Awtaad (blue) should relish the conditions at Ascot
PICTURE: Alain Barr (racingpost.com/photos)
By Tony McFadden 10:36AM 12 JUN 2016
TRAINER Kevin Prendergast is pleased with the ground conditions at Ascot as he prepares to saddle his stable star Awtaad against fellow Classic winners Galileo Gold and The Gurkha in the St James’s Palace Stakes on the opening day of the Royal meeting.
The eagerly-anticipated clash between Galileo Gold, who won the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, Awtaad, who landed the Irish equivalent at the Curragh and French 2,000 Guineas winner The Gurkha was confirmed on Sunday when all three Classic-winning colts were declared for Tuesday’s race.
Regarding the going on the round course, which is decribed as good to soft, soft in places after 20mm of rain fell within the space of an hour on Friday evening, Prendergast said: “I’m very happy with what they’re saying about the ground at Ascot.
“Awtaad has won on soft, yielding and good to yielding, so the ground should be perfect for him.
“He’s in good shape. He did his last bit of work on Thursday and came out of it very well. I couldn’t be happier with him and it’s all systems go for Tuesday.”
Further intrigue is added to the race by the return of Emotionless, who looked a leading contender for Classic honours before disappointing in the Dewhurst Stakes on his final start as a juvenile.
Emotionless missed the 2,000 Guineas but trainer Charlie Appleby is happy to let him take his chance on Tuesday, when he will be ridden by William Buick.
“He’s had long time off and it’s a very, very hot race but the horse has come right, he looks good and it’s at the right time of year for him,” Buick said. “We still think he retains all the ability he had last year. He’s in at the deep end but we are looking forward to getting him back.”
The Gurkha, who is tasked with providing trainer Aidan O’Brien with a fifth St James’s Palace win in ten years, heads the market at 6-4, while Awtaad is the general 2-1 second favourite.
Galileo Gold can be backed at 11-2 with Paddy Power to return to winning ways and Emotionless is 12-1 to strike on his reappearance.
The eight-runner field is completed by Zonderland, First Selection, Cymric and Ehtiraas.
The meeting kicks off with the Queen Anne Stakes, in which American star Tepin will face 13 rivals.
The most notable absentees are Time Test – who is likely to instead contest the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on Wednesday – and Limato, whose connections would not have appreciated the deluge of rain that hit Ascot on Friday.
Fillies and mares dominate the betting for the Queen Anne Stakes as, in addition to Tepin, Ervedya and Esoterique are also towards the head of the market. The only colt trading at a single-figure price is Belardo, who is the general 9-2 third favourite.
King’s Stand speedsters
As expected, flying filly Acapulco has been declared for the King’s Stand Stakes by her trainer Wesley Ward. Ryan Moore, who partnered Acapulco to win last year’s Queen Mary, again takes the ride.
Acapulco will face 20 rivals at Ascot, including Mecca’s Angel, who got the better of the battle when the pair collided in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York last year.
Mecca’s Angel has been well supported due to the recent easing of conditions and is the general 5-2 favourite.
Last year’s winner Goldream is back to defend his crown, while nine-year-old Sole Power, the hero of the previous two years, will be searching for a sixth Group 1 victory.
Sole Power will be ridden by Christophe Soumillion for the first time.
The Coventry Stakes is always an intriguing affair and this year’s renewal could be a cracker, with 19 juveniles set to go to post.
Aidan O’Brien relies on ante-post favourite Caravaggio, while his son Joseph – who landed a four-timer on his first day as a licensed trainer last Monday – saddles a first Royal Ascot runner with Lundy, who will be ridden by his brother Donnacha.
Wesley Ward is responsible for the only filly in the race with Silvertoni.
Ward also has a runner in the concluding Windsor Castle Stakes, in which 23 two-year-olds are set to go to post.
The American trainer has won the race twice in recent years with Strike The Tiger and Hootenanny and will be hoping to secure a third triumph with Big City Dreamin. Frankie Dettori takes the ride.
One for the jumps boys?
National Hunt trainers are well represented in the Ascot Stakes, for which 20 have been declared.
Willie Mullins saddles Sempre Medici and Pique Sous, both of whom are prominent in the market, while Nicky Henderson sends out Chester Cup winner No Heretic.
Dr Richard Newland, Kim Bailey and Chris Gordon – all names associated with the jumps game – are also bidding to strike at the biggest Flat meeting of the year.