'We couldn't be happier with him' - Foley eyeing first Royal Ascot win with Vega
Shane Foley could only watch from afar last year as Covid-19 restrictions forced him to miss out on a first Royal Ascot winner, but the leading rider believes he has strong claims of rectifying that when partnering top talent Lucky Vega in Tuesday's St James's Palace Stakes.
The 33-year-old, who registered a clear career-best tally of 92 winners in Ireland last season, wasn't permitted to compete at the royal meeting when Frankie Dettori stepped in to land the Coronation Stakes aboard Alpine Star – a filly Foley had ridden in all her previous starts.
The retained first rider to Jessica Harrington came closest to breaking his Ascot duck at the 2014 meeting, finishing runner-up aboard the Godolphin-owned Toscanini in the Chesham and third in the Queen Mary on 33-1 shot Newsletter.
Foley says he couldn't be happier with the Phoenix Stakes scorer, who potentially could take on Poetic Flare, Mostahdaf and Highland Avenue next week, and was encouraged by the manner in which his mount stayed on to finish fourth in unsuitably testing ground at the Curragh most recently.
"He hated the ground in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and at halfway I even thought I was going to pull him up, but he kept plugging away," said Foley.
"He definitely stays the mile, we knew that after his third in the Guineas at Newmarket."
The multiple Classic-winning rider added of the 7-1 shot for Ascot glory: "He looks to go there with a massive chance. He's in great shape and did his piece of work on Tuesday before probably having a breeze on Saturday. It's all systems go and we couldn't be happier with him."
Harrington looks set to be well represented at next week's five-day extravaganza, with a host of interesting contenders between the premier events and handicaps.
Foley is looking forward to riding two classy three-year-olds by Australia in Oodnadatta, who appears on course for a tilt at a hot running of the Coronation Stakes, and Ace Aussie, a potential dark horse for the Jersey Stakes having shaped encouragingly behind Classic hero Poetic Flare two starts ago.
The Kilkenny native, who currently sits second in the Irish Flat jockeys' championship behind Colin Keane, said: "We've got a few other runners during the week and Ace Aussie could run in the Jersey. I think he'll love going over seven furlongs and getting back on fast ground.
"It's probably going to be a tough ask for Oodnadatta on her first start of the season in the Coronation Stakes but she's a good filly. Her run in the Moyglare Stakes last season [when third behind Shale and Pretty Gorgeous] was a good one.
"We were a bit disappointed in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf on her last start in November but we think we have her back.
"It's also possible that Albion Square, who won a maiden at Navan last month, could go for the Windsor Castle Stakes."
The Cormac O'Flynn-owned juvenile has been entered for the Goffs London Sale next Monday, a live virtual event that gets underway at 1pm.
St James's Palace Stakes
Bet365: 3 Poetic Flare, 4 Mostahdaf, 6 Highland Avenue, 7 Lucky Vega, Battleground, 8 Chindit, 10 Wembley, 14 La Barrosa, Thunder Moon, 16 bar.
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