x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Godolphin's Ley Hunter faces tough French test

Saudi Prince will be pleased with Frankel's form as they prepare for the Sussex Stakes.

Godolphin's Ley Hunter steps up to a mile and six furlongs for the first time today when he runs in the Group 2 Prix Maurice de Nieuil at Longchamp in France.

Mickael Barzalona, who won the English Derby, takes the ride and faces stiff competition in a12-strong field, that includes Kasbah Bliss and Mores Wells, a Group 1 runners-up, plus Group 2 winners Marinous, Blek, Allied Powers and Watar, who is owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, the brother of the founder of Godolphin Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Ley Hunter stayed on well to be fourth in the Group 2 Grand Prix de Chantilly over a mile and a half in his previous outing last month.

He started this season with two good efforts at Longchamp, keeping on when fifth in the extended 10-furlong Group 1 race and filling the runner-up spot over half a furlong shorter in a Group 2 Prix d'Harcourt less than a month earlier.

Meanwhile, Frankel impressed the Newmarket work watchers in England yesterday. The Prince Khalid Abdullah-owned colt, winner of the English 2000 Guineas and St James's Palace Stakes, worked with two stable companions.

"Frankel had the companionship of two lead horses, Bullet Train and Tranquil Tiger," Tony Elves, the Newmarket correspondent, told At The Races. "He sat out the back and was beautifully settled and when Shane Featherstonhaugh asked him to go he just glided past and finished about four lengths in front. It was a brilliant bit of work, didn't take anything out of him, and was just what you want going into the Sussex Stakes."

Dream Ahead, who was beaten in two of his last three outings by Frankel, is still being targeted for the Prix Maurice de Gheest.

The Darley July Cup winner, owned by Emirati Khalifa bin Dasmal, was rated joint-champion two year old with Frankel last season and after a belated seasonal reappearance in the St James's Palace Stakes, was back to his best at Newmarket.

"France will be next and it gives us a nice month between his races," David Simcock, the trainer, said. "I won't have to do masses with him between now and then. That's six-and-a-half furlongs which I don't think will be a problem at all. Then we'll look at Haydock and decide on plans after that."

Simcock feels his stable star could still be on the upgrade.

"I'd like to think he'll continue improving. Whether he ran to 126 at Newmarket I couldn't tell you, but there's no reason why he shouldn't continue to improve. When he sees a soft surface he'll be very, very hard to beat."

Today, Mark Johnston can claim a fifth consecutive renewal of the Glasgow Stakes at Hamilton courtesy of Malthouse, the three year old owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed.

The race used to be run in May and before its switch north of the border from York it was used as a Derby trial, with Commander In Chief doing the double in 1993.

This year there are a couple of useful fillies in the line-up in Palm Pilot and Stella Point, but they will have to go some to beat Malthouse.

Malthouse finished eighth behind Brown Panther, the horse owned by England international footballer Michael Owen, at Royal Ascot, then chased home Dominant at Newmarket.

In the Novice Stakes at Doncaster, Godolphin's Pimpernel, who travels under Frankie Dettori, poses an ominous threat for Stonefield Flyer in a fascinating four-runner affair.

On the same card, Dettori pilots Invisible Man in the five-runner Conditions Stakes, in which Saeed bin Suroor, the Emirati trainer, also saddles Secrecy and Colonial for Godolphin.

Victoire Pisa, the Dubai World Cup hero, is set to touch down on French soil next month with a view to having a second tilt at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in October.

Katsuhiko Sumii's four year old was beaten a little over six lengths into seventh in Europe's premier middle-distance prize last year, but may have since improved judged by his superb display at Meydan Racecourse in March.

* Compiled with agency