x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Veracity in fine fettle for eager Godolphin

Godolphin will be hoping to shake off the disappointment of their opening Royal Ascot runner, Gladiatorus, when they start three in the demanding Ascot Gold Cup today.

ASCOT // Godolphin will be hoping to shake off the disappointment of their opening Royal Ascot runner, Gladiatorus, when they start three in the demanding Ascot Gold Cup today. Veracity looks like being the pick of the Godolphin triumvirate. The Dubai Racing Club Gold Cup winner and third-place finisher in York's Emirates Airline Yorkshire Cup last month has been tipped by top jockey Frankie Dettori as the one he has been looking forward to riding at this week's Royal meet.

He was six lengths behind Epsom Investec Coronation Cup winner, Ask, on that occasion and attempts a significantly longer trip today. His win in Dubai, where he beat Herman Brown's Mourilyian by half-a-length, came over two miles. Godolphin's trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, who has been a fixture in the Royal Ascot parade ring alongside the racing operation's founder, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in recent years said that Veracity is in good shape for his Ascot assignment.

"He ran a sound race at York and the distance was perhaps a little too short for him," said Suroor who has won the Gold Cup four times. "He has come out of that race in fine shape and I have been pleased with him since. I think that the step up to two-and-a-half miles will suit him." Emirati jockey, Ahmed Ajtebi, in his second Royal Ascot ride this week, will be hoping Eastern Anthem, the horse which gave him his second win on Dubai World Cup night in the Dubai Sheema Classic, can perform better than his Dubai Duty Free-winning ride, Gladiatorus, did in Ascot's opening Queen Anne Stakes mile.

Eastern Anthem, meanwhile, did not please his trainer quite so much at his last run, when coming sixth of eight in the Investec Epsom Derby, but Suroor believes his breeding would suggest he might get the longer trip. "We were disappointed with Eastern Anthem at Epsom but he needed the race and he came back sound with no problems," he said "He has been working well since and is ready to race. "The step up to two-and-a-half-miles is going to be a bit of an unknown but the breeding gives us some hope that he will stay.

"He's out of Kazzia, who won the Oaks for us in 2002, and by Singspiel, like our Gold Cup winner Papineau. If he stays, then I would give him a chance." Ted Durcan completes the Godolphin challenge, piloting Sagara, who will have to improve on his fifth-place finish in the Tapster Stakes at Goodwood less than two weeks ago. Sagara, who claimed fifth for Godolphin in the same race last year, is being given another opportunity over the distance.

"I was pleased with the way he ran in the race last year and he seemed to stay the trip," said bin Suroor. "His seasonal reappearance was a little disappointing but he will have needed the race and I think that he is more effective over a longer distance these days. "I am hopeful that he can run well." Most eyes will be on the Aidan O'Brien-trained Yeats, who after winning the race under Johnny Murtagh last year will be teaming up with the jockey once again as the eight-year-old goes for a fourth consecutive victory.

Three victories in this race and two Goodwood Cups established Yeats as the best stayer in 20 years, and further glory today would single him out as arguably the best of all time. "He's going to be huge for us this week," said Murtagh. "He's going to be huge for everyone. He's in great shape and Ascot is where he shines most brightly. "Fast ground, two and a half miles around there, he has to have a big chance.

"Seamus [Heffernan] rides him in a lot of his work at home and he says he has definitely come forward since Navan. He's in good form and he obviously knows Ascot well. "He seems to come alive with the big crowd on the big day and we're hoping he can do it again. "No horse has won the Gold Cup four times so it would be something special if he can do it and that's what Royal Ascot is all about. "Special things happen over the week there."

Other runners of note include Patkai and Geordieland who has been runner-up to Yeats in the two previous Ascot Gold Cups. @Email:stregoning@thenational.ae