All you need to know as ace filly Laurens bids for fifth Group 1 in Sun Chariot
Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes (Group 1) | 1m | 3yo+ fillies and mares | ITV4/RUK
Laurens has been one of the Flat stars of 2018, but somewhat surprisingly may not go off favourite for this as she bids for a fourth Group 1 victory this year and fifth overall.
Wind Chimes may well head the market, but Karl Burke would not swap the apple of his eye – a course-and-distance winner in last year's Fillies' Mile – for anything.
"Laurens looks to be in great form and is spot on physically – her weight is almost identical to when she left the yard for Leopardstown to run in the Matron," the trainer said. "Her coat is in perfect condition and I'm very happy with her.
"There are no indications the long season is taking its toll. We purposely gave her a midsummer break after the Diane to avoid that with her autumn campaign in mind.
"She has run at Newmarket twice before, winning a Group 1 and finishing second in a Classic, so the straight mile clearly suits her. That said, she handles bends well – she's won both right-handed and left-handed – and is very well balanced, I don't think the type of track comes into it with her.
"There's a bit of rain forecast prior to race time so conditions should be perfect."
Burke, who is enjoying a season to remember, is open to the idea of his stable star – who in the Matron dethroned the mighty Alpha Centauri (who was subsequently retired due to injury) – possibly running on Champions Day or at the Breeders' Cup.
He added: "Having a horse of mine bidding for a fifth Group 1 is not a position I really thought about at the start of my career. It's fantastic to finally be getting hold of this sort of horse and I just hope it continues."
Fabre: it's the obvious race
Punters appear to have taken notice of Coolmore shelling out £20,000 to supplement Prix du Moulin second Wind Chimes, trained by Andre Fabre, for a race that has been won by France in five of the last nine years.
Third in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, Wind Chimes is a fourth representative for the Coolmore partners along with a trio of Aidan O'Brien-trained runners.
"She's done well since her narrow defeat in the Moulin," said Fabre. "She's always been very good and I intended to run her in the 1,000 Guineas in the spring but was unable to get her ready in time.
"You never know until the day how they will cope with the Rowley Mile's undulations, but it's a fair course with a good racing surface and she's a well-balanced filly. You can be confident she's well suited by a mile, so this was the obvious race for her."
Wind Chimes was just edging Laurens for favouritism on Friday, and Fabre added: "Laurens has the highest rating in the race and if she runs to her best she will be difficult to beat, but it will be fun to have a go. Wind Chimes is a Group 1 filly – I'm sure of that."
Veracious 'one for next year'
Sir Michael Stoute's last two Sun Chariot triumphs have come for Cheveley Park Stud, whose Veracious bids to join Peeress and Integral on the honours board.
Lightly raced, the homebred has respectable form at the highest level after placed efforts in the Coronation and Nassau Stakes, while she also won a Group 3 at Sandown last month.
"It would have been nice if Andre Fabre hadn't supplemented Wind Chimes!" joked Cheveley Park's managing director Chris Richardson.
"Our filly is in good form and there should be a decent pace. I think she's learned from her racing, but there's a lot of rain forecast and I hope we don't end up with 20mm. I don't think we've seen the best of her.
"I think next year will be her year, but whatever she does here will be a guide. She needs a strong pace and over a mile hopefully she won't be tempted to pull for her head."
Flying again O'Brien runs three
Aidan O'Brien has won just the eight Group races in the last two weeks and his return to form increases optimism about Clemmie, Happily and I Can Fly.
Ryan Moore rides Clemmie, who appears the pick despite not winning since last year's Cheveley Park Stakes.
Happily is also yet to finish first this term but is another who enjoyed Group 1 victories as a juvenile and will be partnered by Donnacha O'Brien, who did the steering for his father on two top-flight winners at Newmarket last Saturday. Seamie Heffernan's mount I Can Fly has been more prolific, winning two of her last three.
O'Brien, who has won this race three times including in the last two years, said: "Clemmie has come forward with every run this season and we were delighted with her in the Matron Stakes last time. We've been happy with her since and we think she has progressed again.
"Happily hasn't won this year but she has run some very good races, including in the Matron Stakes. We think she has come forward since Leopardstown, while I Can Fly won her Group 2 at Leopardstown last time. It was a good performance and all has gone well with her since."
Hannon: no reason she can't run a huge race
Shock 1,000 Guineas heroine Billesdon Brook is back at the scene of her 66-1 triumph, with connections hoping she can get back to winning ways on her return to the Rowley Mile after finishing fourth in the Coronation and Nassau Stakes.
With Billesdon Brook's Classic partner Sean Levey sidelined through injury, James Doyle takes over on the three-year-old, who is trained by Richard Hannon.
"She didn't look to stay in the Nassau over a mile-two last time so we're going back down to a mile and I'm hoping she can repeat her win the Guineas," said Hannon.
"I've been very happy with her work and she's been given a break since Goodwood so arrives here a fresh horse.
"It's a good race, but she's already beaten Laurens and will have no qualms with the ground, so I see no reason why she can't run a huge race."
Rain might be a pain for Aljazzi's swansong
Aljazzi is set for what could well be her last race, but will forever have a special place in Marco Botti's heart after providing the trainer with a breakthrough Royal Ascot winner this summer.
Successful in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes, Aljazzi was a solid fourth in the Prix Rothschild in July and Botti is desperate to leave the umbrella at home.
He said: "It looks tough, but she seems in good order. I just hope the ground isn't going to be too soft. There's rain forecast, but we don't know when it will hit Newmarket. It would be nice to run on good ground because she seems to prefer that.
"For one reason or another, apart from when she won there as a two-year-old, Newmarket has never been a lucky track for her."
Botti, who trains the daughter of Shamardal for Saleh Al Homaizi and Imad Al Sagar, added: "It could be her last race and she's been a star, a pleasure to train. She gave us our first Royal Ascot winner and is a very smart filly."
Wilamina faces huge task – Meade
Princess Elizabeth Stakes winner Wilamina is another mare due to embark on a breeding career after the Sun Chariot.
Adored by Martyn Meade, she was third in the Duke of Cambridge and was not disgraced in the Nassau or Prix Jean Romanet.
"She's a joy to train, but it's a huge task and she'd have a better chance if the ground does come up soft," said Meade.
"I'd think this would be her last race and the one thing you can be sure of is her trying; she tries and tries and tries. She's never quite been Group 1 level, but she's got to take her chance and it would be fantastic if she was placed."
Orda an outsider
Altyn Orda has something to find according to the betting, but if the rain does materialise it would not harm her chances.
She won the Oh So Sharp Stakes on the Rowley Mile last year and was second in the Nell Gwyn before finishing fifth in the 1,000 Guineas.
Trainer Roger Varian said: "She has a fine record at this track, won't mind any rain and should run another solid race."
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