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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

The big-name jumps trainers out to gatecrash royal party

Paul Nicholls: plans to run High Secret at the royal meeting
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Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson and Alan King all expect to be represented at Royal Ascot, although plans for one of Nicholls' main hopes have been thwarted by a problem none too common with Ditcheat horses.

Nicholls, who was hoping to give daughter Megan two rides at the meeting, revealed: "I was hoping to run last week's Kempton winner Zubayr in the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap but I've seen the mark he's been given and he's too well handicapped. He's on 83, and with that mark he wouldn't even get in under a penalty, as last year the cut off point was 95.

"I thought he'd be higher than that, but it's not all bad news as I've hopefully got a well handicapped horse.

"He'll be entered still, but it will take a miracle for him to get in and we'll just have to find another nice handicap where he can run off his mark."

Nicholls will, however, still have one runner at the meeting.

He said: "High Secret was second off 95 at Goodwood and has been left on that mark. He'll be going for the Ascot Stakes on the first day."

Henderson, who has won at Royal Ascot with Caracciola, Veiled and Forgotten Voice, intends running last season's smart novice hurdler Beyond Conceit in the same race and believes Fitri Hay's eight-year-old can be competitive.

He said: "He's run well in that sort of race in his younger days [fourth Goodwood Stakes in 2013] and we like to have runners in the race.

Beyond Conceit (near side): will bid to improve Nicky Henderson's record in the Ascot Stakes
"He's a stayer and was a very good second over three miles in a Grade 1 at Aintree, having won over two miles at Newbury and two and a half miles at Ascot. I think Jamie Spencer will ride him, with a bit of luck, and I'd hope he would be interesting there.

"He's off 92 and just has to creep into the handicap, but I think he should do."

King, who won last year's King George V Handicap with Primitivo, has yet to finalise plans but could have up to five runners from an increasingly powerful Flat team.

Rainbow Dreamer and Who Dares Wins are both possibles for the Ascot Stakes, Top Tug is an intended runner in Friday's Duke of Edinburgh, and First Mohican and Grumeti are pencilled in for Saturday's Queen Alexandra.

High Secret was second off 95 at Goodwood and has been left on that mark. He'll be going for the Ascot Stakes on the first day
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