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'He's a horse we like a lot' - Roger Varian could hold key to big-field handicap

Roger Varian: has a strong hand with Fantastic Fox and Alfaadhel
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5.35 Royal Ascot
Golden Gates Stakes | 1m2f | 3yo | ITV4/Sky

Big-field three-year-old handicaps at Royal Ascot wouldn’t normally be dominated by one trainer, but Roger Varian appears to have two outstanding candidates in this 1m2f contest.

Fantastic Fox and Alfaadhel represent the Newmarket trainer and they both achieved Racing Post Ratings in excess of their BHA marks last time. Alfaadhel recorded an RPR of 101 when winning at Lingfield and Fantastic Fox earned 98 at Hamilton, but it’s Fantastic Fox who is the best handicapped on those figures. He runs off a BHA mark of just 94, while Alfaadhel competes off 98.

Jockey bookings offer few clues because their riders are retained by the owners, but maybe the ground splits them. Jim Crowley said the ground was “probably a bit too soft’ for Alfaadhel when it was good to soft at Chester last month, so he may not want it testing.

Colin Keane was a popular choice among British and Irish trainers on Tuesday and Wednesday and he returns for the final day of Royal Ascot, having ridden at Leopardstown and Limerick in Ireland on Thursday and Friday. Keane is evidently clocking up the miles.

He has just three rides on Saturday and one of those is the Hugo Palmer-trained Irish Legend. Keane will be having just his third ride for Palmer and first for the trainer in Britain.

Another jockey booking to catch the eye is Frankie Dettori on the Mark Johnston-trained King Frankel. Dettori has ten winners from 48 runners when joining forces with Johnston in the last five seasons and a £1 bet on each yielded a profit of £24.35.
Race analysis by Graeme Rodway


What they say

Joseph O'Brien, trainer of Isle Of Sark and Visualisation
I'd be worried about the ground for Isle Of Sark. We'll have to wait and see how bad the ground is and decide on his participation closer to the time. Visualisation has proved he handles soft ground and we think he'll enjoy the step up to ten furlongs.

Roger Varian, trainer of Alfaadhel
He’s a lovely, progressive colt with a big future. He wouldn’t want it too soft and is drawn very wide over the ten-furlong course.

Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Baton Rouge
He's in good form and he's a hardy horse, so hopefully he will be able to cope with conditions.

Alastair Donald, racing manager to King Power Racing, owners of Fantastic Fox and Foxes Tales
Fantastic Fox has an ideal draw and his form is very good. He's a horse we like a lot and stepping up to ten furlongs shouldn't be a problem. He's run well on soft ground but the question mark would be, will the extreme ground stretch his stamina? Foxes Tales is yet to run on soft ground, but we think he'll cope with it. He's got a wide draw, but is a definite player. 

Roger Charlton, trainer of Without Revenge
He should appreciate the ground.

Hugo Palmer, trainer of Irish Legend
I'm really looking forward to running him and I think he's pretty versatile on the ground. We never quite found a reason why he ran so badly in the Sandown Classic Trial, but he was beaten at halfway. He's come back and won at Newcastle and we're putting blinkers on him. His work in them has been quite exciting. He wants plenty of cover and to be played late in the straight.
Reporting by Richard Birch


Saturday's Royal Ascot previews:

2.30 Royal Ascot: 2,000 Guineas favourite Point Lonsdale out to confirm Classic claims in Chesham

3.05 Royal Ascot: 'I think he's a huge price' – leading trainers on their Jersey contenders

3.40 Royal Ascot: can Highest Ground enhance Sir Michael Stoute's superb race record?

4.20 Royal Ascot: 'He's going exceptionally well and looks a million dollars' – Group 1 insight

4.20 Royal Ascot: Dream Of Dreams to dominate in bid to go one better? Graeme Rodway has his say (Members' Club)

5.00 Royal Ascot: 'There is no denying the phenomenal training that has gone into Rohaan'

6.10 Royal Ascot: Tom Collins weighs up the chances of classy Falcon Eight for Dettori and Weld


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I'm really looking forward to running him and I think he's pretty versatile on the ground
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