Two of the best most talented racehorses trained in Yorkshire are among the 14 horses declared for the £350,000 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.
With five-times Group One winner Laurens returning to action for Karl Burke and owner John Dance, David O’Meara is hopeful that his own stable flagbearer, Lord Glitters, will gain a deserved first win in top-level company.
Lord Glitters announced himself as a smart performer when winning the Balmoral Handicap on QIPCO British Champions Day in 2017 and has since been knocking at the door at the highest level without quite being able to push through. The ample consolation for his connections is that he has amassed £1.2 million in prize-money.
Karl Burke and John Dance spoke to Racing TV about Laurens this week ahead of her return
The six-year-old grey was beaten half a length into second by Accidental Agent in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot last summer and was also third in the Qatar Sussex Stakes in August last year. He continued his string of sterling Group One efforts in late March this year when third behind Japanese stars Almond Eye and Vivlos in the Dubai Turf at Meydan.
O’Meara said: “You need a little luck on your side and things to go right in the Group 1 races. I think he’s capable of winning one somewhere along the way and hopefully it will be at Newbury on Saturday.
“It was a fantastic run in Dubai last time. The Japanese filly, Almond Eye, was brilliant and Vivlos, a former winner of the race, is very good around there. He was conceding 5lb to them, being fillies, and we were very pleased with him.
“We’ve had the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes in mind since and his work has been good. He’s maybe slightly better on slow ground but he’s versatile and it was quick in Dubai. Neither the track or big field should be a problem for him.”
Lord Glitters may attempt to go one better in the Queen Anne after the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes, but is also entered in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, run over two furlongs further only 24 hours later. Like the Lockinge, those races form part of the 35-race QIPCO British Champions Series.
A deep field also features Beat The Bank and Sharja Bridge, who dominated the finish of the bet365 Mile at Sandown last month. It was the fourth Group 2 prize that the former has scooped and he will attempt to emulate his sire Paco Boy, who won the bet365 Mile in 2010 en route to landing the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes.
Sharja Bridge was beaten by half a length in this year’s race but his in-form trainer, Roger Varian, successful in the Lockinge with Belardo in 2016, is optimistic his challenger, who won the Balmoral Handicap at Ascot on QIPCO British Champions Day last October, will turn the tables.
“We were disappointed not to win at Sandown but it was a career-best and showed he’s up to this grade,” Varian said. “He’s in great condition and I think a straight mile in a truly-run race on a flat track will bring out the best in him. He will have his optimum conditions.
“He’s getting better with age and has every right to be in the field. He’s going to need everything to go right for him to win a Lockinge but I can see him holding every chance going into the final quarter and then let’s see what happens.”