x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Can The Duke be crowned?

The Duke of Marmalade is the strong favourite going into the Diamond Stakes race at Ascot tomorrow.

Duke of Marmalade is the strong favourite for tomorrow's race.
Duke of Marmalade is the strong favourite for tomorrow's race.

ASCOT // As William Shakespeare would have it, in 1485 King Richard III stood in the heat of battle on Bosworth Field screaming for a horse. The king allegedly even went so far as to offer up his kingdom in exchange for one. It is an offer that the connections of Duke of Marmalade, the favourite for tomorrow's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (7.20pm), would likely pass up.

Even Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, probably would be rebuffed with an offer of his emirate. When 'The Duke' swept to victory in the Prince of Wales's Stakes last month at Ascot's Royal Meeting, the winning jockey Johnny Murtagh proclaimed without hesitation: "He's up there with the best I've ridden." That four-length victory over Phoenix Tower and Pipedreamer advertised Duke of Marmalade's credentials over 10 furlongs, but in the world of bloodstock, which places such an emphasis on versatility, the horse must publicise his ability at the Berkshire track once more, but over two furlongs further.

The trainer Aidan O'Brien was unsure whether that extra distance will suit his charge though. "This is his first time over a mile and a half," he said. "And we don't know what is going to happen when he goes past a mile and a quarter." Tomorrow's contest boasts the richest purse of any race at Ascot and the £750,000 (Dh5.48 million) on offer would double Duke of Marmalade's earnings. Meanwhile, Youmzain, owned by the Dubai-based Jaber Abdullah, contributes two Group 1 victories to that tally, and trainer Mick Channon is confident that his charge can emulate Duke Of Marmalade's hat-trick of Group 1s. "I'm happy with our horse," said the trainer.