Godolphin's Masar and Cross Counter lead our horses to watch at Royal Ascot

David Cooper 19/06/2019
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Eighty two days after the world came together at Meydan Racecourse for Dubai World Cup Day, international racing’s collective gaze shifts to England’s Ascot Racecourse, where the globe’s top grass horses convene for the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting.

After the success of the opening day on Tuesday, we look at the Dubai-connected horses that will be in action across the week.

WEDNESDAY

Horse to watch: Final Song 

Wednesday’s card features six horses who raced during the Dubai World Cup Carnival, as well as four runners from Dubai World Cup night.

Japanese Group 1 winner Deirdre, fourth and third in the last two editions of the Dubai Turf, lines up alongside Dubai Sheema Classic runners Hunting Horn (fourth) and Desert Encounter (eighth) in the week’s richest race, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes over 2000m at 18.40.

However, the best chance with Dubai connections is Zabeel Prince, who clinched a superb victory in the Prix d’Ispahan (G1) for trainer Roger Varian on May 26.

Five Dubai World Cup Carnival runners have declared for the Royal Hunt Cup at 20:00, a handicap over 1600m, including David Marnane-trained defending winner Settle for Bay, who is owned by McGettigan’s Management of the popular Dubai chain of Irish restaurants.

Godolphin’s Key Victory, The Queen’s Seniority, 2018 Doomben Cup (G1) winner Comin’ Through and Joseph O’Brien-trained King’s Field also carry 2019 Meydan form into the popular race.

Godolphin holds a hot two-year-old filly hand with four declared from three different trainers in the Queen Mary (G2), topped by Saeed bin Suroor-trained Final Song and Willie McCreery’s intriguing Ickworth, at 17:30.

The Blue Battalion also has the Appleby-conditioned pair of Jalmoud and Moonlight Spirit declared for the Queen’s Vase (G2) at 18:05, while Symbolize has claims in the Wednesday nightcap, the Windsor Castle Stakes for two-year-olds at 20:35.

Final Song.

Final Song.

THURSDAY
Horse to watch: Cross Counter

Thursday is all about one horse, Godolphin’s Melbourne Cup and Dubai Gold Cup winner Cross Counter, who looks to dethrone the world’s top-ranked stayer, Stradivarius, in the Gold Cup over a testing 4000m at 19.20.

Trainer Appleby said: “The Gold Cup is the number one staying race of the entire calendar and we are delighted to have a runner this year who we are confident can be competitive. It would be a huge thrill if he were to win it.

“It looks a particularly strong Gold Cup this year, but Cross Counter’s preparation has gone very well and we are hopeful. His Dubai Gold Cup win qualified him for the Weatherbys Hamilton bonus, and if he wins we’ll definitely be going on to Goodwood and York to see if we can win it.”

Another with a serious chance is Dee Ex Bee, runner-up last year in The Derby (G1) behind Masar for Mark Johnston and His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum.

Cross Counter.

FRIDAY
Horse to watch: Desert Fire 

Friday’s card features a pair of Group 1s in which Dubai owners should factor heavily, topped by Jaber Abdullah’s Hello Youmzain, Shadwell’s Jash and Khaadem, as well as Phoenix Thoroughbreds’ Advertise in the Commonwealth Cup for three-year-old sprinters.

Three-year-old fillies take the top-level stage in the Coronation Stakes one race later, including Godolphin’s French 1,000 Guineas winner Castle Lady, as well as Saif Ali’s Mark Johnston-trained German 1,000 Guineas winner Main Edition.

Later in the card, Godolphin’s UAE Oaks (G3) runner-up Swift Rose is entered in the Listed Sandringham Stakes over 1600m and Dubai World Cup Carnival winner Desert Fire is in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes over 2400m – both horses trained by Saeed Bin Suroor.

Godolphin Saeed bin Suroor.

SATURDAY
Horses to watch: Ghaiyyath and Masar

Saturday’s entries are topped by Dubai Sheema Classic winner Old Persian in the Hardwicke Stakes (G2) at 18:40, but he is unlikely to run at this juncture.

Still, Godolphin and Appleby will be well-represented by last year’s Epsom Derby winner Masar and the long-well-regarded Ghaiyyath – with the latter entering the race as surprise favourite.

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, 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.”

Godolphin’s Andre Fabre-trained Inns of Court looms large, as does Saeed Manana’s favoured Invincible Army, the star horse in a race that could also feature the likes of Dream of Dreams, Yafta and Emblazoned.

The Wokingham Stakes, an often-popular heritage handicap contested over 1200m, has attracted a slew of entries from Dubai World Cup Carnival alumni, including Freescape, Glenamoy Lad, Gifted Master, Intisaab, Cape Byron, Marnie James and Polybius.

Masar

Masar

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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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