O'Brien out to continue Diamond domination
AIDAN O'BRIEN, who is represented in tonight's Diamond Stakes by Afonso De Sousa, has dominated the Group 3 contest since it was moved to Dundalk to become Ireland's first Pattern race run on Polytrack in 2009.
The Ballydoyle maestro landed the inaugural running with Mastercraftsman and was successful with Freedom in 2011 before Declaration Of War registered his first Group-race success 12 months ago.
The lightly raced Afonso De Sousa, a nine-length winner of a 6f Leopardstown maiden last season, when the son of Henrythenavigator also finished third in the Acomb Stakes at York, was off the track for more than a year before making a successful return over tonight's course and distance a week ago, when he beat Dabadiyan by a length and a half.
O'Brien said: "We were delighted with Afonso De Sousa's recent win. We are running him back quite soon, but he came out of his race in good form and he handled the surface well."
Parish Hall, who finished fourth in the Irish Champion Stakes on his most recent start, represents Jim Bolger, while flying the flag for Britain is the Gerard Butler-trained Prince Alzain, who will be attempting to emulate Gitano Hernando in scoring for a Newmarket trainer, in his case for Marco Botti in 2010.
Michael Halford, who is represented by Certerach and Opera Gloves, said: "Certerach is a course-and-distance winner and we were happy enough with his run in the Irish St Leger, in which he was coming off a long break. That should have brought him on and I'd say he'll improve again for the race.
"Opera Gloves has a bit to do at the weights, but we know she handles the surface and we're looking forward to a good run. If she could pick up some black type we'll be thrilled."
Captain Joy, a four-time course winner over shorter trips, represents Tracey Collins while the Willie Mullins-trained Levanto, a course winner over a mile, and Manalapan, who will be running on the surface for the first time, complete the line-up.
In the last five seasons Colin Tizzard runners in non-handicap chases at Fontwell have finished 1121. Virginia Ash goes in the novice chase at 2.40.
Pointer courtesy of Raceform Interactive
Ascot: good to soft, good in places following a light shower overnight (less than 0.5mm)
Fontwell: good, good to soft in places following 5mm of rain overnight
Hexham: good. 9mm of rain have fallen on the track in the last 48hrs