Can favourite Sir Lamorak advertise his Classic potential in open handicap?
5.35 Royal Ascot
King George V Stakes (Handicap) (Class 2) | 1m4f | 3yo | 0-105 | ITV4/Sky
It pays to sit prominently on middle-distance horses given the relatively short run-in on the round course at Ascot. Whether that is achieved through gaining an early front-running spot or making an early move on the downhill run into Swinley Bottom, it is often worth doing.
That was proven by both Reshoun (Ascot Stakes) and Amtiyaz (Copper Horse Handicap), who were right up near the speed before coming out on top in their respective races on Tuesday, while Juan Elcano (Wolferton) was the only horse to run home from behind the leaders as he chinned Patrick Sarsfield under Andrea Atzeni.
With a guaranteed maximum field of 19 runners in the King George V Stakes, predicting the early running order could be crucial for punters with space likely to be at a premium once they have swung for home.
The most likely leader is San Martino, who acted as a pacemaker for stablemate Sir Lamorak early in the season and will probably be sent hard from the front by Wayne Lordan. The chances of him staying there look slim.
Parachute and Lord Protector both made all in weaker contests last time and will look to track across from wide draws before the first right-handed bend, while Surefire, who is 3lb well in under a penalty, and Siskany shouldn't be too far away for leading connections. That pair have strong form claims after visually impressive successes when last seen.
Irish Derby entries Sir William Bruce and the aforementioned Sir Lamorak are likely to be ridden cold with their stamina assured. In 2019, Aidan O'Brien saddled the first three home with South Pacific denying more fancied stablemate Constantinople. Could we be talking about a similar story after this year's running?
Backers of hat-trick-seeker Nagano will be praying for luck turning in. Big fields tend to fan out on the turn as riders eye up a clear passage, which could help Roger Varian's unexposed gelding given his inside draw in stall two. His tendency to break slowly is yet to cost him glory, but if he misses the kick again here it could spell trouble.
Race analysis by Tom Collins
O'Brien with three darts to throw
Aidan O'Brien ran only one horse in the Cazoo Derby this year, breaking with his tradition of being mob-handed in the season's premier Classic.
Bolshoi Ballet, the eventual beaten favourite, was the chosen one as O'Brien and the Coolmore partners whittled down their potential contenders that, at one time, also featured Sir Lamorak.
His Epsom chances appeared to end when he was withdrawn from the Chester Vase due to soft ground, with this race chosen as his next destination alongside stablemates Sir William Bruce and San Martino.
O'Brien said: "Hopefully the ground will stay nice for Sir Lamorak. Sir William Bruce and San Martino are also in good form."
What they say
Eamonn O'Connor, managing director of Quantum Leap Racing, owners of Lord Protector
We don't know how good he might be as he just does enough in his races. He's bred to stay further so he should appreciate this trip – we'd be disappointed if he doesn't improve for it really. I think you have to put us in the mix for this race and I think he'll handle the ground.
Roger Varian, trainer of Nagano
He's been progressive and the race should set up well for him. He's still lightly raced and should be suited by the step up in trip.
James Ferguson, trainer of Francesco Guardi
He's been working nicely and settling well in his work. He was too free at Newmarket but it was his first run for a long time and we've protected his mark since by not running. His pedigree screams out this trip and I'm confident the ground won’t be an issue. I'd like to think he's got an each-way chance.
John Gosden, co-trainer of Marshall Plan and First Light
Marshall Plan goes there with a chance but he wouldn't want it soft. First Light won very well on soft ground at Ripon last time so may well get his ground by post time and he's been in good form at home.
George Scott, trainer of Too Friendly
He was very impressive at Doncaster and, in hindsight, Epsom came too quickly after that, plus he didn't handle the track. He's had a nice break and he's done very well physically. Any rain would be a plus to his chances.
Ed Walker, trainer of Parachute
I hope that Parachute remains on a decent mark. We'd also entered him in the Queen's Vase and if we thought he could be competitive in that, he has to have every chance off 88 in a handicap. It was a no-brainer to choose this option, especially as there is no question mark about the trip.
Hugo Palmer, trainer of Military Mission
He's drawn in the middle, a little bit high, but statistically being drawn high helps you in these middle-distance handicaps at Ascot, that's quite a good thing. Oisin Murphy won on him at Salisbury and he's back on him. He's proved he handles different ground and I think he's a horse on the upgrade so I'm looking forward to running him. This will be his last run for us.
Reporting by Peter Scargill
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