Enable and Cracksman Face Challengers
Enable is pleasing trainer John Gosden as she continues to build towards a planned late-summer return.
The four-year-old’s five Group 1 triumphs last year included the Investec Oaks, QIPCO-sponsored King George & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Darley Yorkshire Oaks.
However, an early-season setback saw her ruled out of the first part of the current campaign, with Gosden and owner Khalid Abdullah now eyeing the Juddmonte International at York on August 22 as a potential starting point.
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Gosden said: “Enable is happy and well and she’s moving nicely at home. Plan A is the Juddmonte, if that comes too soon, Plan B will be the Prix Vermeille (at ParisLongchamp on September 16).”
Meanwhile, Laurens, the QIPCO 1000 Guineas runner-up, who has since gone one better in two Group 1 aces in France, including the French Oaks on Sunday, is on course to run in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks on August 23.
Burke told At The Races: “The obvious next step is to to step her up in trip. I’m pretty sure we’ll go for the Yorkshire Oaks now, I’ll give her a two or three week break and miss the Irish Oaks.
“That seems to make sense as then we’ve got an autumn campaign. If we go to the Irish Oaks she won’t have chance to get a proper break.
“The Nassau (at Goodwood) has never been on the agenda. She’s had three Group Ones in six weeks, she’s travelled down by road to France twice and I think we’re all pretty keen to give her a break.
The Frankel Factor
Many racing fans expect a son of the mighty Frankel to win the £750,000 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot on Wednesday. Oisin Murphy is hoping they have got their calculations right, but with his mount, Eminent, taking the spoils, rather than Cracksman, who is the short-priced ante-post favourite.
Eminent’s exploits last season included an emphatic defeat of Salouen in a Group 2 event at Deauville in between finishing a close fourth in the Investec Derby (when three quarters of a length behind Cracksman) and third in the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes.
However, the Martyn Meade-trained four-year-old disappointed on his reappearance at Chester last month when trailing home last of five runners after being sent off 8-13 favourite for the Group 2 Homeserve Huxley Stakes.
Murphy, appointed to ride him this year, said: “He felt fine for the first five furlongs but between the five and the eight I wasn’t that happy and I was beaten before I turned into the straight. Chester was a blip and we think he’s come out of the race fine. I’ve been riding him plenty at home and have been pleased with him.
“Everyone’s hoping Cracksman doesn’t run to his rating. He didn’t at Epsom [last time] and if he doesn’t then we’ve got a live chance. I have a lot of belief in Eminent and he has the type of physique which suggests he should improve from three to four, and on pedigree he’s also bred to do well at four.
“Some of his runs last year were top class and if they had fallen a different way maybe results would have been different. I’ve been handed the reins on him and all I want to do is the best for the horse. If he’s healthy, he will run a massive race.”
Looking ahead to the week overall, which will include the ride on Lightning Spear in the Queen Anne Stakes on Tuesday, the 22-year-old added: “I’d take any winner at Royal Ascot. I’m under no illusions as to how difficult it is but I’ve got as good a book of rides as I’ve ever had. It’s a huge week for everyone and you can easily allow it to get inside your head but this will be my fourth time riding at the meeting and hopefully all will go well.”
Frankie Dettori, 47, rode his first Royal Ascot winner six years before Murphy was born and said at a Royal Ascot media morning in Newmarket on Thursday that he was confident Cracksman would be firing on all cylinders.
Cracksman revived memories of his sire when signing off last season with a dazzling seven-length win in the QIPCO Champion Stakes on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot, a win that ensured he ended 2017 as officially the highest-rated three-year-old in the world. This year he has extended his winning sequence to five with victories in the Prix Ganay at ParisLongchamp and then the Investec Coronation Cup at Epsom.
The latter success, gained in dramatic style by a head from Salouen, was only 19 days before Ascot assignment but the relatively short gap between the races – and different distances involved – did not Highland Reel winning both last year.
Gosden has landed the Prince of Wales’s three times. The Fugue won for the Newmarket-based trainer in 2014, while Muhtarram landed back-to-back renewals for him in 1994-95 when it carried Group 2 rather than its present Group 1 status.
In addition to Eminent, he will face five other rivals, including Poet’s Word, who chased him home in the QIPCO Champion Stakes in October. He got back to winning ways in the Group 3 Matchbook Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown last month.
Sir Michael Stoute, his trainer, goes into the meeting with 75 Royal Ascot victories to his name and requires one more to overhaul the late Sir Henry Cecil and become the winning most trainer in the history of the meeting. Stoute’s haul includes two Prince Of Wales’s Stakes victors – Hard Fought in 1981 and Stagecraft a decade later.
Aidan O’Brien, who has accumulated 61 Royal Ascot winners, has Stoute’s tally in his sights and has Cliffs Of Moher engaged. He was runner-up in the Investec Derby last season.
Hawkbill, the 2016 Coral-Eclipse winner, and Desert Encounter, third in last year’s renewal of the Coral-Eclipse, will go to post, with Royal Julius completing the field.