3.05 Royal Ascot – WADILSAFA (nap)
This year’s renewal of the Hampton Court Stakes sees the usual blend of proven performers and unexposed sorts, with a couple of very promising novice winners taking on horses with classic form to their name – notable recent winners include Collection, Glass Harmonium, Afsare, Cannock Chase, Time Test, Hawkbill and Benbatl.
The selection, trained by Owen Burrows, is a beautifully-bred son of Frankel who shaped with promise on debut in a 7f maiden here last September (7/2 chance), close to the action from the outset and travelling well, shaken up to get on terms two furlongs out but outpaced and running green, staying on well inside the final furlong to take second behind Herculean (beaten 1¾ lengths). He made a winning return to action in a 1m novice event at Newmarket a month ago (15/8 chance), close up and travelling powerfully from the outset, making good progress to lead entering the final two furlongs out and staying on strongly inside the final furlong to score by 3¼ lengths from Herculean. He certainly made the most of the 7lb turnaround with his old adversary that day, but he impressed with the manner in which he got the job done, travelling best and seeing things out strongly. He looks to have a very bright future on the evidence of those two outings so far, with the step up in distance here highly likely to bring about further improvement; no surprise whatsoever to see this son of Frankel take this move into Group 3 company in his stride.
Charlie Appleby runs a couple here, the first string being the William Buick-ridden Key Victory who looked a smart prospect when making a winning start in a 7f maiden at Newmarket last autumn and following up in a 10f Listed event back there in May from stablemate Old Persian. He was far from disgraced when tackling the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly 18 days ago, tracking the leaders until ridden and rather outpaced over two furlongs out, spared a hard race once held as he came home in eighth behind Study Of Man (beaten 3¾ lengths). This represents a step back in class and he has to be respected on his previous two victories, although the manner in which he carried himself at Chantilly would be a slight cause for concern (held his head at an awkward angle for much of the race). Stablemate Nordic Lights quickly marked himself a good prospect when winning his first two starts, including a defeat of the useful (albeit debuting/green) Raa Atoll under a penalty in a 10f novice event at Newmarket’s Craven meeting. However, he fell short when upped in class for the Dante Stakes at York last month, attempting to challenge over two furlongs out but unable to sustain his effort and having to settle for fifth behind Roaring Lion. Still early days with him, but he’s been passed over by William Buick and others make more appeal on this occasion.
Another trainer doubly represented is John Gosden and the first of them is the Frankie Dettori-ridden Main Street, a son of Street Cry who landed 1m/10f novice events at Chelmsford either side of a winter break, and he ran a sound race in defeat behind Aspetar in an 11f Listed contest at Goodwood last month, going down by a length having held every chance from over a furlong out. It was a fair effort in defeat for all he had few excuses, little more than a length separating the first four home; the step back in distance here ought not to inconvenience and is the choice of Dettori, but one or two others may improve past him on this occasion. Stablemate Crossed Baton quickly made up into useful sort, building on his victory in a 1m novice event at Sandown last September to win a similar event over 10f at Kempton on his return in March and seen to maximum effect when narrowly completing the hat-trick in the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom the following month. However, he appeared to have limitations exposed when only seventh in the Dante Stakes at York a few weeks later and is likely vulnerable once again here.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained Hunting Horn has improved with each outing, landing a 10f maiden at Naas in April at the expense of the very useful Latrobe and then not beaten far when third to Sevenna Star in the Classic Trial at Sandown, given a fair bit to do and finishing off strongly. He has since run well in defeat in both the Chester Vase when third behind Young Rascal and the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly 18 days ago, essentially having every chance but sticking to the task well as he came home in sixth behind Study Of Man (beaten 2½ lengths). The step back in grade should help and for all he has already met with defeat twice at this level, he maybe wasn’t seen to best effect on either occasion. Sets the standard here and sure to give it his best shot once again. Hugo Palmer’s Fajjaj made a winning start to his career in a 7f novice event here last September, following that with a good fourth behind Elarqam in a 7f Group 3 at Newmarket a few weeks later. He found newcomer Rock Eagle too good on his return in a 10f novice contest at Windsor but stepped up on that when chasing home Ancient Spirit in the German 2000 Guineas a month ago, absolutely no match for that rival but keeping on well to take second. A bit more needed here in order to go one better, although all the fourth from Cologne did at least win a Group 2 on Sunday.
The Ed Walker-trained Stephensons Rocket followed a promising debut second to Crossed Baton with a smooth success in a 1m novice contest at Redcar, but he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations so far this term, his refusal to settle a key feature of fifth place finishes in Listed events at Newmarket (10f) and Sandown (1m) last month. He has a bit to find with one or two these as it is, while he needs to settle in order to give himself a chance of being a force at the business end of matters; however, he now gets the services of Jamie Spencer, and the feeling is there’s a bigger performance in him when it all comes together. Saeed Bin Suroor supplied the winner of this race 12 months ago and is represented this time around by National Army, a son of Dubawi who made a winning debut in a 1m novice event at Doncaster at the beginning of this month (well-supported 7/2 chance), finishing off strongly to collar Sharamm close home and score by a neck. He did well to overcome greenness and cut back the deficit, clocking a good time in the process to see off a next-time-out scorer and a 95-rated rival; no surprise to see him fast-tracked into this grade and, entitled to have derived plenty from that initial experience, he’s not to be underestimated.