Last race off: can Willie Mullins and Ryan Moore strike with fancied Saldier?
6.10 Royal Ascot
Copper Horse Stakes (Handicap) | 1m6f | 4yo+ | ITV4/Sky
Ante-post gamble alert. Dual Grade 1-winning hurdler Saldier, who won on his belated first Flat start for Willie Mullins at Listowel nine days ago, has been incrementally cut from around 10-1 ever since. We could be looking at around 7-4 at the off.
A similar plunge happened last year on Fujaira Prince, who proved punters right when defying a 362-day absence to win the inaugural running of this staying handicap as the 3-1 favourite. That gamble also began days in advance.
In Saldier, backers are putting their faith in a proven quantity. He won the Champion Four Year Old Hurdle at the Punchestown festival in 2018 and Morgiana Hurdle 18 months later. However, he then lost his way and questions were raised about whether he had retained his ability after injury.
Doubters were hushed when he crossed the line seven lengths clear of his rivals at Listowel, a margin that could have been doubled if he was asked for maximum effort.
This is a much tougher assignment. Not only does he tackle better opposition but he comes off a short layoff and will have to prove himself on the quickest ground he's encountered. On the plus side, Mullins opted for this handicap instead of the earlier Ascot Stakes and his mark looks exceptionally fair given his jumps exploits.
Last year's winning owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid is represented by Throne Hall, who kept on well for third behind Ebor fancy Ilaraab at York last time. The Kevin Ryan-trained gelding is open to further improvement after six starts but isn't bred to stay this trip – Kingman's progeny are 0-3 over 1m6f or further.
Two horses sure to hit the line powerfully are Sleeping Lion, who finished runner-up over 2m½f at Newcastle last season, and topweight On To Victory. Both have begun the season in fine form, as has Global Storm, who represents leading connections but needs to prove he handles quick conditions after recording three successes on ground ranging from good to heavy.
Race analysis by Tom Collins
Mullins and Moore take aim again
Willie Mullins has teamed up with Ryan Moore for five of his six Royal Ascot winners and dual Grade 1-winning hurdler Saldier has leading claims of extending that record in this 1m6f handicap.
Mullins has celebrated a winner at the meeting in five of the last ten years and Saldier is the shortest priced of his four runners on day one, with the Moore-ridden M C Muldoon also favourite for the Ascot Stakes.
The trainer said: "He won well at Listowel just over a week ago and hopefully this is not coming too quickly for him. He will have no problem with this ground or trip."
What they say
Alan King, trainer of On To Victory
He wouldn't want it any quicker and he has a very wide draw, but I hope he'll run well.
Kevin Ryan, trainer of Throne Hall
He's done nothing wrong and ran three solid races this season. He should get the trip, as he was very strong through the line over two furlongs shorter last time.
Roger Varian, trainer of Gold Maze
He's training nicely and has been gelded since his last run. He shapes at home as if he will stay the trip and if he does he's very capable of running a really nice race.
Eve Johnson Houghton, trainer of Hyanna
She's consistent and loves going right-handed. Given some luck in running I think she will be there or thereabouts and has a good each-way chance.
Brian Meehan, trainer of Arthurian Fable
We've aimed him at this and he ran a good race on his return at Newmarket. He's possibly our best chance of the week and goes there in good order.
John Gosden, joint-trainer of Amtiyaz
It's nice that Amtiyaz has got into the race as it's over his favourite trip. He's very game and should give a good account.
Tuesday's Royal Ascot previews:
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