Godolphin star Masar heads 14 in the mix for Hardwicke Stakes

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Last year’s Investec Derby hero Masar will face a maximum of 13 rivals in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot on Saturday.

Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby’s colt has not been seen in competitive action since landing the premier Classic at Epsom last June, but has had the Royal meeting as his comeback target for some time.

Connections also considered Wednesday’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes, but confirmed on Saturday he would remain at a mile and a half for this weekend’s Group Two event.

Appleby has a second major contender in Ghaiyyath, while Aidan O’Brien has four remaining entries in Capri, Flag Of Honour, Hunting Horn and Southern France.

Sir Michael Stoute has saddled a record 11 previous winners of the Hardwicke – including eight of the last 13 – and is this year set to rely on Mirage Dancer.

Roger Varian’s Defoe could bid to follow up his victory in the Coronation Cup at Epsom, and could be reopposed by the third Salouen (Sylvester Kirk), the fourth Communique (Mark Johnston), the sixth Lah Ti Dar (John Gosden) and the eighth Morando (Andrew Balding).

Gosden’s Coronet and a potential raider from the Czech Republic in Nagano Gold complete the confirmations.

The final day of the Royal meeting gets under way with the Chesham Stakes, for which 23 juveniles have been entered.

Appleby’s Pinatubo is set to put his unbeaten record on the line following wins at Wolverhampton and Epsom, with O’Brien’s Lope Y Fernandez and Fozzy Stack’s Mohican Heights among his potential rivals.

Appleby also has a major contender for the Jersey Stakes in the hat-trick seeking Space Blues. He looks set to face the likes of Bye Bye Hong Kong from Andrew Balding’s yard and the Richard Hannon-trained Urban Icon.

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Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby expects Wild Illusion to be tough to beat at the Curragh

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Wild Illusion

Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby expects Wild Illusion to be tough to beat when she steps back up in trip in the Juddmonte Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh.

The daughter of Dubawi will bid for the fourth top level success of her career, reverting back to a mile and a quarter for the Group One prize on June 28.

After settling for second best in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf on her final start last season, Wild Illusion failed to feature on her return when finishing down the field in last month’s Prix d’Ispahan at ParisLongchamp.

Appleby said: “Wild Illusion is going to head for the Pretty Polly at the Curragh. I was pleased enough with her first run, and she will definitely come forward for it.

“It was a respectable effort against the colts, because it was the first time she had run against them.

“The most important thing is she will come forward for that run and will improve for the step up to 10 furlongs, and racing against her own sex.

“If she goes to the Pretty Polly in top form then she will be a major player.”

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Godolphin's Masar to run in Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot

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Masar

Godolphin‘s Masar will run in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot in preference to the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.

Trainer Charlie Appleby has confirmed last year’s Epsom Derby winner will make his long-awaited return in next weekend’s Group Two over a mile and a half.

The Group One Prince of Wales’s, over two furlongs shorter on Wednesday, would have seen Masar make his comeback in what appears a high-class renewal against top fillies Magical and Sea Of Class – herself set to race for the first time in eight months, since her second to the brilliant Enable in last year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

The decision also means James Doyle will be free to ride William Haggas’ Sea Of Class in the Prince of Wales’s, rather than having to choose Masar in that race as he continues to deputise for his fellow Godolphin rider William Buick – who is currently absent with illness .

Appleby explained he and the owners made the final call on Masar’s Ascot target after the colt galloped on Saturday.

He said: “We were very pleased with Masar’s work this morning, and we thought the right option for him is the Hardwicke.

“It’s his first start since the Derby – and with the rest of the season ahead of us, we just felt it would be a tough assignment in the Prince of Wales’s, with the way that race is shaping up.

“The Hardwicke is a lovely race, and we know the conditions should suit him. It looks the right option to start his four-year-old career.”

Masar has been absent from the racecourse since last June, after suffering a leg injury while being prepared for Sandown’s Coral-Eclipse 11 months ago.

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