Ward's special Lady out to dazzle us all again
She’s back. A year on from producing one of the most jawdropping displays in Royal Ascot history when winning the Queen Mary by seven lengths, Lady Aurelia returns.
This is an altogether different challenge. Taking on older horses, the three-year-old filly faces a big task under John Velazquez, but Ward is pleased with her condition after galloping at the course last week, despite initially expressing some concern she had done a little too much.
He said: “We got her back to Newmarket [after Ascot] and she trained beautiful. The only reason I said she might have been too keen is if she’d bled afterwards because she’d done too sharp a work. The vet scoped her and the other breezers and she was clean as a whistle. That’s just what I wanted.”
Ward’s trademark with his European runners has been to go hard from the front, but that will not necessarily be the case with Lady Aurelia.
“She came from behind at Keeneland to win, although the pace tends to be a little bit hotter over there,” he said. “Frankie will be able to ride whatever race he wants on her.
“She’s facing much tougher competition this time around, but she beat the best filly sprinters in the United States on her last start and she’s going to be up to the task and is going to run her best.”
Lady Aurelia is a particularly welcome runner in the race, given she is first three-year-old to contest the King's Stand since the three-year-old-only Commonwealth Cup was inaugurated in 2015. She receives 6lb and up from all her rivals.
An outstandingly fast filly who produced a number of top-drawer performances last year
Taking on the older sprinters and may find them harder to shake off
Prescott hoping Marsha maintains progress
Sir Mark Prescott is legendary for his meticulous approach to his horses and the races they go for.
As such, it was a bit of a shock to see him so surprised by Marsha’s performance in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket last month, in which she gave 7lb and a beating to several of these rivals.
That win was clearly above what was expected from the Elite Racing-owned four-year-old, leaving Prescott to cross his fingers she can build on that victory at Royal Ascot.
“Winning the Palace House with a penalty isn't done often and on that run she’s better than last year,” Prescott said.
She beat most of the same horses she faces at Ascot carrying 7lb more last time, so it was a very good performance. I hope she’s in the same form here.”
A strong gallop helps bring out the best in Marsha, and Prescott added: “Whatever happens in the race I can’t complain about the pace as they’re sure to get very fast.
"She has a million owners and it’s brilliant for them to have her running here as they bred her as well.”
Beat several of these rivals when carrying a Group 1 penalty last time and has no such penalty here
Is invariably held up as she can race keenly, so connections and punters will have to hope Lady Aurelia does not get too far ahead
Signs good for Blessing
Francois Rohaut has been convinced of Signs Of Blessing’s potential to go right to the top of the sprinting tree ever since he routed his rivals in the Listed Criterium de Vitesse at Longchamp as a two-year-old.
Having lost his way slightly towards the end of his three-year-old career, a gelding operation and the adoption of front-running tactics have largely brought Rohaut’s vision to fruition, notably when Signs Of Blessing landed a first Group 1 in the Prix Maurice de Gheest last August.
He looked the winner for five-sixths of the Diamond Jubilee last year and, after paying late on once again in the British Champions Sprint back at Ascot in October, connections have factored the rising ground into their choice of the 5f King’s Stand.
Add in a remarkable performance from a graveyard wide draw when rattling home for fifth against some of the world’s fastest horses in Hong Kong, along with a regal performance on his return to action in Deauville, and Signs Of Blessing looks set to play a leading role
Pros Proven top-drawer performer whose comeback defeat of Profitable under a big penalty at Deauville was arguably the sprinting performance of the season to date
Cons Doesn’t have to lead but, having been drawn quite close to Lady Aurelia, Stephane Pasquier won’t want to give Frankie Dettori too much rope
What they say
Bryan Smart, trainer of Alpha Delphini
His last run was great and he didn't get the best of runs with the second going across him. It's a very hot contest but he deserves to be there. I've put the visor on to see if that tightens him up – he worked well in it and his half-brother [Tangerine Trees] did well in it.
Charlie Hills, trainer of Cotai Glory
He didn’t really run much of a race in the Temple but I think he’s worth keeping on your side. He didn’t get competitive in the race early on, so we’ll see how he gets on with a new pair of hands in Silvestre de Sousa.
Paul Midgley, trainer of Final Venture
I think he’s overpriced. He’s run two solid races since he came back from Dubai and showed a lot of courage to win at Haydock last time. I’m not saying he’s going to win, but he’s a lively outsider and it wouldn’t surprise me if he picked up a good chunk of prize-money.
Robert Cowell, trainer of Goldream
Goldream’s had a great preparation. His third in the Palace House was what we expected but missing the break at Haydock wasn’t. Given he did it was a great run, and he should be there or thereabouts. He looks amazing.
Jeremy Gask, trainer of Medicean Man
Things didn’t go right in Qatar and he was probably just coming to the end of his time when he ran in Dubai last time. We’ve freshened him up and it’s all systems go. Andrea Atzeni’s not ridden him in a race before but did ride him in exercise in Dubai a couple of years ago. The horse enjoys a little change from time to time, so we thought we’d give it a go.
Medicean Man is set for his ninth and probable final appearance at Royal Ascot. It is a meeting at which he has often run well, as the table underlines . . .
Year Race Finishing position and price
2010 Wokingham 14th (12-1)
2012 Wokingham 19th (12-1)
2012 King's Stand 4th (33-1)
2013 King's Stand 11th (25-1)
2014 Diamond Jubilee 13th (25-1)
2014 King's Stand 4th (33-1)
2015 King's Stand 2nd (50-1
2016 King's Stand 6th (50-1)
William Haggas, trainer of Muthmir
I'm not sure about his draw in stall two, but he'll come late and let's hope it's not too late. I don't know what happened at Newmarket, where he just didn't run fast enough, but I've never thought it was his track. He ran a good race in the King's Stand two years ago, so I'm hopeful of a good run again.
Clive Cox, trainer of Profitable and Priceless
I’m delighted Priceless has had a successful campaign so far and it was a real step forward to win the Temple. She’ll need to step forward again, but I couldn’t be happier with her. Profitable has had a different campaign to last year, mainly owing to the faster ground. He was rusty in France last time but I was delighted with the run and he’s really come forward. He goes there to defend his crown in top order and the ground should be fine on the first day.
David Griffiths, trainer of Take Cover
Ascot doesn’t suit him as well as other courses but he’s going to get the right ground, and that’s a big help. He’s well drawn and I thought he ran well in the Temple. He worked really well the other day and I’d love to see him run into a place.
Aidan O’Brien, trainer of Washington DC
Fast ground and a strong pace is what Washington DC loves. The way he races means he needs luck in running and if he gets it he should run a very good race.