Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Serpentine was a shock 25-1 winner of the Epsom Classic last term – before failing to strike in two subsequent starts.
He was well beaten on his return to action in the Tattersalls Gold Cup last month, but connections have stumped up £30,000 to add him to the field for Thursday’s Group One feature next week, which is run over two and a half miles – a full mile further than Serpentine has tackled before.
O’Brien also has last year’s Queen’s Vase and Irish Derby winner Santiago in the mix, along with Amhrann Na Bhfiann – who finished third at Epsom in 2020.
Staying star Stradivarius is a hot favourite as he bids for a fourth successive Gold Cup victory.
Should the John and Thady Gosden-trained seven-year-old prevail once again, he will become just the second four-time winner of the great race – joining Yeats, who triumphed in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Stradivarius was a 10-length victor last term – and having turned in a couple of disappointing runs at the back-end of last year, he roared back to winning form in the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot in April.
Nayef Road was back in third that day, and second in the Gold Cup 12 months ago, and he is one of two possibles for Mark Johnston – along with better-fancied stablemate Subjectivist.
The four-year-old won the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan on his 2021 bow back in March, and Johnston is relishing a Gold Cup run – having won the race with Double Trigger in 1995 and Royal Rebel in both 2001 and 2002.
Johnston told Tattersalls: “Subjectivist is in the Ascot Gold Cup next week, and that’s always been his target.
“We hadn’t had a winner on Dubai World Cup night since 2000, so 21 years, and in that race we couldn’t have been happier. He was serving up to them throughout, and it looked like nothing else got a look in. It was a tremendous race to win, and in tremendous style.
“I went to the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale in 2018. We knew Subjectivist was in the catalogue, a half-brother to Sir Ron Priestley who we already trained. He hadn’t won for us, but we already thought a lot of him.
“I had a great deal of faith in the family.”
Group One winner Princess Zoe, from Tony Mullins yard, Donnacha O’Brien’s Emperor Of The Sun and the Joseph O’Brien-trained pair of Melbourne Cup hero Twilight Payment and Master Of Reality complete a strong potential Irish challenge.
An extra international element is added – with Andreas Suborics set to field German Group Two winner Rip Van Lips, for whom James Doyle is booked to ride.
Alan King’s Long Distance Cup hero Trueshan, the Andrew Balding-trained duo Spanish Mission and Ranch Hand and 92-rated Ben Lilly from David Brown’s yard complete the potential line-up of 15.
Late Oaks absentee Noon Star tops 16 fillies still in contention for the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Sir Michael Stoute’s charge was ruled out of the Epsom Classic just 48 hours before the race because of a blood disorder, having previously finished second to impressive Oaks winner Snowfall in the Musidora at York.
Noon Star may bid for Group Two redemption in Berkshire on Thursday, in a race which features Oaks third Divinely – supplemented by connections – and 12th-placed Dubai Fountain.
Divinely was beaten 18 lengths by her Aidan O’Brien stablemate Snowfall – and she could be joined by another Ballydoyle contender next week in Curragh maiden winner Call Me Sweetheart.
Eshaada, Gloria Mundi, Aristia and Twisted Reality filled the first four places in the Haras De Bouquetot Fillies’ Trial Stakes at Newbury in May – and they could all re-oppose, while William Haggas has Sea Karats and Sea Sylph in the mix.
Another last-minute Classic absentee, Mohaafeth, heads 20 in the Hampton Court Stakes.
Haggas opted not to run the colt at Epsom, having deemed the ground unsuitable following heavy rain the day before the big race.
Derby sixth One Ruler stands his ground for this 10-furlong Group Three – one of three possibles for Charlie Appleby, along with Wirko and Yibir.
Joseph O’Brien has four under consideration in Benaud, Isle Of Sark, Snapraeterea and Visualisation – with father Aidan having Lough Derg, Matchless and Roman Empire, while brother Donnacha could get in on the act with Emporio.
American trainer Wes Ward has two live chances in the Norfolk Stakes with favourite Lucci and Nakatomi. The pair both won on their only starts to date, while Aidan O’Brien has the highly-rated Cadamosto and Amalfi Coast in contention.
National Stakes winner Ebro River could clash again with runner-up Little Earl, third-placed Navello and sixth home Chipotle – with Nymphadora, Dig Two and Second Wind also prominent names among 32 possibles.
Meanwhile, John Quinn is set to be two-handed in Tuesday’s King’s Stand Stakes with Liberty Beach and Keep Busy lining up.
Both horses ran with great credit at the meeting in last summer with Liberty Beach finishing third behind Battaash in the Group One, while Keep Busy was runner-up to Art Power in the five-furlong handicap for three-year-olds.
The pair clashed on their seasonal reappearance in the Temple Stakes at Haydock last month, with Liberty Beach taking the Group Two prize and Keep Busy finishing fifth.
Quinn was pleased with the pair and is looking forward to seeing them bid for Group One honours.
“They are working well. I’m very happy with them. They’ve come out of Haydock well.” said the North Yorkshire handler.
“You could see with Keep Busy the run wasn’t lost on her. That was her usual. It’s her style. Liberty Beach has come on as well. Both will turn up.”
Quinn has a choice of races for his unbeaten two-year-old Tipperary Sunset – Wednesday’s Windsor Castle Stakes and the Norfolk Stakes on Thursday.
The son of Ardad looked smart when adding the Continental Two-Year-Old Trophy at Beverley to his debut success at Hamilton.
“We’ve put him in the Windsor Castle and we’re going to put him in the Norfolk,” he said. “He’s come out of Beverley really well and I intend to run him in one or the other.”
Quinn has Frankenstella in the Ascot Stakes, but the four-year-old filly is not certain to make the cut and ground conditions might not be in her favour.
“She might not get in and she might need rain to run. We’ll keep a good eye on everything,” he said.
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