'Course form is the best form' - find out which trainer is feeling bullish
2.30 Royal Ascot
Norfolk Stakes (Group 2) | 5f | 2yo | ITV4/Sky
It is widely documented that Wesley Ward's two-year-olds are physically further forward than what we are used to seeing in Europe. If horseracing featured a similar size and weight advantage as boxing, the stewards would have to stop Royal Ascot juvenile races before they have even begun.
However, that isn't the case. There is no arguing that early development is a huge advantage in all sports – athletics, basketball and football come to mind among plenty of other examples – but the biggest and strongest aren't guaranteed to have the most talent. That is the brilliance of it.
Ward has won this race with No Nay Never (2013) and Shang Shang Shang (2018), who was so good they named him thrice, in recent seasons and is doubly represented this year with fine physical stamps Lucci and Nakatomi. If any horse is going to wow you with his size and strength this year, Lucci is the one.
A son of the precocious miler Not This Time, Lucci doesn't scream turf sprinter by looking at his pedigree but you couldn't help but be impressed by his all-the-way success on his debut at Belmont. The $290,000 purchase ran a quick time (56.92sec, just over a second slower than the track record) and he certainly didn't appear to be a front-running quitter you can get with early season types.
Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez retains the mount and he rates the clear number one string for Ward. Nakatomi has more to prove after a debut success on the sloppy dirt track at Keeneland going 4½f. That field lacked depth, though the runner-up has scored twice since, and he didn't show the same acceleration as Lucci in his turf sprint. Nakatomi needs to translate that form to turf and change leads more efficiently to feature for new owners Qatar Racing.
No Nay Never is now turning heads in the breeding sheds and is represented by his son, Cadamosto, another who is untested on turf after a runaway success on the Polytrack at Dundalk.
His cosy three-and-a-half-length victory came in a maiden that often produces talented winners. Aidan O'Brien sent out bullet sprinter Caravaggio to claim the prize in 2016, while Group 1 Moyglare winner Skitter Scatter fended off subsequent Group 3 winner Sergei Prokofiev in 2018. It would be naive to assume that this hasn't always been the target for Cadamosto, whose high cruising speed should put him on the premises.
Course-and-distance form is an added edge for the David Loughnane-trained Go Bears Go, who fended off five rivals to land a notable gamble on his first outing six weeks ago. He showed good determination to get off to a winning start, but had the run of the race in the lead against the rail given they went slow fractions early (15.15sec opening furlong). The form has been let down on a few occasions since.
Clive Cox saddled 2012 winner Reckless Abandon and is looking for a second success with Instinctive Move, who is perhaps the best of the home challenge. He was at full stretch to keep tabs with pacemaker Poderoso, who set searching fractions, at Bath but finished off his race well (third-fastest closing sectional despite racing up with the pace). Natural improvement could see him come out on top.
Race analysis by Tom Collins
O'Brien hoping the rain stays away for Cadamosto
Cadamosto has one run and one electrifying performance under his belt, but Aidan O'Brien is ruing the fact that the Dundalk maiden scorer has been unable to gain more experience ahead of his Norfolk mission.
Razor sharp on debut when bolting up by three and a half lengths, Cadamosto has been scratched four times since, often due to unsuitable ground.
As such, O'Brien is hoping Ascot avoids much of the forecast rain, as he fears the ground softening would blunt Cadamosto's speed.
He explained: "We liked him when he won at Dundalk. We just didn't get to run him again, which isn't ideal. We always felt he was a very fast horse and nice ground is what we always thought he wanted.
"We just kept waiting and waiting for the ground but it never came. He is in good form, we are hoping he runs well and hopefully the rain doesn't arrive."
What they say
Joseph O'Brien, trainer of Andreas Vesalius
He won nicely at Naas last time and the form has worked out well. He would enjoy quick ground.
David Loughnane, trainer of Go Bears Go
He's not put a foot wrong since joining us and was very impressive there on debut. Course form is the best form and I'm quite bullish. He's very nice and I wouldn't swap him for anything. He was fine on soft ground first time and I think he'll be better on better ground, but I'm not too fussed if the showers come.
Clive Cox, trainer of Instinctive Move
He was pretty professional on debut and has progressed since. This is a big jump in class but we're really pleased with him and I'm hopeful he'll give a good account. I wouldn't be concerned if the thunderstorms materialise.
Robert Cowell, trainer of King Of Speed and Little Earl
Little Earl ran a great race at Sandown, he was pestered from the front all the way and yet still stayed on very resolutely. He's a tough horse – if we get a bit of rain I wouldn't be surprised if he's there or thereabouts. King Of Speed is a hardy horse. He's very lazy, doesn't really do a little and we think there's a fair bit more in the tank. I think a good, strong race could suit him. I think Little Earl is the better horse and has got form at the moment, but at the beginning of the season King Of Speed would have been higher on the agenda.
Karl Burke, trainer of Korker
He's in great form. He had a little niggle after he won at Carlisle, he pulled a muscle in the very heavy ground and didn't win like I hoped he would, but I still think he's a very good horse and he could run well.
Bryan Smart, trainer of Project Dante
It was a very good performance at York. He clocked good figures and the second and third have both won since to frank the form. I'm really happy with him and his preparation has gone really well.
Reporting by Brian Sheerin
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