Lightning Spear team hatch Queen Anne pacemaker plan
Sheikh Fahad Al Thani on Wednesday took assertive action to try to ensure Godolphin do not boss Tuesday's Queen Anne Stakes when he supplemented new acquisition Dutch Uncle as a probable pacemaker for Lightning Spear.
Lightning Spear, the best horse to race in the silks of Qatar Racing operated by the sheikh and his brothers, was comprehensively beaten by Godolphin's Ribchester in a tactical running of last month's Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, where the winner's supposed pacemaker Toscanini failed to fulfil his expected role after missing the break, leaving Ribchester to make all.
In a bid to avoid a repeat, Dutch Uncle, an 88-rated handicapper who changed hands in May for 36,000gns and joined Robert Cowell, has been added to the field for the royal meeting's curtain-raiser.
His inclusion, along with another supplementary entry in the form of the Aidan O'Brien-trained Deauville, has pushed the prize-money to £689,950, guaranteeing this year's race will be the richest Queen Anne Stakes ever run.
The clash also provides an unintentional subplot involving Dubai, ruled by Sheikh Mohammed, and Qatar at a time when relations between the two countries are strained, although Qatar Racing is a private enterprise that does not represent the Qatari state.
Lightning Spear, second in the Lockinge, finished third in last year's Queen Anne behind Tepin and was a length down on Ribchester when they met for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
His trainer David Simcock was unsure of Dutch Uncle's likely role in Tuesday's race but believes Lightning Spear would be a more effective opponent to the favourite coming off a strong gallop.
"He wants pace in the race," said Simcock. "Like plenty of horses we've been looking for a nice, even gallop. I can't say we've had that every time.
"We would be disappointed if he didn't close the gap on Ribchester. We've always felt he would be better on better ground. That's not to say Ribchester won't be either."
Lightning Spear has been ridden by Oisin Murphy in his last 11 starts but he is suspended and no substitute has yet been booked.
Ribchester continues to please trainer Richard Fahey, who has left in Toscanini as a potential pace option.
"Everything has gone as planned," he said. "I've been able to train him the way I want him and there will be no excuses. He's the top-rated horse in the race and will go on any ground – that's the beauty with him.
"Toscanini will get declared. We'll see where he gets drawn and we'll see if we need him."
Both Godolphin and Coolmore lost key members yesterday when Cloth Of Stars was ruled out of the Prince of Wales's Stakes and Acapulco was not among the entries for the King's Stand Stakes.
Acapulco, who is in foal, was due to meet former stablemate Lady Aurelia but trainer Aidan O'Brien said: "Acapulco suffered a minor setback on Wednesday morning.
"We knew we wouldn't make the King's Stand Stakes with her, so we decided to take her out of the race. It's only very minor, so we're still hoping she could possibly run in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. We'll monitor her over the next few days before making a decision."
The trainer added: "Rhododendron is still in the Prix de Diane and we'll make a decision on her participation on Thursday morning. It's so far so good with her since the Oaks and she's well."
Godolphin's Cloth Of Stars had been as short as 4-1 for the Prince of Wales's Stakes on Wednesday but trainer Andre Fabre has decided the four-year-old needs a break after a busy early season.
"He had an excellent spring campaign and really deserved his Group 1 win," said Fabre, quoted on Godolphin's website.
"Initially he seemed to have taken it well, but I feel now that he's already peaked and is asking for a bit of time to recover. He'll be given an easy few weeks and brought back for an autumn campaign, and we'll look to step him back up to 12 furlongs."
Cloth Of Stars is the second high-profile French horse to be ruled out of Ascot in two days as classy stayer Vazirabad will not run in the Gold Cup.
Ireland's champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins leads the jumping profession's bid to continue their domination of the Ascot Stakes after entering five horses.
Thomas Hobson, who had not been in the betting, was promoted to favouritism after Ryan Moore was booked to give the trainer a third win in six runnings.
The ground remained good, good to firm in places. Clerk of the course Chris Stickels said: "It was a warm, sunny day and it looks as though high pressure is going to dominate until at least Thursday of next week, possibly Friday. The plan is to water [on Thursday]. We'll put 10mm on the straight course and 7mm on the round."