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Can anything ruffle Ghaiyyath? How the early stages could decide Coronation Cup

Ghaiyyath: the favourite for an intriguing Coronation Cup, held at Newmarket rather than Epsom
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3.35 Newmarket
Hurworth Bloodstock Coronation Cup Stakes (Group 1) | 1m4f | 4yo+ | ITV/RTV

Right time, wrong place. The Coronation Cup was always scheduled to be run on June 5, on Oaks day. The Oaks is still a month away, but the Coronation Cup keeps its place, albeit at Newmarket.

The main factor to consider regarding race conditions is differing course topographies. Epsom turns and swoops, Newmarket gives far more room for creative freedom until the Dip. That matters, considering that Ghaiyyath is in the field.

It is striking how many wide-margin Group 1 winners prove frustrating. Ghaiyyath, who won the Grosser Preis von Baden by 14 lengths last year, just has not had enough chances to show how devastating he can be. That is partly down to fragility, like in the case of Harbinger, but also partly his own fault, as with Hawk Wing.

The rule of thumb is that if Ghaiyyath is allowed to do his own thing up front, then best of luck to those trying to catch him. If he is not afforded that luxury he can be quite easily disheartened. He also might need to be caught fresh, but after more than three months off the track that can be taken as read.

His jockey William Buick should be able to make the front in this seven-runner field. Nothing else has a strong tendency to lead: Frankie Dettori has been known to take the initiative on Stradivarius when the occasion calls for it, while German recruit Alounak is similarly a mere part-timer. The only way it is imagined that Ghaiyyath will be taken on is if one of the other jockeys fancies ruffling his feathers.

Stradivarius dropping back to 1m4f has been on many of his fans' wishlists for some time. He has a tremendous attitude, as well as an above-average change of pace for a stayer, so this little adventure in advance of another Gold Cup bid certainly piques curiosity. He might be the dominant stayer, but winning a Group 1 over 1m4f would rank among his greatest achievements.

Defoe is the defending champion, but how much that counts for is a moot point. He has also been first and second in the last two runnings of the Jockey Club Stakes, which as an early-season Group race over 1m4f on the Rowley Mile feels like a reasonable parallel with this year's Coronation Cup.

Anthony Van Dyck and Broome, last year's Derby first and fourth, are on the hunt for a Group 1 beyond three, which in the former's case would boost stud value that is probably suffering from the perception that last year's Derby was below average. They may at least offer some sort of handle on Aidan O'Brien's string, with no runners having been sent out of Ballydoyle since Irish racing closed down in March.
Race analysis by Keith Melrose

Did you know?

This year's Coronation Cup will see last year's Gold Cup and Derby winners clash.

It is a battle that has rarely taken place in recent years, although 2016 Gold Cup winner Order Of St George did compete against that year's Epsom winner Harzand in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Order Of St George got the better of the duel on that occasion, finishing third behind Found with dual Derby winner Harzand only ninth on his final career start.

What the trainers say

Roger Varian, trainer of Defoe
He's in good form and looks great. He's trained nicely for the race and I think he's improved a few lengths off his Meydan run in the spring. It's a warm, select field but I'm happy with conditions and happy to be there.

Stradivarius: on trial for another go at the Ascot Gold Cup

Charlie Appleby, trainer of Ghaiyyath
If he turns up on his A game then they have got him to beat. His last run in Dubai was over a mile and a quarter and this step back up to a mile and a half will suit him – it's his best trip. He's in great order and looks the finished article now as a five-year-old.

John Gosden, trainer of Stradivarius
Let's be very clear that this is a trial for another crack at the Ascot Gold Cup. It's not ideal to be starting him off at a mile and a half but the race is on our doorstep and it comes in a good slot. He's in good form going into the race and won't mind any rain as he goes on anything. It's a long time since he's run on the Rowley Mile, which was when he was beaten by Cracksman as a two-year-old.

Aidan O’Brien, trainer of Anthony Van Dyck and Broome
Anthony Van Dyck will enjoy conditions as we think good ground is important to him. Running him on soft ground in the King George last season seemed to upset him, so we’ll try to avoid that with him this year if we can. He seems to be in good form again now. The good ground and the mile and a half trip shout suit Broome. We think he might even stay a bit further. He didn’t get to have a full campaign last season. The Irish Derby didn’t work out for him. We always thought he would be better at four than he was at three.

David Simcock, trainer of Desert Encounter
He’s an older boy who tends to come good in June or July and then sees the season out well. For one reason or another he doesn’t train as well earlier in the year. He’s in good order but it’s a tough task. There are no easy options with his Group 1 penalty and this is as good a place to start as any. He’s likely to be better for the run. 

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It's not ideal to be starting him off at a mile and a half but the race is on our doorstep and it comes in a good slot
E.W. Terms