes the Irish challenge.

Beat The Bank heads there in form, having scored at Sandown already this season, while Without Parole and Accidental Agent won at Royal Ascot last year.

O’Meara’s globe-trotter Lord Glitters, Richard Hannon’s 2018 1000 Guineas winner Billesdon Brook, Sir Michael Stoute’s Mustashry and Ed Walker’s Stormy Antarctic are some of the others in the mix.

Newbury Racecourse and QIPCO British Champions Series have teamed up to give 30 lucky northern-based racing fans the chance to follow Laurens and attend the Al Shaqab Lockinge this Saturday in a specially-chartered coach from York station.

The competition closes at 9am on Tuesday 14 May and can be entered via https://newburyracecourse.co.uk/queen-in-the-north/

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