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Mighty Mullins out to plunder another major Flat contest

Thomas Hobson and Ruby Walsh jump the last on the way to providing Willie Mullins with a title boost
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5.00 Royal Ascot

Ascot Stakes | 2m4f | 4yo+ | ITV/RUK

Not content with bestriding Anglo-Irish jump racing like a colossus, Willie Mullins has increasingly been pinching major Flat contests as well over the past few years.

Max Dynamite, Simenon, Wicklow Brave and Clondaw Warrior have been scooping up honours on the Flat to add to their hauls over hurdles, showing that no festival is safe from the grasp of Mullins and his equine stars.

Thomas Hobson, wearing those familiar pink and green silks of Rich and Susannah Ricci, is the Mullins contender here and returns to the Flat - where he had been progressive before joining Mullins - after some good performances over hurdles.

Mullins said: “It's a long time since he ran on the Flat but he's in good form and is very fit from hurdling. Track and trip should suit.”

Can Beyond Conceit continue progress back on the Flat?

Nicky Henderson has already worked wonders with Beyond Conceit. Two years off with a tendon injury and another with a pelvis issue, Beyond Conceit was nevertheless brought back to produce high-class form over hurdles.

He won two of four starts and was sixth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and second in the Sefton.

And Henderson has proved capable of landing major staying prizes on the Flat, including this race with Veiled in 2011.

He said: “You have to stay in this race and we know he does. He got three miles at Aintree last time and was a stayer on the Flat before we got him. He ran very well over hurdles and won at Ascot. He’s a lovely big horse and going there in good order.”

Beyond Conceit (nearside): all to play for at the last

Circle needs magic to overcome poor draw

It appears lightning can strike twice. Having had his chances in the Chester Cup dented by a draw in 18, Magic Circle has to overcome another disadvantageous draw for this having been landed in stall 20 of 20.

While a wide draw over two and a half miles here is not as terminal as a wide draw at Chester, Magic Circle still finds himself with a significant obstacle to overcome with no winner from that stall since the race returned to Ascot in 2006.

Trainer Ralph Beckett said: “He’s drawn in the car park for the third time in a row, which is frustrating. But he’s in very good form and we’ll certainly be trying our best.”

Another leap forward for Cartwright?

Cartwright seems a fitting runner to join stablemate Marsha in action, with trainer Sir Mark Prescott no doubt enjoying the prospect of attempting to win one of the shortest and one of the longest races of the meeting on the same day.

Cartwright’s trajectory has been sharply up since he went handicapping last summer, including an 18-length victory at Pontefract, although he produced a below-par run at Newmarket last time.

Prescott reaches for the visor and Luke Morris to help return his four-year-old to form, and said: “He went up a lot for winning at Chelmsford and I wouldn’t know about the trip; it might help him or he might not stay it.

"He normally wears cheekpieces and we just wanted something different for this race so we’ve put on the visor. There’s no big plan behind that.”

Nicholls out to break new ground

Paul Nicholls has been the dominant figure in British jump racing for well over a decade.

During that time Flat racing has rather passed him by, but after he saddled his first Flat winner at the start of the month he bids to saddle his first winner at Royal Ascot with High Secret.

The six-year-old has shown useful form since joining Nicholls at the end of last year, including finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Top Novices’ Hurdle, and proved he had lost none of his zip when just losing out to Top Tug at Goodwood last time.

Nicholls said: “He’s got an outside chance. He ran well at Goodwood last time, better than we expected, and he’s run well at Ascot before. I just think his mark of 98 is a little high.”

What they say

David Pipe, trainer of Iniciar
He’s talented yet quirky. He’ll be a big price but he’s got ability so you never know.

Iain Jardine, trainer of Shrewd
He did really well for us last year, winning a good race at York and finishing second in the Ebor and running well in the Cesarewitch Trial. They were tougher races than this and he stays well over hurdles, so I’m not worried about the trip. The ground should be lovely.

Richard Fahey, trainer of Suegioo
He ran well in the Gold Cup last year but is a very hard horse to win with. At least he ran some sort of race the other day, and he definitely stays. If everything went well he should run a good race.

Mark Johnston, trainer of Yorkidding
She ran very well in the Chester Cup over a long distance and has to have a good chance.

Andrew Balding, trainer of Cleonte
He was disappointing first time but that could have been down to a number of things, not least fitness. He’s come on for that run and looked a progressive, young stayer last year. The trip is a question mark but I’ve been very happy with him at home.

Charlie Fellowes, trainer of Endless Acres
This has been his target for a long time. There’s bundles of stamina in his pedigree and he relaxes well in his races, so I don’t have any concerns about the distance. The track is no problem but I do have a little niggle about the ground, although Champs Elysees’ go on decent ground and it’s going to be very well prepared.

Alan King, trainer of Who Dares Win, Oceane and Rainbow Dreamer
Who Dares Wins ran a cracker to finish fourth in the Chester Cup. He’s been in good form since and although the fast ground isn't ideal they've been watering so I hope he’ll cope. Oceane will be fine on the ground. He goes particularly well at Ascot, winning there last summer and running a terrific race under a huge weight when narrowly beaten in an apprentice handicap last month. Rainbow Dreamer has had this as his target since he won at Newbury in April. There's only 9lb between top and bottom in the handicap and he just creeps in. He has winning form on top of the ground so should also cope okay.

Charlie Hills, trainer of Moorside
I’m looking forward to running her over that trip as all she does is gallop.


JUMP TO IT

The Ascot Stakes has been a happy hunting ground for trainers better known for their jumpers, as this table shows. . .

Year   Winner                  Trainer

2010   Junior                    David Pipe
2011   Veiled                    Nicky Henderson
2012   Simenon                Willie Mullins
2013   Well Sharp             Jonjo O’Neill
2014   Domination            Charles Byrnes
2015   Clondaw Warrior     Willie Mullins
2016   Jennies Jewel         Jarlath Fahey

He’s drawn in the car park for the third time in a row, which is frustrating