Royal Ascot 2020: Anticipation builds ahead of Day 1 with exciting entries raring to go

Marcus Tregoning believes Mohaather can begin making up for lost time with a bold showing in the Queen Anne Stakes (1.50pm) at Royal Ascot on Tuesday 16th June.

The mile feature is one of two QIPCO British Champions Series races on the opening day of the five-day meeting, with the other being the King’s Stand Stakes (3.35pm). In total, there will be eight Series races at the world-famous fixture, which this year will take place behind closed doors for the first time with strict protocols in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. Click here for the order of running

Mohaather won two of his three races as a two-year-old, including the Horris Hill Stakes, and was a fluent winner of the Watership Down Stud Greenham Stakes on his reappearance last season. As a consequence he was a leading fancy for the 2019 QIPCO 2,000 Guineas but then suffered a bone bruise which kept him on the sidelines until QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot six months later, when he finished fifth to King Of Change in the QIPCO-sponsored Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Tregoning reports Mohaather to have had a good preparation for a deep renewal that has attracted a final field of 16 runners. The colt’s owner, Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, is also represented by Mustashry, decisive winner of the Group 1 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury last year, as well as Turjomaan.

Jim Crowley, the Sheikh’s No 1 jockey, will partner Mohaather, with Dane O’Neill, his No 2, aboard Mustashry.

“We’ve had a good run with Mohaather and he should be spot-on,” Tregoning said. “He’s been working well and I think he will go there with a decent chance. I’d like to have run him somewhere first, possibly, but I’m not too worried as the ground has been so firm everywhere. Jim Crowley sat on him about three weeks ago and was delighted with him.”

The Derby-winning trainer, based in Whitsbury, enjoyed Group 1 glory at the Royal Meeting with Nayef in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes in 2003 and has no doubt Mohaather is up to making an impact at the highest level.

“He’s a neat horse with bags of speed and brilliance,” he said. “He’s got a good temperament and his constitution is a fantastic We are going in at the deep end again with him, I suppose, but from what I’ve seen at home and on the racecourse I think he goes there with a good chance.

“He obviously handles soft ground but I’ve seen him work on good to firm and could not have been more pleased with the way he worked and how he came out of it. We’ve got to get on and can’t worry about that too much. I think he probably goes on any surface.”

Tregoning has not planned beyond Tuesday and is leaving the door open for a possible return to sprinting. He said: “If the mile stretches him we can drop back in trip. These milers who don’t quite hit the top grade can often drop down to sprinting and be top horses in that division.”

Accidental Agent became the first Queen Anne winner to be trained by a woman, Eve Johnson Houghton, when winning at 33/1 two years ago and will seek to create more history by becoming the first two-time winner of the race under regular rider Charlie Bishop, who will be partnering him for a 25th time.

Accidental Agent’s defence of his title did not go to plan last year, when he refused to race, and some other subsequent indifferent displays have led to him being gelded since he was last in action.

Johnson Houghton explained: “We thought there might not be a job for him at stud, so what was the point [of keeping him as an entire]? He seems sweeter since he’s been gelded, so hopefully it will work the oracle. He’s been working well and has gone well fresh in the past.

“We’ve seen the best and worst of him in the race. He gave me my best day in racing two years ago and I’m hoping we will again see that again this time. He’s upset the apple cart before and we hope he can do the same again.”

Circus Maximus won the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot last year, with Skardu back in fourth, and will attempt to give Aidan O’Brien a third Queen Anne triumph after Ad Valorem (2006) and Declaration Of War (2013).

Jockey James Doyle is in great form heading in top Royal Ascot and says the William Haggas-trained Skardu is one of the horses he is most excited about riding at the meeting.

Doyle has won on six of his past 13 rides, while Skardu won his only race as a two-year-old and landed the bet365 Craven Stakes on his return at Newmarket before making the frame in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas, Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas St James’s Palace Stakes and Ladbrokes Celebration Mile.

Doyle said: “One that I’m looking forward to is Skardu. He dipped his toes in against the Classic generation last year and ran good races in both Guineas plus the St James’s Palace. He ran badly at Goodwood towards the backend and nothing came to light but maybe that just wasn’t his track.

“He’s in great nick. I rode him in his last piece of work, which was pretty strong, and I was really pleased. He’s moving fantastic and it feels like he’s peaking for the meeting plus we know he definitely runs well fresh, as he came out and won the Craven first time up last year.”

The John Gosden-trained Terebellum, smooth winner of the Group 2 Betfair Dahlia Fillies’ Stakes at Newmarket this month, seeks to give her trainer a first win in the Queen Anne.

Billesdon Brook, the 2018 QIPCO 1,000 Guineas winner, takes her chance, while Duke Of Hazzard won the Group 2 Ladbrokes Celebration Mile at Goodwood last summer and will represent Paul and Oliver Cole.

Andrew Balding, riding high after Kameko’s QIPCO 2,000 Guineas triumph, relies on Fox Chairman, runner-up in the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot 12 months ago, Other notable runners include previous Royal Ascot winners Space Traveller (2019 Jersey Stakes) and Bless Him (2017 Britannia Stakes), while French challenger Plumatic will represent Francis-Henri Graffard, who won the Coronation Stakes last year with Watch Me. Plumatic will be ridden by champion jockey Oisin Murphy.

NOTHING FRAGILE ABOUT GLASS SLIPPERS AHEAD OF KING’S STAND CLASH WITH BATTAASH

Battaash will face ten rivals when he seeks to confirm his status as the highest-rated sprinter in the world in the King’s Stand Stakes (3.35pm) at Royal Ascot on Tuesday.

The outstanding six-year-old speedster, trained by Charlie Hills, has finished runner-up to Blue Point in the five-furlong feature for the past two years but, with that rival having been retired, is a hot favourite to make it third time lucky in a contest which forms part of the 35-race QIPCO British Champions Series.

Battaash’s exploits after last year’s Royal Meeting included a third victory in the King George Qatar Stakes at Goodwood plus a dazzling success in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York, achieved in a record time. However, he did end the year on a flat note when running well below his best in the Qatar Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp in October.

Glass Slippers took full advantage of Battaash’s subdued effort in France, making virtually all the running and winning in emphatic style by three lengths. Kevin Ryan, trainer of the four-year-old, says she has never been better.

“She’s a high-class filly and has done fantastic from three to four,” he said. “In a normal year she’d have had a run before, but I’m not worried that she hasn’t.

“She travelled great in the Abbaye and put it to bed very quickly. Before that she had won a Listed race and then a Group race, and has just progressed. We made her entry for the Prix de l’Abbaye before those two earlier wins, which tells you plenty. We’ve always thought a lot of her.”

Clive Cox landed the King’s Stand Stakes in 2016 with Profitable and will be represented by Tis Marvellous and Shades Of Blue.

The official ratings suggest the pair have plenty to find with Battaash but Cox said: “Sometimes with Battaash it does not always go right and we are delighted we’ve got two arrows to throw at the race.”

Tis Marvellous is a two-time course winner and he finished runner-up in the Wokingham Stakes last year, having been fourth in the same race 12 months earlier.

Cox said: “He had a hold-up in the spring and we were slightly resigned to not making the meeting but he’s thrived through the last couple of weeks and is in great nick.

“He has put up some nice performances there and seems to save his best for the track. We are putting him in at the top level but he’s at home over five or six furlongs and we feel it’s worth rolling the dice.”

Shades Of Blue finished a close third in the Queen Mary Stakes two years ago and her exploits last season included finishing a short neck runner-up to Glass Slippers in the Group 3 Qatar Prix du Petit Couvert at Longchamp in mid-September.

She failed to figure in the Group 3 Betfair Supports Racing Welfare Palace House Stakes at Newmarket last weekend, when favourite, but Cox has put a line through that run and will also equip her with first-time blinkers.

He said: “She gave us a great buzz going into the race but it was her first run on an undulating track and I’m very much of the opinion that she didn’t handle it. It was disappointing but she’s come out of it really well and her form is very respectable.”

On this year’s Royal Meeting Cox said: “I think under the circumstances we are just delighted it’s taking place and that we have the opportunity to show what our horses can do.

“With the Royal Meeting coming along only a couple of weeks after we’ve resumed, my hope is that it will create a lot more interest [with the general public]. We are still very much looking forward to it.”

Liberty Beach finished fourth in the Queen Mary Stakes last year and showed her wellbeing this month when winning a Listed race in fluent fashion at Haydock.

Equilateral, a stablemate of Battaash, won in Dubai in January, while Aidan O’Brien will rely on Sergei Prokofiev. The King’s Stand is one of the few big races to have eluded the master of Ballydoyle, who has been top trainer at the meeting on ten occasions and has already achieved 70 winners there – only 11 fewer than the record-breaking Sir Michael Stoute.

Another notable runner is Kurious, who signed off last year with successive wins at Sandown. Her trainer, Henry Candy, enjoyed his first success at the Royal Meeting in 1974.

Article courtesy of QIPCO British Champions Series 

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