x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Balthazaar's Gift in the mix

But handler Clive Cox admits Saturday's Group 1 race at Lockinge Stakes at Newbury will be difficult.

Balthazaar’s Gift, left, has run 14 times at the highest level, finishing in the top three twice.
Balthazaar’s Gift, left, has run 14 times at the highest level, finishing in the top three twice.

The red and black starred silks of Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa are on display with a growing frequency at British racecourses and tomorrow Balthazaar's Gift goes for Group 1 success in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

It is a tall order, as admitted by his trainer, Clive Cox, but it is accomplishment enough to have a runner in such a prestigious race.

Balthazaar's Gift has run 14 times at the highest level and has finished in the places twice. His last success came in September when he won a competitive Group 2 at Doncaster and if the likes of Canford Cliffs, the dual Royal Ascot winner, and Twice Over are not prepared to the minute the consistent Balthazaar's Gift will be ready to bustle in on the podium placings.

"He has proven to be very effective over just under a mile and the Lockinge is an opportunity to get him started," said Cox. "It looks a very hot race with Canford Cliffs and the others but he is a proven Group performer and is the Sheikh's best horse."

For now. Balthazaar's Gift is rated 111 by the handicapper, but that position at the top of the Sheikh's string could be in jeopardy by the end of the season with Henry Cecil set to unleash the exciting Vita Nova this evening in a handicap at Newmarket on her seasonal debut.

The daughter of Galileo is entered in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, but the target that catches the eye is the Group 1 Pretty Polly in Ireland on June 25.

When Cecil was in Dubai for Twice Over's bid in the World Cup, he was eager to mention Vita Nova as one of his rising stars and she has been working on the gallops at Newmarket with some exalted company recently.

"I've been very pleased with her and I like her," said Cecil. "She's been working with the likes of Midday and Timepiece, which is an indication of the progress she's made. I don't think she's quite ready for conditions races. Time will tell but she'll certainly progress."

Midday had to battle hard yesterday when she won the Middleton Stakes at York by getting the better of Godolphin's Sajjhaa, trained by Saeed bin Suroor. Timepiece was third.

It was Midday's seasonal bow, having failed in November to add to her 2009 Filly and Mare Turf victory at the Breeders' Cup, and she battled hard under Tom Queally to deny Frankie Dettori up York's long straight.

Later on in the card Queen Elizabeth's record of becoming the second-longest serving British monarch was crowned by the success of Carlton House in the Dante Stakes.

The English Derby remains the only British Classic that still eludes the Queen and as three colts in the past decade have used the Dante as a stepping stone to success at Epsom, Carlton House goes there on the first Saturday in June with a leading chance.