|Monday, 18 June 2012
: Timeform's International Editor Chris Williams gives you the lowdown on the foreign challengers likely to take their chance at Royal Ascot...
There is the usual strong foreign challenge in the King's Stand Stakes over 5f on the opening day of Royal Ascot.
Australian-trained horses have been successful four times in the race in the last nine years, with Choisir
kicking things off in 2003, followed by Takeover Target three years later, Miss Andretti in 2007 and Scenic Blast in 2009. During that time Chineur (France) and Equiano (Spanish trained when gaining the first of his two successes in the race) have also seen off British and Irish-trained rivals.
This year, the only Australian challenger in the race is the mare Ortensia, who has already made a big impression on the world stage by winning the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan in March from Sole Power with Joy And Fun third. She is also engaged in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes later in the week.
Joy And Fun has made a very good recovery from injury following his only previous outing in Britain, needing surgery on a fractured cannon bone after finishing in mid-division in the 2010 Golden Jubilee Stakes. He has since won twice at Sha Tin, notably in the Chairman's Sprint Prize in February. Little Bridge, the other Hong Kong-trained horse engaged in the King's Stand, was back in sixth that day, wearing blinkers, but has since won the Bauhinia Sprint Trophy (a Group 3 handicap) and the Group 2 Sprint Cup without headgear, the latter on good to soft going.
French-trained Wizz Kid ran twice in Britain last year, finishing a troubled fifth in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York and second to Deacon Blues in the British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot. She returned to her best when gaining a repeat win in the Prix du Gros-Chene at Chantilly last time from fellow King's Stand rivals Stepper Point and Hamish McGonagall with Prohibit further back.
There are three French challengers in the St James's Palace Stakes - Lucayan, Dragon Pulse and Hermival.
Lucayan, who has been supplemented for the race, won what looked to be a substandard running of the Poule d'Essai des Poulains, prevailing in a blanket finish, with Dragon Pulse not beaten far in ninth place. Hermival is already well known to British and Irish racegoers, having finished a good third in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket before reportedly having a testicle problem when a below-par sixth in the Irish version.
Indomito is the sole foreign raider in the Queen Anne Stakes. He has some smart form on the continent - his best effort was on his reappearance when a half-length second to Alianthus in a Group 3 race at Dusseldorf, but he has plenty to find on most of the others, let alone Frankel.
There are two high-class raiders from France in the Prince of Wales's Stakes on Wednesday.
Cirrus des Aigles is already well known internationally, having won Group 1 races in Britain (Champion Stakes) and Dubai (Sheema Classic) as well as the Prix Ganay (by eight lengths on soft going) in his home country, but he found conditions on the sharp side when beaten by Golden Lilac in the Prix d'Ispahan on his most recent outing. Reliable Man has had his racing confined to France so far. He was another to find the firmish conditions against him in the Prix d'Ispahan, but he had won two good races last year - the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly and the Prix Niel at Longchamp. Both Cirrus des Aigles and Reliable Man will relish the prospect of soft ground at Royal Ascot.
Also in the Prince of Wales's is Big Blue Kitten, trained by Chad Brown in the States. He wasn't discredited when second to Wise Dan in the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland last time, but he received a hefty beating as Wise Dan put up the best performance in the States so far this year in that race. Previously, Big Blue Kitten was third to get Stormy in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, a Grade 1 contest, but he was receiving 5 lb from the winner that day.
There are two German challengers on Thursday, with Lacateno running in the Gold Cup and Energizer going in the Tercentenary Stakes.
Lacateno, who usually races prominently, won twice in 2011, including in a listed race at Deauville, and has run well on his last two starts this year, finishing fourth to Altano in the Group 3 Oleander-Rennen and a length second to Caudillo in a listed race at Milan. He's equally effective on soft and good to firm going but has yet to tackle a distance beyond two miles.
Energizer made a sparkling debut as a two-year-old, winning a listed race by ten lengths, but hasn't managed to follow that up with another success, though his efforts this year have been good ones. Wearing a hood, he was beaten a head by Amaron in the Dr Busch-Memorial at Krefeld and then finished fourth behind Caspar Netscher in the Mehl-Mulhens-Rennen (the German 2000 Guineas), giving the impression he should stay the extra distance at Royal Ascot. He has raced only on good or softer going.
The US-trained squad was dramatically reduced when Wesley Ward decided to keep his potential raiders at home, but, in addition to Big Blue Kitten, the two-year-old filly Fully Living, trained by Ken McPeek, is expected to contest the listed Albany Stakes on Friday. She won her only outing, a 5f maiden on the dirt at Belmont last month by half a length, racing in second and gradually getting on top in the closing stages.
Hyper, like Big Blue Kitten, is trained by Chad Brown, and is due to contest the Wolferton Handicap. Hyper has won his last five races, all in allowance or optional claiming company, his latest success coming at Belmont where he got up to win on the nod after having to be switched when short of room rounding the home turn. He has yet to tackle further than nine furlongs but should have no trouble with the Wolferton's mile and a quarter; however, he has yet to face ground softer than good.
In addition to Black Caviar, there is a powerful foreign challenge for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes with King's Stand entrants Wizz Kid and Ortensia doubly engaged. The Freddie Head-trained Moonlight Cloud made a very satisfactory reappearance, winning the Prix du Palais-Royal (Group 3) at Longchamp and, apart from Black Caviar, has the beating of all the others judged on her four-length beating of Society Rock in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville last August.
Krypton Factor, trained in Bahrain, won three times on Meydan's tapeta surface earlier in the year, including in the Dubai Golden Shaheen in March, but was well below his best returned to turf in the KrisFlyer International Sprint at Kranji last time.
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