Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby said it had been an easy decision to saddle Wild Illusion with a Royal Ascot engagement in Thursday’s G2 Ribblesdale Stakes only 20 days after the most taxing run of the filly’s career.
The three-year-old daughter of Dubawi finished second to Forever Together in the G1 Investec Oaks at Epsom on Friday, 1 June.
She was beaten four and a half lengths on soft ground, fighting on gamely to the finish.
But Appleby said Wild Illusion had bounced out of the Classic very well.
“She’s in great order. She looks fantastic and she’s training well,” the trainer said.
Wild Illusion chasing Ribblesdale honours for Charlie Appleby - https://t.co/N2pJnZRY2F #horseracing #racingnews #WildIllusion #RibblesdaleStakes #RoyalAscot #CharlieAppleby pic.twitter.com/vUp56D3nGD— GG (@ggcouk) June 20, 2018
“Was it a difficult decision to back her up quickly after Epsom? No, not at all. She’s come out of the race well, and if she can repeat her Oaks performance she will be very hard to beat in the Ribblesdale,” he pointed out.
Wild Illusion is required to carry a G1 penalty of 3lb for her fine victory in the G1 Prix Marcel Boussac at Chantilly as a two-year-old.
Her race record is impressive. She has won twice and never been out of the first four in five starts.
She finished a solid fourth to Billesdon Brook on quick ground in the G1 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket last month.
Appleby does not believe the fast ground is an issue for the filly. “If you go on her fourth in the Guineas at Newmarket, it won’t be a worry. I asked James (Doyle), who rode her that day, and he said she did not feel the ground at all,” he said.
A field of 10 fillies have been declared for the Ribblesdale, first run in 1919 and sometimes referred to as the Ascot Oaks.
Oaks second Wild Illusion confirmed for the Ribblesdale alongside 11 others. These include Perfect Clarity and five from the Aidan O'Brien stable (Sizzling, Sarrocchi, Magic Wand, Broadway & Athena)— Racing Post (@RacingPost) June 15, 2018
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The Charlie Appleby-trained Shamardal colt, third in the six-furlong G1 Commonwealth Cup at the same meeting in 2017, showed good early speed from the gates and soon raced behind the leaders in a close fourth as Battaash set a searching pace at the head of the 14-strong field.
Blue Point moved up to go second under William Buick with a furlong and a half left and reeled in Battaash just inside the final half-furlong before running on strongly to prevail by a length and three-quarters in a fast 58.14s on good to firm ground.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, Godolphin’s founder and driving force, said: “Blue Point was following the fast pace and was travelling very well. He hit the rise and gave more. I think that he is a very good horse.
“We raced him in Dubai and he was sweating very much but today he was very, very good. Charlie has been with us for a long time and he knows what we want – we always talk to each other about things. William is a very good jockey. They are two very good people.
“After Masar and the Derby, we are taking it very easy. We are enjoying ourselves and at Royal Ascot – whoever wins, we will clap for them. We are relaxing now, but we have some ammunition for the rest of the week.”
A brilliant season for Charlie Appleby, William Buick and @godolphin continues as Blue Point wins the King's Stand Stakes, his third win from four starts @Ascot. #RoyalAscot— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) June 19, 2018
Results ➡️ https://t.co/7iJOPsvjqx pic.twitter.com/Gr3cTnntFp
Charlie Appleby, celebrating his first G1 winner at Royal Ascot, declared: “Full credit has to go to the team at home who have done a fantastic job with Blue Point and getting him back to where he is.
“I couldn’t have been happier with his preparation in the last two weeks and I felt he was back at a level where he could compete after he did a great piece of work the other week.
“To have a Derby winner and then have a G1 winner at Royal Ascot is great and I don’t think I could have had Blue Point in any better nick. Sheikh Mohammed is a great man and coming into today, there was no pressure on us following Epsom as he just wanted to enjoy the week.
“I think the stiff five furlongs and strong pace has suited Blue Point here. I have always thought a lot of this horse and he ran really well in the Commonwealth Cup last year. For whatever reason, he brings his A game here.
“I was delighted with him at the start of the year in Dubai and, whilst things didn’t materialise on Dubai World Cup night, we went on to learn a lot in Hong Kong which taught us a few matters. The horse had a torrid time on his way back from Hong Kong, but we gave him a nice break after that and I’m delighted with him.
“Good horses sometimes need to be beaten to appreciate winning and, as a team, we felt Blue Point was one of the best juveniles we had ever seen in respect to his natural pace. He has got stronger from three to four and is built for speed.”
William Buick added: “This means a lot to Charlie, Sheikh Mohammed and the whole team at home at Moulton Paddocks.
“Everyone stuck their neck out about Blue Point as a two-year-old. Things have not gone his way in a lot of races, whereas today everything fell right today and to make him a G1 winner is very satisfying.
“I am pleased for the horse most of all because he deserves it more than anyone. Last time out [at Sha Tin], we got it wrong and it was a race we had to put a line through – there was no point judging him on that and he’s been in great form since.
“He is a very quick horse, and I was always very comfortable where I was and I knew he would see the race out better than Battaash because he’s proven at six furlongs. It was just a case of whether I would be close enough where it mattered.
“Things are going very well at the moment, I’m enjoying it and I’m not going to hide that. Everyone is working very hard, but it is important to look forward and there are a lot more important races to come this week for important horses.
“No one puts more pressure on me than myself, because I want to do well and win races. We are led by Sheikh Mohammed who has got to where he is by setting very high standards, and he expects that from everyone around him.”
The pride of Dubai, Godolphin, have a stunning 44 runners in action at Royal Ascot over the next five days including Blue Point, Hawkbill and Wootton.
We take a look at some of their top prospects at the blue ribbon event where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are on hand to present the winners of the St James Palace Stakes.
Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby will fit blinkers for the first time to seasoned international campaigner Hawkbill in Wednesday’s G1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.
The dual G1 winner has been regularly running over a mile and a half of late, but Appleby believes the drop back in trip — with the addition of the headgear — will see the son of Kitten’s Joy in a good light.
Who can crack the best UK horse in-training in 2018 to claim the most valuable trophy at #RoyalAscot2018 @Ascot #Cracksman #PoetsWord #Hawkbill #Horseracing #thoroughbreds https://t.co/x0cKZDjxjs pic.twitter.com/m1CgezNDno— SecretariatsWorld (@SecretariatsWld) June 19, 2018
“Some forget that he won the G1 Eclipse over a mile and a quarter as a three-year-old,” the trainer pointed out.
“He’s a very reliable horse who has been a great campaigner for Godolphin. He has won 10 of his 21 starts and more than £3-million in prizemoney.
“He is worthy of his place in this high-class field, and dropping back in distance, the blinkers could just give him added focus,” he added.
Appleby suggested it was best to forget Hawkbill’s last start fifth in the G1 Coronation Cup.
A field of seven are to face the starter, with the John Gosden-trained Cracksman attempting to register his eighth win from 10 starts.
Godolphin’s Saeed bin Suroor has called on French champion Christophe Soumillon to partner Promising Run, one of two runners for the trainer in Wednesday’s G2 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Saeed and Soumillon memorably combined for a glorious victory with Thunder Snow in the G1 Dubai World Cup at Meydan on Saturday, 31 March.
Promising Run won two G2 races in Dubai during the winter and finished a respectable fifth in the G1 Dubai Turf 81 days ago. She has not raced since.
Saeed said: “She won her first two starts in Dubai before running well against the colts in the G1 Jebel Hatta and the G1 Dubai Turf.
“She always runs well fresh and we have given her a break in preparation for this race. I have been pleased with her work recently. She looks to be in good condition and we are hoping for a good result,” he added.
Saeed also sends out Arabian Hope, who also comes into the race fresh. She has not run for 256 days.
“Arabian Hope looks better physically compared to last year and has been going well at home. This is the right distance for her and I am hoping for a nice run,” the trainer added.
Arabian Hope, a winner in Turkey last year, is to be ridden by Oisin Murphy.
Hydrangea and Aljazzi as the major talking horses in this competitive race, though Wilamina won well at Epsom and must also go well.
BATTAASH could be LADY AURELIA's main challenger in the King's Stand Stakes, with BLUE POINT another going for glory... 🏇🏼 pic.twitter.com/E7ZrCcmGRY— Ascot Racecourse (@Ascot) June 19, 2018
Godolphin sprinter Blue Point will be attempting to put two disappointments in the first half of the year behind him when he contests a vintage running of the G1 King’s Stand Stakes on the first day of Royal Ascot.
The four-year-old was strongly fancied by trainer Charlie Appleby to win the G1 Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan on Dubai World Cup night, Saturday, 31 March, only to be withdrawn at the start on veterinary advice.
Blue Point then travelled to Hong Kong, where he finished last of nine in a G1 sprint won by local star Ivictory at Sha Tin on Sunday, 29 April.
The Shamardal colt had tried to take on Hong Kong’s best at their own specialist game, in their own back yard.
“Hong Kong was disappointing for him,” Appleby said. “And he then had a bad trip back, with the plane hitting turbulence, which was unsettling,” he added.
“But, he had a nice break when he got back and he has recovered well. I feel he’s turned the corner, and he will appreciate both the step back in trip to five furlongs, and the return to Ascot,” the trainer pointed out.
This is a vintage running of the King’s Stand, with last year’s winner Lady Aurelia defending her crown and the lightning fast Battaash mounting a strong challenge.
Tactics will play a part, despite this being a five-furlong dash. With speed on up front all the way, a sprinter who can tuck in behind might be seen to advantage.