Jessica Harrington runs the rule over her Royal Ascot contenders
'It's like Cheltenham on the Flat and I'd absolutely love a Royal Ascot winner'
Jessica Harrington says she is treating Royal Ascot like a summer Cheltenham and the evergreen 71-year-old trainer thinks her nine-strong team, spearheaded by Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Alpha Centauri in the Coronation Stakes on Friday week, is the best she has ever assembled for the royal meeting.
Harrington has won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, a Champion Hurdle, a Champion Chase, an Irish Grand National and landed her first Classic last month at the Curragh, but she admits there are still three glaring omissions from her impressive CV – a Grand National winner at Aintree, a Classic winner in England and a Royal Ascot winner.
"I'd absolutely love a Royal Ascot winner, now that would be amazing," Harrington said on Saturday afternoon.
"We got our Classic winner with Alpha Centauri a few weeks ago but there are a few other things I would like to tick off the list. I'd like a Classic winner in England and definitely an English National winner too but, right now a Royal Ascot winner is towards the top of my list and I think we have a lovely team going over there.
"To have a winner at Royal Ascot would be brilliant. It is like having Cheltenham in summer. It is the Cheltenham of Flat racing. We have a nice team heading over there and could have as many as nine runners, although they will do their final pieces of work this week and that will tell us more."
Aidan O'Brien is once again hot favourite to be champion trainer at the royal meeting but Harrington is likely to have the second biggest team heading over and in Alpha Centauri, 5-1 favourite with most firms for the Coronation Stakes, and Gold Cup contender Torcedor, she has two live hopes in Group 1s.
"You would hope that Alpha Centauri and Torcedor would be two of our best chances. Alpha Centauri had to dig deep to win the Guineas and she lost a bit of weight but I am pleased to report that she has put all that back on now and looks great. I'm really looking forward to the Coronation Stakes for her," Harrington said.
Of Torcedor, who is priced between 8-1 and 10-1 for Gold Cup glory, Harrington said: "I was thrilled to see him go out and do what he did in the Sagaro. The Gold Cup has always been the plan for him and I couldn't be any happier with him at home. Good ground would be perfect for him."
The closest Harrington has come to a Royal Ascot winner was with Alpha Centauri in last year's Albany Stakes where the giant grey just found Different League too strong in the closing stages and she has three talented juveniles on this year's team in the shape of Servalan (Queen Mary), Indigo Balance (Coventry) and Chicas Amigas (Albany).
"It will be a busier week than normal for me. I never had runners at Royal Ascot until recently so it is a great position to be in. I can't wait," added the hugely popular dual-purpose trainer.
Harrington is 11-8 with Paddy Power to train her first Royal Ascot winner this year and spokesman Paul Binfield said: "Mrs Harrington must be just about the pre-eminent dual purpose trainer now after her Irish Guineas success.
"And while it might be difficult to topple top Flat trainers like Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden at the royal extravaganza, 11-8 for a winner could prove a trifle generous."
Alpha Centauri (Coronation Stakes)
She lost a bit of weight after the Guineas but she has put all that weight back on now and looks great. We always knew what she was capable of but she just needed good ground to show it. She goes for the Coronation Stakes and you'd like to think that she'd have a great chance.
Brother Bear (Jersey Stakes)
He was sent off favourite for the Coventry last year and ran well to finish fourth. The fact he won the Listed race at Naas last month so well proves he has trained on from two to three and I think he's got a great chance in the Jersey. The trip is perfect for him.
Chicas Amigas (Albany)
We were second in this race last year with Alpha Centauri so hopefully we can go one better with Chicas Amigas, who was second to Servalan at Naas. She is owned by a cracking bunch of women, the It's All About The Girls syndicate, and we will have some fun at Ascot on the day of the Albany. I can't wait!
Indigo Balance (Coventry)
Not everything went right when he won at the Curragh and he had to be very professional to get the job done in the end. He's a lovely juvenile who has always shown plenty and he goes for the Coventry. The maiden he won at the Curragh is working out very well.
Landshark (Jersey Stakes)
A Leopardstown maiden winner as a juvenile, he never really got into the 2,000 Guineas last time. He's been in great form since and is likely to go for the Jersey.
Marshall Jennings (Royal Hunt Cup)
A lovely horse who just needs some cut in the ground so if they got a drop of rain at Ascot it would definitely suit him.
Pincheck (Royal Hunt Cup)
You will struggle to find a hardier boyo than this fella. He is really tough and ran very well in the Amethyst at Leopardstown. He'll go to the Hunt Cup with an each-way chance.
Servalan (Queen Mary)
We have decided to go down the Queen Mary route with her as we feel she has tonnes of speed. She won over six at Naas but you could see she was all speed. We like her.
Torcedor (Gold Cup)
I am really happy with this fella. I was thrilled with him in the Sagaro. He goes on firm ground but he just doesn't go as well on it as others so good ground would be perfect for him. If he gets that, I'm sure he will run well and he certainly likes the track so we have no worries on that front.
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