Wolferton Stakes: Richard Birch believes recently-gelded runner will go close
Wolferton Stakes (Listed) | 1m2f | 4yo+ | ITV/SKY
It doesn’t take long to find the standout single piece of form in this Listed contest, which was first run in 2002 when Royal Ascot was extended to five days.
Regal Reality ran a career-best to finish third behind multiple Group 1 winners Enable and Magical in the Coral-Eclipse in July. The catch is that he has failed to reproduce that level in three subsequent starts – admittedly all at Group 1 or 2 level – and was promptly gelded at the end of the season.
If that operation has the desired effect in terms of performance on the racecourse, he should prove devilishly difficult to beat. The one concern would be if there was significant cut in the ground as all of his best efforts have been achieved on faster terrain.
Jim Crowley takes over in the saddle, with regular partner Ryan Moore claimed by Aidan O’Brien to partner Sir Dragonet.
The lightly-raced Sir Dragonet is also a leading contender on form, for all he could easily be called an underachiever so far. He was Moore's choice in the Derby last year, when he went off 11-4 favourite and finished a close fifth behind stablemate Anthony Van Dyck.
He was subsequently turned over at odds of 4-9 in the Group 3 Royal Whip Stakes at the Curragh and also looked one-paced when upped in trip for the St Leger, finishing fourth to Logician. He then suffered another odds-on defeat first time out this season at Naas in March.
It’s clear that he has something to prove now, but O’Brien’s record with ultimately finding the key to such high-class performers is extraordinary and few would be surprised if Sir Dragonet returned to winning ways.
John Gosden’s record in this race means anything he runs commands plenty of respect. The Newmarket handler has got onto the Wolferton scoresheet four times via Beachfire (2011), Gatewood (2012), Mahsoob (2015) and Monarchs Glen (2018).
Gosden has two runners this year. The Robert Havlin-ridden Dubai Warrior brings superior form to Crossed Baton, the mount of Frankie Dettori, and looked in terrific shape when landing the Group 3 Winter Derby at Lingfield in February.
Fox Tal, who finished in front of Regal Reality when fourth of nine to Magical in the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot last October, has always been held in high regard by Andrew Balding.
The runner-up in that race, Addeybb, won two Group 1s in Australia this spring, and Fox Tal is likely to make his presence felt from stall two under Silvestre de Sousa.
Race analysis by Richard Birch
Can Sir Dragonet get back on track?
This time last year you would have got a very big price about Sir Dragonet running in a Listed race at Royal Ascot in 2020. Yet, here he is seeking a first success since that remorseless demolition job in the Chester Vase over 13 months ago and clinging to his reputation as a top-class colt by the grit at the top of his fingernails.
Defeat here will probably ensure we never see him contest a Group 1 again, but victory could reignite a career that started so promisingly with two impressive wins and a fine fifth in the Derby; a race he was sent off favourite for.
Aidan O'Brien seems convinced he can still be a star and stressed that we would see plenty of improvement from his seasonal return, when he was turned over at odds of 8-15 in a Listed race at Naas on the first day of the Irish turf season in March.
Excuses simply won't wash with Sir Dragonet today. We have heard enough of them and it is about time he did his talking on the track. A race like this is his for the taking and it will be interesting to see whether he can grab the chance with both hands.
That is not to say that this will be a cakewalk for Sir Dragonet. There are any amount of potential stars hiding in the long grass and, among them, is Fox Tal.
We only saw him twice last season, but the second of those performances was a fine fourth to Magical in the Champion Stakes. A repeat of that would put him right in the mix.
What they say
John Gosden, trainer of Dubai Warrior and Crossed Baton
Dubai Warrior may not run if there is any more rain as he is a definite top of the ground horse and if any more comes he may be a possible withdrawal. Crossed Baton is ready to have a run. He's a genuine horse at the level and is due a bit of luck in the race as he drew the car park last year.
Saeed bin Suroor, trainer of Mountain Hunter and Dream Castle
Mountain Hunter ran well without winning in Dubai but should enjoy this trip and any cut in the ground. Dream Castle was also in good form over winter and shapes as if he should get this trip although we are hoping to find something out about him.
Roger Charlton, trainer of Extra Elusive
This is always a strong race and we'll be up against it, I suspect. But the horse is in good form so we'll take our chance.
Charlie Fellowes, trainer of King Ottokar
Everything went wrong in the Brigadier Gerard. He was fresh, he got no cover, and it just fell in a heap. This race will suit him much better but this is a very strong Wolferton. If they get rain and the ground goes easy then he has no excuse. He likes a big field, a strong base to aim at, likes getting covered up and he likes soft ground. If he gets those with his great draw in eight, he will massively outrun his odds. He ran a huge race over course and distance last year where everything that could have gone wrong did, and if we can get a nice position then he will run a big race.
Roger Varian, trainer of Mountain Angel and Prince Eiji
Prince Eiji ran well on his comeback in what looked a strong Listed race and although the trip is an unknown. he's bred for it. His outside draw is not ideal, however. Mountain Angel is ready for his first run of the tear and the race and likely conditions should suit him.
Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Sir Dragonet
He's in good order and we thought this looked a lovely race for him. Magic Wand was second in the race last year and it set her up nicely for the rest of the season and we're hoping for something similar from Sir Dragonet. He's in good order and has had plenty of time since his run at Naas. We always knew he would come on plenty for that run and we thought all along that he would be even better at four than he was at three.
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