The big questions and trainer views as Limato bids to shine in the main event
Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series) | 1m | 4yo+ | ITV4/RUK
Limato returns for a fifth season on the track and a second crack at the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes, in which he was fourth when favourite two years ago.
Finding out whether Limato will stay the distance is not the only concern of owner Paul Jacobs, as he also has a plane to catch.
“I’ve got a taxi booked to pick me up straight after the race to take me to Heathrow,” he said. “I’ve just got to figure out what to do with the trophy, as I’m not sure the beach on a Greek island is the best place for it to be!”
Limato has carried Jacobs’ colours with distinction since 2014 and the owner is excited about another season with him.
He said: “It’s fantastic to be back again. He’s always performed at the very top level – it’s been an incredible journey so far. I saw him this week and he looks fine and seems in good order, so I’m touching wood.”
Rakti was the last six-year-old to win the Lockinge in 2005 and Jacobs is hoping Limato can follow suit, ideally under his preferred quick ground conditions.
He added: “I’ve been watching the GoingStick readings this week with trepidation as they’ve gone down and down. I just hope he gets the really quick ground that suits him best.”
Will Addeybb handle firmer ground?
Two runs on soft ground. Two emphatic wins. That is Addeybb’s record in 2018, but he will face ground on the faster side of good for the first time in his career at Newbury.
Having landed the Lincoln and stepped up to win the bet365 Mile at Sandown, the time has come for Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum’s four-year-old to be tested at the top level and on quicker going.
Trainer William Haggas said: “He’s very well and I’m happy with his condition. I’m not so happy with his draw [in 16], although there’s nothing we can do about that, and I’m not sure about the ground, but there’s nothing we can do about that either.
“He’s a lovely mover, but there aren’t many horses who are effective on very soft ground and fast ground. We’ve looked after him as a young horse and now’s the time to find out. If he’s just as good on faster ground as he is on softer, then we’re in.”
Does Aidan O'Brien have a new Hawk Wing?
Hawk Wing’s astonishing demolition job in 2003 remains all-conquering Aidan O’Brien’s only win in the Lockinge. This year he sends Rhododendron, Lancaster Bomber, Deauville and War Decree into battle.
Rhododendron, likely to go off favourite, is O’Brien’s leading contender and the trainer said: “We always thought she had plenty of speed and was fast enough to run in the 1,000 Guineas, so I'm not overly concerned about the mile for her.
"We think she has come forward nicely from her run in France and I'm looking forward to seeing how she gets on over a mile again.”
Lancaster Bomber, Deauville and War Decree complete O’Brien’s team, and he added: “Lancaster Bomber was a very consistent colt last and we think a mile on quick ground is exactly what he wants. He's in very good form.
"We took Deauville to America to run at Churchill Downs, but when the rain came we took him out as the ground was completely against him. These conditions are much more to his liking and his best form is over a mile."
He added: "War Decree has loads of ability and won the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood as a two-year-old. We were happy with his run at Chester and he should cope with the drop to a mile."
Is Beat The Bank a Group 1 horse?
Beat The Bank was the flagbearer for his big-spending owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha last season, graduating from winning a Dundalk maiden up to Group 2 glory.
His season ended on a quiet note in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Champions Day, but trainer Andrew Balding is expecting the four-year-old to resume his progress this season.
Balding said: “I’m pretty happy with him. He’s done plenty of work so should be in a position to do himself justice on his first run of the season.
“He made huge progress last season and I think he more than deserves his place in a Group 1, and to have a shot at a race like this.”
What the rest say
Eve Johnson Houghton, trainer of Accidental Agent
He’s in great order. We know it’s a huge step up from being third in a Listed race last time but he always needs his first run. He loves a straight mile, it’s just down the road and he’s a horse with huge potential and promise so we need to test him and find out. He’s a really lovely horse and if he could get a place we’d be delighted.
Charlie Hills, trainer of Dutch Connection
He’s run in the Lockinge twice, but it’s been on the easy side both times. This has been the first winter he’s had a proper holiday – he went back to Godolphin at Newmarket and they did a great job with him. He’s never wintered so well and is moving great. He’s got his conditions so you never know as it doesn’t look the strongest race.
Clive Cox, trainer of Lahore and Zonderland
Zonderland is a really high-class performer who will appreciate the drier ground. He'll come on for this first run of the season. Lahore raced on extremely heavy ground at Leicester last time. It’s a big step up in class, and he needs to prove he gets a mile.
Dean Ivory, trainer of Librisa Breeze
He’s very well. Things didn’t go right for him in Dubai and I'm a little concerned about the ground being quicker than ideal. It’s a big field so we hope for a clean run and I don’t have any concerns about the trip. He’s versatile and very talented.
David Simcock, trainer of Lightning Spear
I’m really looking forward to running him. He’s come together really well and is going into the race in excellent form. He’s always run well fresh and this looks a very open race. He’s been placed in any number of Group 1s and it'd be brilliant if he could get his head in front.
David O’Meara, trainer of Suedois
He's in great form and I couldn't be happier with him. He stays the trip well and he'll like the ground.
Roger Varian, trainer of Zabeel Prince
He's trained nicely since winning at Doncaster and we’re bringing him here fresh and well. He’ll need to step forward again in this grade, and he has yet to race on good to firm, but he’s still unexposed and the course will suit.
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