The Tin Man delivers knockout blow as Caravaggio clash awaits
When Tom Queally was aboard unbeaten heavyweight champion of the world Frankel he went into every bout as favourite, but after guiding The Tin Man to a popular success in the feature race of the final day of Royal Ascot 2017 he said he would be happy to play the role of underdog if his winner were to clash with up-and-coming star Caravaggio in next month's Darley July Cup at Newmarket.
Europe's most prestigious sprint looks the obvious slot for Friday's Commonwealth Cup hero Caravaggio, and The Tin Man could also be pointed that way if trainer James Fanshawe is satisfied with how he returns after a Diamond Jubilee that had its fair share of bumps and bruises.
A dim eighth in the race 12 months ago, The Tin Man proved himself a performer at the top level with a knockout course-and-distance win in the Champions Sprint last October.
Expectations were not sky high, but the at-times apprehensive Fanshawe is not exactly Don King when it comes to talking up his contender, and his concerns about the rapid conditions were not realised when the five-year-old ran on strongly to deny Tasleet – in front of him in the Duke of York last time – and 2-1 favourite Limato, who was the meat in the sandwich between the Newmarket-trained front two. The placings remained unaltered following a stewards' inquiry.
"He quickened up well and has a good turn of foot," said Queally, who will forever be known as Frankel's jockey whether he relishes that tag or not.
"The concern I had before the race was that we had a nice draw, however we didn't have the quality of horse surrounding us. I had to block that out, go down slow and come back as fast as I could. They're the dynamics of what I was thinking, and it's not an exact science.
"I had belief in the horse, but he's been harder to assess as he's getting a bit craftier at home. That's good as he's looking after himself so he gets to the races in better health.
"He just does what he has to and there's no need to do the homework if you're good at your job in the afternoon."
That ring craft might stand The Tin Man in good stead if he is to meet the two-years-younger Caravaggio in Newmarket's squared circle on July 15.
He is the general 6-4 favourite, with the Fanshawe fighter a 7-1 shot.
Aidan O'Brien, who trains Caravaggio, diplomatically deflected questions when asked if the Diamond Jubilee had given him pause for thought – "I was on the phone and didn't see it, but I'm delighted for James" – but Queally, sealing his seventh Royal Ascot success and second in the race after Art Connoisseur in 2009, was able to add: "Every horse is a danger and you'd have to view Caravaggio as a danger. I'd be quite happy going in as the underdog with no pressure.
"I was very taken with Caravaggio on Friday and he had this relentless run to the line, but my fella quickened as good as he's ever quickened today – he's the best sprinter I've ridden."
There was no hint of fighting talk from Fanshawe – whose skeleton figure would make him more lightweight than heavyweight despite his 6ft-plus frame – just a mix of relief and pride that his stable star delivered when it mattered most.
"This is a huge result as he hadn't shown much at home, but he's the best older sprinter and he's proved that twice," Fanshawe beamed, six years on from his first Diamond Jubilee success with Society Rock.
The Tin Man runs in the colours of Fred Archer Racing – named after the man who built Fanshawe's stable.
"He's the first horse we bought for the syndicate and is a top sprinter – the other one is rated 45," the trainer added.
"It's great for the yard and the horse loves Ascot. It suits his style as he comes from off the pace, and his acceleration can come to the fore. We'll see how he is but the July Cup is the obvious target."
And do not rule out The Tin Man going the distance with Caravaggio; it might even go to the judges.