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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Godolphin mount Group 1 title challenges in two hemispheres

Astoria and Sanctioned will carry Dubai racing operations’s hopes at Spring Champion Stakes in Australia, while Arabian Hope and Usherette picked to run at Sun Chariot Stakes in UK

Usherette under Mickael Barzalona wins the Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot Race Course in June last year. Getty Images
Usherette under Mickael Barzalona wins the Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot Race Course in June last year. Getty Images

A super Saturday is on the cards for Godolphin as the Dubai-based racing operation competes for two Group 1 prizes in as many continents this weekend.

Astoria and Sanctioned carry Godolphin’s hopes in the Spring Champion Stakes at Randwick, Australia, while Arabian Hope and Usherette have been picked to run in the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket, United Kingdom.

Godolphin’s confidence in both Sanctioned and Astoria is high after the duo finished second and fifth behind High Ace in the Group 3 Gloaming Stakes at Rosehill Racecourse in Sydney two weeks ago.

Trainer James Cummings said both horses can step up in a race regarded as the autumn benchmark for middle-distance three-year-olds.

Astoria, the colt by Medaglia d’Oro who has won two Group 3 prizes in six starts, will be ridden by Glyn Schofield for the first time.

“Astoria switched off last start on the short back up after having an easy week leading into the Gloaming,” Cummings told the Godolphin website.

“He has responded to a better preparation for this more important race, his energy levels are right back up and he appears to have gone to another level with the re-application of winkers [cheek pieces] to keep him focused.

“He’s a very talented colt who has a lot to offer. He gets his chance on Saturday in a very good field,” Cummings added.

Kerrin McEvoy is atop Sanctioned, who enters the race after having finished ahead of his stable companion in his most recent start.

“In five starts to date he’s not shirked the task once. He’s finished in the placings every time,” Cummings added of the chestnut son of Teofilo. “He bumped into colts who are really flying at his past two, so I didn’t walk away too disappointed from those races.

“He’s just going ahead in his own time and if he happens to produce his best performance here, fourth up and in a Group 1, I’d be delighted.”

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The form and fortunes of Godolphin's pair running in the northern hemisphere are also said to be good. Usherette trained in France by Andre Farbe and Saeed bin Suroor’s Arabian Hope come into the Sun Chariot both having won their most recent starts.

Usherette stayed strong in a Listed race at Maisons-Lafitte and Arabian Hope was winner of a Group 3 prize in Turkey.

Also in the wide-open, 13-runner field, Aidan O’Brien, chasing his 23rd Group 1 prize for the season, marches two out in the Sun Chariot with Roly Poly – the mount of Ryan Moore – and Alluringly.

Nathra, in the silks of Dubai businessman Abdullah Saeed Al Naboodah, would be the one to watch although tackling the 2,000-metre distance for the first time in 12 career starts.

The four-year-old daughter of Iffraaj, trained by John Gosden, has improved with every run from all four starts after returning to the track from an injury suffered last season.

She finished runner up in the Group 2 Alan Wood Plumbing And Heating Park Stakes at Doncaster.