If the form book can be trusted, and often it cannot, Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa's runner Poet should have a leading chance in Saturday's Hardwicke Stakes.
Soft running will suit Poet's liking
Ascot, England // If the form book can be trusted, and often it cannot, Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa's runner Poet should have a leading chance in today's Hardwicke Stakes.
Last month at Sandown racecourse, Poet almost held off the challenge of Workforce in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes over 2,000 metres.
Poet had surged seven lengths clear of last season's impressive English Derby and Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe winner under an enterprising ride from Adam Kirby.
Workforce picked up well to take the race by a neck, but in the ensuing hullabaloo about how the champion was back to form, few took note of the fact that Poet had finished 11 lengths clear of Jan Vermeer and Cavalryman, who between them share 14 appearances in Group 1 races.
One particular ingredient was cited in that near-miss, and that was a heavy shower before the race that had changed the going from good to soft.
The hunt for juice in the ground has become an obsession for Poet's trainer Clive Cox, and the former jump jockey thought he had spotted the perfect opportunity to capitalise on the momentum generated at Sandown by running Poet in the Grand Prix de Chantilly earlier this month.
The going description read soft, but according to Salim al Ketbi, the Al Asayl manager who looks after the racing interests of Sheikh Sultan, that was not the case.
"Poet came out of the Sandown race very well," al Ketbi said. "Regarding Poets' run at Chantilly, the ground was definitely quicker than at Sandown, and in the trainer's opinion it was nearer good ground."
Poet was unable to take an assertive lead in the race and looked to get upset in the stalls. In the final 200m he slipped from third to sixth.
"Poet was loaded in the stalls much earlier than ideal and got quite upset with other horses taking longer to load," al Ketbi said.
The weather at Ascot yesterday featured rain, and Richard Hills, the jockey, believes the going today will be closer to heavy. Thus, Poet's challenge carries considerable hope.
"Adam Kirby believes that Poet cannot reach top gear unless conditions are genuinely soft," al Ketbi said. "We are hoping that race conditions in the Hardwicke Stakes will suit him as more rain is expected."
Where one man's luck is another's misfortune, the chances of Delegator and Elzaam in the Golden Jubilee Stakes, the feature race on the card, have lessened.
A decision on the participation of Delegator will be taken this morning by the Godolphin team and the run hinges on how soft the ground has become.
"All his best form is on fast ground so we will sit and think about what to do closer to the time," said Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager.
The five year old was due to be ridden by Mickael Barzalona, after Frankie Dettori received a 10-day ban for dropping his hands.
Last year, when Starspangledbanner won the Golden Jubilee, the Aidan O'Brien-trained colt posted a performance that rocked the racing world. Officially it was one of the best runs at 1,200m in the end-of-year rankings, second only to JJ The Jet Plane's success in the Hong Kong Sprint in December.
The Golden Jubilee features only about 20 per cent of the prize money of the Dubai Golden Shaheen at Meydan, but horsemen say the prestige of Ascot is magnetic.
Danny O'Brien, trainer of the Australian raider Star Witness, conceded as much last week when outlining why he had come to Britain. Angus Gold, the racing manager to Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, called the Golden Jubilee the "best of the best".
Sheikh Hamdan's colt Elzaam also is unlikely to run on a slow course, and without Delegator and Elzaam the UAE does not have a representative in the Group 1 sprint.
Chesham Stakes, 1,400m (5.30pm)
Aidan O’Brien has had a fine week and his Maybe will be very hard to beat. Sired by the English Derby winner Galileo, the Ballydoyle filly will relish the step up in distance and should handle the softer conditions. Others to consider are Godolphin’s Falls Of Lora and Telwaar, while Mick Channon talked up his Majestic Rose yesterday.
Prediction: 1: Maybe 2: Telwaar 3: Fall Of Lora
Hardwicke Stakes, 2,400m (6.05pm)
Much like the Chesham, Aidan O’Brien holds the cards with Await The Dawn. The lightly-raced four year old has won on soft and has by far the best form. Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa’s Poet would have a chance now that the going has come his way, but his last run at Chantilly is a worry.
Prediction: 1: Await The Dawn 2: Passion For Gold 3: Poet
Golden Jubilee Stakes, 1,200m (6.45pm)
Roger Charlton has three runners in the Group 1 contest but Definightly looks to appreciate the underfoot conditions best. The Irish raider Bewitched could improve enough to take a hand while Elzaam and Delegator hold major chances if they are not scratched due to the going.
Prediction: 1: Delegator 2: Elzaam 3: Definightly
Wokingham Stakes, 1,200m (7.25pm)
David Simcock does not have the best record at Ascot in the past few years, but he can put that all to bed by winning the most difficult handicap of the week with Fastha. The ground has come good and half of the gelding’s wins have come in fields of more than 10 runners. Deacon Blues would be interesting on the far side of the track, while on the near side Cheveton has claims of overturning Hoof It with a handy weight concession.
Prediction: 1: Fastha 2: Cheveton 3: Hoof It
Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes, 2,400m (8pm)
Awsaal, pictured, top, Taqleed and Sharaayeen all look solid chances for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, while Saeed Suhail’s Blissful Moment is closely matched with Rock A Doodle Doo. Life And Soul will provide an anxious wait under Johnny Murtagh as they fly home from the rear of the pack.
Prediction: 1: Awsaal 2: Taqleed 3: Life And Soul
Queen Alexandra Stakes, 4,345m (8.35pm)
Nicky Henderson has already provided the National Hunt trainers with something to crow about at Royal Ascot this year and Donald McCain can follow up Henderson’s win in the Ascot Stakes with Overturn. The dual-purpose gelding has won the Chester Cup and the Northumberland Plate, and could dominate. Wille Mullins, another jumps trainer, has a live chance in the mud-loving Deutschland while Richard Fahey’s Halla San lead the defence for the Flat trainers.
Prediction: 1: Overturn 2: Deutschland 3: Halla San