Crowley excited by blistering Battaash ahead of Coolmore Nunthorpe showdown
Lady Aurelia and Battaash head a final field of 12 for what promises to be an exhilarating renewal of the £350,000 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York on Friday.
The pair, both three-year-olds, have established themselves as this season’s outstanding performers over five furlongs and their first clash, over the minimum trip on the Knavesmire, should provide 56 seconds or so to savour in what is the fifth leg in the Sprint category of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
Lady Aurelia has been beaten only once in six starts and was an emphatic winner of the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot on her latest start. Wesley Ward’s filly will attempt to go one better than Acapulco, runner-up for the trainer in the 2015 running, and in the process become the first American-trained winner of the Nunthorpe.
Battaash is owned by Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum and the gelding’s scintillating wins at Sandown (twice) and Goodwood this campaign have revived memories of dazzling speedster Dayjur, who carried the Sheikh’s famous blue-and-white silks to a four-length victory in the Nunthorpe in 1990.
Jim Crowley rode Battaash for the first time in public when winning the Group 2 King George Stakes on soft ground at Goodwood last time, but had got a feel of his pace on the gallops of trainer Charlie Hills beforehand. “I pulled him out in his work and he was gone - it was a great feeling,” the Stobart Champion Jockey said. “He’s not overly big but he’s just got such a high cruising speed.
“What impressed me at Goodwood was the way he coped with the ground because there’s always a doubt in your mind when a horse has got so much speed. He’d broken the track record at Sandown the time before. If York get any rain it won’t inconvenience him but he’s equally effective on fast ground and I think the track will suit him.”
Crowley finished fourth on Muthmir in the King’s Stand, finishing three and a half lengths behind Lady Aurelia. He also finished fourth on the same horse behind Battaash in the Coral Charge at Sandown the following month, when beaten an aggregate of about seven lengths.
“He beat Muthmir much further than she beat him, but under different circumstances,” he said. “Fillies can be a little in and out, plus she has to cope with the travelling backwards and forwards, but what she’s done so far she has been impressive. She’s a very fast filly and it’s going to be a great race.”
Clive Cox is well positioned to assess the “big two” because his principal contender, Profitable, chased home Lady Aurelia in the King’s Stand, when seeking back-to-back victories in the race, and also finished runner-up behind Battaash at Goodwood last time. Cox has not given up hope of turning the tables on the pair and says Profitable’s below-par sixth behind Mecca’s Angel in the Nunthorpe 12 months ago, when he got a bump leaving the stalls, should be excused.
“Profitable is in great form and I’m really pleased with him,” he said. “I’d say Lady Aurelia is the one to be beat, but we are 4lb better off with her compared to Ascot. Last year, Take Cover put pay to his chance at the start and he never really found any rhythm. He’s a Listed winner at York, so the track is not a worry.”
Cox will also be represented by Priceless, winner of the Group 2 Armstrong Aggregates Temple Stakes at Haydock in May. She had Goldream, Alpha Delphini, Final Venture, Washington DC, Take Cover and Cotai Glory behind on that occasion.
In common with Lady Aurelia and Profitable, Marsha (the 2016 Qatar Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp) and Goldream (the 2015 King’s Stand and 2015 Qatar Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp) also boast winning form at Group 1 level.
“Marsha’s the fastest filly around, except for Lady Aurelia, who made us look slow last time,” Prescott said. Asked if he had a cunning plan to defeat her, he smiled and said: “No, not really, but these sprinters need it all to go their way, so you’ve got to hope to get lucky.
“Mr Hills’ horse [Battaash] also beat her fair and square at Goodwood, so we’ve got it all to do really, but I’ve never thought that is her best track. She’s a winner there [York] and I think it will suit her a fraction better, although I don’t think it will suit her any better than Ascot, and Lady Aurelia beat me there. I think I need a bit of luck.”
The David Griffiths-trained Take Cover, third last year in what was the fastest 5f race run in the world, will attempt to go two places better and, at 10, become the oldest winner. His stablemate Duke Of Firenze is up against it on official ratings but is a dual course winner.
Prescott hoping St Michel can book ticket for Melbourne in style
St Michel, trained by Sir Mark Prescott, will seek to continue his remarkable rise up the staying ladder by winning the £200,000 Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup Stakes at York on Friday (2.25). The Group 2 contest, run over two miles and 56 yards, is the fourth race in the Long Distance category of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
The four-year-old was beaten off a mark of 69 in a handicap at Musselburgh last summer but is now rated 43lb higher. His best effort in 2016 was when finishing third behind Sheikhzayedroad in the Doncaster Cup and he showed he was again going to be a force this term when a head runner-up in the Grade 3 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational Stakes at Belmont on his latest start, in early June, under Irad Ortiz Jr.
“I heard the jockey criticised the other day but I thought he gave him a good ride and that we had every chance,” Prescott said. “It was a very good run on fast ground. Two miles around York will be fine for him and if all goes well on Friday he will go for the Melbourne Cup. He would go into quarantine on September 14.”
St Michel carries the colours of the late John Pearce, who died aged 98 in March. After successfully escaping from a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Hong Kong in the Second World War, Pearce became an acclaimed bloodstock breeder and owner. “It’s such a shame Mr Pearce, who bred and owned him, is no longer with us but his nephew and executors are keeping them [his horses] going to a point,” Prescott said.
Dartmouth, owned by Her Majesty The Queen, already has a QIPCO British Champions Series win at York on his CV, having won a thrilling renewal of the Betway Yorkshire Cup at York in May. His task is heightened, however, by a 3lb penalty.
Sheikhzayedroad is a dual QIPCO British Champions Series winner, courtesy of his victories in the Doncaster Cup and QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup, and, in common with High Jinx, winner of the 2014 Qatar Prix du Cadran winner, boasts Group 1 winning form.
Dal Harraild won a Listed race over 1m6f at York in May and William Haggas, his trainer, has been looking forward to unleashing him over Friday’s longer distance. He would have run him in the Goodwood Cup this month but for an untimely minor setback the day before the race.
Montaly, winner of the 188Bet Chester Cup in May, and Higher Power, who landed the Stobart Rail Northumberland Plate at Newcastle the following month, have between them won two of the year’s biggest staying handicaps.
The nine-runner field is completed by Prince Of Arran was runner-up in the Group 3 Longines Sagaro Stakes at Ascot in May, and the Willie Mullins-trained Thomas Hobson. Mullins won the 2015 Lonsdale Cup with Max Dynamite.
Churchill ready for £1 million Juddmonte International
TRAINER Aidan O’Brien will ask his dual 2000 Guineas hero, Churchill, to tackle an extended mile and a quarter for the first time tomorrow when the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival gets underway at York.
Churchill is one of seven declared runners for what's set to be an outstanding renewal of the Group one Juddmonte International Stakes. The Galileo colt started his season with a fine victory in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and followed up with success in the Irish version of the mile Classic at The Curragh.
But he suffered defeat in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot before being pulled out of the Sussex Stakes after sustained rainfall changed the ground at Glorious Goodwood earlier this month.
O’Brien said: “It wasn’t ideal – we had him over there and it was just one of the freak weather things, I suppose. But he seems to have been well since.
“He hasn’t done an awful lot because it’s not long ago and he was fit going to Goodwood. Obviously, we would have preferred if we had a run – but that’s the way it is.
“We’ve always thought that a mile and a quarter would be within his compass. Everything seems well with him since Goodwood, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Churchill will be joined in the first ever £1million renewal of the prestigious contest by stable-mate, Cliffs Of Moher who met trouble in running early on in the Coral Eclipse at Sandown where he finished fourth behind Ulysses and Barney Roy – both of whom he re-opposes on the Knavesmire.
O’Brien added: “He suffered very bad interference in Sandown and I suppose he was lucky, really, not to fall. But he has been well since and we have been happy with his work.”
Earlier in the afternoon, O’Brien’s Ballydoyle team will be triple-handed in the Betway Great Voltigeur Stakes. Venice Beach, Spanish Steps and Douglas Macarthur have all been declared for the mile and a half Group 2.
Venice Beach was only beaten a length in the Grand Prix de Paris, a race in which an inexperienced Spanish Steps didn’t fire. But the latter came out and nicely won the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown almost two weeks ago. Douglas Macarthur won the Derrinstown Derby Trial in the spring before two creditable runs in the English and Irish Derbies.
O’Brien assessed: “Both Venice Beach and Spanish Steps went to Paris. Venice Beach ran a great race – Spanish Steps was a little bit green, a little bit babyish but came forward great from it and won very nicely at Leopardstown, beating Johannes Vermeer.
“Venice Beach has been in good form since France and we think – and hope – the track will suit him well. He is in good order as well. We think he is a horse who will progress through the whole year and look forward to him next year.
“We’re looking forward to seeing Douglas Macarthur run. We think he gets a mile and a half well – and might even get further. But he is in very good form and we’re very happy with him. He had a break after his last run and is just ready to start back again.”
In the first of twelve Pattern races over the Festival, the Group 3 Tattersalls Acomb Stakes, O’Brien will saddle promising two-year-old prospect Fleet Review over the seven furlong trip;
He said: “Fleet Review has had three runs and won the last twice – two six-furlong races at The Curragh, a maiden and a winners’ race.
“We always thought that he might get further than six. He is a forward-going horse. We think it’s a good time and a good track to just start going a little bit further and have another look at him.”
Thursday will see fellow O’Brien juvenile, Actress, who has been declared for the Group 2 Sky Bet Lowther. She has already shown her class with a third-place effort in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes on August 13.
O’Brien said: “She has been progressing with every run. Obviously we’re going back a little bit early with her but she’s in good form. She came out of her last race well and we’re hoping she runs well.”
Alluringly, declared for the Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks, will face middle-distance heroine, Enable, for the third time this season. O’Brien’s charge enjoyed a confidence booster when landing a Listed race over an extended nine furlongs at Gowran Park but is now stepped back up in trip.
O’Brien confirmed: “We’re going to give her another go over a mile and a half. She won in Gowran very nicely. That was only a few days ago but she seems to have come out of it well.”
The trainer also outlined that US Navy Flag is looking like the stable’s runner in Saturday’s Al Basti Equiworld Gimcrack Stakes.
Ballydoyle’s plans are still being finalised for Saturday’s £285,000 Betfred Ebor.
Johnston juveniles make for a strong hand
CARDSHARP heads a strong hand of juveniles set to compete at the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival for Middleham-based trainer, Mark Johnston.
Cardsharp, winner of the Group 2 July Stakes at Newmarket, is being targeted at the £225,000 Al Basti Equiworld Gimcrack Stakes on the final day of four, Saturday.
The son of Lonhro has won three times this season, as well as finishing third in both the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood.
Connections were disappointed with that last effort but feel they can put it down to the soft underfoot conditions.
Charlie Johnston, son and assistant to trainer Mark, said: “He was under strong consideration for the Group 1 Prix Morny this weekend but we have decided to go to York instead.
“He didn’t show his true running at Goodwood and at this stage we are putting it down to the soft ground. At Newmarket when he won, he hit the line very strongly whereas at Goodwood he travelled like the best horse in the race but couldn’t quicken. Hopefully it was because of the ground and he will show his best on Saturday.
“He has to carry a penalty again but horses who have a penalty have a good record in the race and he goes there in good shape.”
Cardsharp carries the colours of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, who also owns Threading and Dee Ex Bee, two juveniles who are out to defend unbeaten records at York this week.
Threading could hardly have been more impressive when winning a Goodwood fillies’ maiden by six lengths on debut and she is due to step up in grade for the Group 2 Sky Bet Lowther Stakes on Thursday.
Johnston added: “Threading was supplemented for the Lowther at a cost of £15,000 last Friday. It is obviously a big step up but she was very impressive at Goodwood. Not many fillies win a Glorious Goodwood maiden by six lengths.
“She is a filly we have always liked and we feel she is up to being competitive at this grade. It looks a wide open Lowther and one we feel she has a chance of running very well in.”
Dee Ex Bee has a similar profile to his stable-mate Threading in that he too, won a Goodwood maiden in smart fashion on debut. He has been declared for the meeting’s first Pattern contest, the Tattersalls Acomb Stakes, a Group 3 staged over seven furlongs.
Johnston said of the son of Farhh: “We’ve seen the final declarations and it looks a race full of horses like him – maiden/ novice winners who are stepping up in grade.
“This was the plan for him straight away after his impressive win at Goodwood. He is a colt we have always thought a bit of and we wanted to save him for Glorious Goodwood.
“We have been happy with him since that win and hopefully he’s good enough.”
Johnston has a large team of well-known handicappers set to run throughout the week including another Goodwood winner Soldier In Action who is on schedule for Saturday’s feature, the £285,000 Betfred Ebor Handicap.
The Alan Spence-owned gelding is currently a 16/1 chance with the sponsors.
Johnston, who saddled the winner in 1992, said: “Alan and Michael (Spence) were both keen to run here after he won at Goodwood and he seems in good form.
“A mile and six (furlongs) at a track like York with Silvestre De Sousa booked to ride are all positives and we are hopeful he can run a big race. In a race like the Ebor you need so much luck but he’ll take his chance and, like I said, there are plenty of boxes ticked.”
Lets talk Battaash
There's little doubt though that the appearance of three horses trained in America by Wesley Ward should provide one of the highlights of this week.
Leading the team is the brilliant speed machine, Lady Aurelia, who is set to clash with the rising star of the British sprinting scene, Battaash, in a mouthwatering Coolmore Nunthorpe on Friday.
Battaash has rocketed through the sprinting ranks with his demolition of a Group 2 field at Goodwood earlier this month set him up for this weeks showdown.
Former jockey Michael Murphy, who actually rode the horse on his debut last year now works for Trainer Charlie Hills and rides the colt every morning on the gallops.
He's been talking to Mike Vince about the new kid on the sprinting block ahead of his date with destiny on the Knavesmire.
Ulysses heads Stoute's crack team for the Ebor Festival
SIR Michael Stoute will bring a team brimming with talent to York for the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival, which runs for four days from next Wednesday.
The Newmarket trainer has a superb record at the famous meeting, winning no less than 16 Group 1s on the Knavesmire. He has also triumphed three times in the prestigious handicap that gives the Festival its name – the Betfred Ebor.
On the first day, Stoute will bring Ulysses for the eagerly-anticipated clash of the big guns in the £1million Juddmonte International. Fellow stars Churchill and Barney Roy are also set to line up in the extended mile and a quarter contest, ranked as the best race in Britain on its three year IFHA average, but Ulysses beat the latter by a nose in a thrilling renewal of Coral Eclipse in July.
Stoute’s charge was subsequently beaten by the race sponsor’s outstanding filly, Enable, in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, over a mile and a half.
“We are planning to go,” said Stoute, confirming his intentions to run Ulysses in the Juddmonte International. “He is taking his racing very well and we’re pleased with what we see.”
As for the decision to drop back from 12 to 10 furlongs, he added: “He’s competent at both trips. He loves top of the ground but he goes on any. You’ve only got to look at the King George and you’ve got your evidence there.
“I think it will be a high-quality race – it’s very interesting. We’ve had some great races for the International in the past and we’ll probably have a great one this time.”
On the same afternoon, the Newmarket-based trainer will saddle Mirage Dancer in the Betway Great Voltigeur. Stoute has won the mile and a half Group 2 race on seven previous occasions, the latest being in 2013 when Telescope struck.
Mirage Dancer is a lightly-raced son of Frankel who has shaped with bags of promise in both of his runs at three. His last start saw him beaten just over a length into third place in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
Stoute said: “We’re just leaving nice gaps between his races. He is progressive. We like the horse and he keeps improving. This would be as far as he would ever want to go.”
No trainer has more than Stoute’s tally of nine Darley Yorkshire Oaks victories – although Matthew Dawson also won the race nine times in the 19th century. Next Thursday he plans to be double-handed in the £350,000 Group 1 with Queen’s Trust and Abingdon, tasked with taking on Enable.
Queen’s Trust, a Breeders’ Cup champion from last autumn, has run better this year than a glance at her bare form may suggest. Abingdon has shown up particularly well when competing on fast ground, notably when winning a Listed race at Pontefract by 10 lengths in June.
Stoute said: “Queens Trust hasn’t had the rub of the green this year. In the Prince of Wales’s, she got badly interfered with and was really coming home. Then the ground was too soft for her in the Nassau. But she is in good shape – she’ll run a big one.
“Abingdon is solid. She’s won at the track – the Galtres last year – she has been running well this year and I hope she’ll be in the frame. I’ll be happy with that. Loves top of the ground – good is no problem. But with her, she doesn’t want it softer than good.”
On the same afternoon, the British EBF and Sir Henry Cecil Galtres Stakes is the next scheduled assignment for Mori. The beautifully-bred Frankel filly is out of Midday, so her pedigree has York Group One winners on both sides, was only pipped by a neck in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Stoute said: “The plan is for Mori to go to the Galtres. The Ribblesdale was the best race she has run to date. She is progressive and we are very happy with her.”
The last of Stoute’s victories in the Ebor was provided by Clerkenwell in 1996. Since then, though, he finished second in 2010 with Rosika, who is the dam of his intended challenger, Dubka, on Saturday 26 August.
Dubka showed that she is very much made of the right stuff when beaten just a neck over a mile and six-furlongs – the Ebor distance – in a Group 3 at the Goodwood Qatar Festival earlier this month.
Stoute, who plans to run only her in the race, said: “She’s tough, stays well. I would think that run at Goodwood was the best that she has produced so far. The dam nearly won the Ebor so let’s hope she can win it.”
Frankie Dettori looks forward to flying fillies at York
Frankie Dettori described both Lady Aurelia and Enable as fillies with the “wow” factor based on their impressive seasons to date and he is looking forward to partnering them in big races at the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival.
The ebullient Italian was speaking to Racing UK after riding a piece of work on Lady Aurelia on the home straight of the Knavesmire and said “it felt like we were going a million miles an hour, she hasn’t lost her speed”.
With the filly having travelled from her base in Kentucky, Frankie continued, “American horses tend to like flat tracks, so York will suit her”.
The fastest race of the week, the Coolmore Nunthorpe on Friday is the target for Lady Aurelia where she is set to clash with Battaash, the impressive winner of the King George Stakes at the Qatar Goodwood Festival. Frankie described himself as “very impressed” with his Charlie Hills trained opponent and noted that his filly will “have to be at her very best” to land the biggest share of the £350,000 prize money.
Reflecting on dual Classic and King George winner, Enable, Frankie observed “you gotta say “wow”, I know how good she is, so you’re just hoping that she turns up”. Trained by John Gosden, the filly in the famous colours of Frankel is bidding to add the Darley Yorkshire Oaks on Thursday to her Group One successes in the Investec Oaks and Darley Irish Oaks.
In a busy morning on the Knavesmire, Frankie also partnered a second American filly, Happy Like a Fool for a spin and confirmed her as being “very speedy, in good form” ahead of the supplementary entry for the Sky Bet Lowther Stakes, the Group Two target for juveniles fillies, on Thursday.”
Andrea Atzeni talks about a big week ahead
The top jockeys are trying to sort out their books of rides for the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival which starts on wednesday.
Three Group One's and one of Britian's best known handicaps headline the four days on the Knavesmire, for which record prize money is on offer.
A year ago Andrea Atzeni grabbed the headlines when he partnered Postponed to victory in the Juddmonte International, the opening day feature whic h will be worth a million pounds for the first time this year.
He's been talking to Mike Vince about his hopes for what he admits is ' a big week for everyone'.
Gosden confirms Enable on course for Darley Yorkshire Oaks
MIDDLE-distance heroine, Enable, heads up the entry for the Darley Yorkshire Oaks – the £350,000 feature race of Ladies Day, next Thursday at York.
Enable represents trainer John Gosden, who has three of the nine entries for the mile-and-a-half Group 1 contest for fillies aged three and upwards.
Enable, owned and bred by Prince Khalid Abdullah, has lit up the summer with a series of brilliant performances. She won the Investec Oaks by five lengths and followed up by triumphing in the Darley Irish Oaks – again by an emphatic margin.
To many eyes, she topped even those excellent displays with a four-and-a-half length victory when taking on the older colts, in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot last month. Now it’s next stop York for the fabulous filly by Nathaniel.
Gosden said today: “Enable is happy and well. We always wanted to go to this race. It was meant to be Irish Oaks to Yorkshire Oaks. She took the Irish Oaks so much in her stride that then the King George came into play. This was part of the original plan and hopefully we’ll be there.”
In recent years, Gosden’s Clarehaven Stables has housed stars such as Golden Horn and Taghrooda, both of whom came to feature races at the York showpiece. Now Enable is the latest yard flag-bearer to give pleasure to the Gosden team and target the Knavesmire. The Newmarket-based trainer added: “When you are lucky enough to have a Golden Horn in the yard or a filly of Enable’s ilk – like Taghrooda – it’s a great buzz. But of course with it comes added pressures – never forget that.”
Another Gosden-trained horse that will be the subject of great interest at the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival is Cracksman, who is set to contest the Group 2 Betway Great Voltigeur on the opening day of the meeting, next Wednesday.
The son of Frankel has run in two Derbies – at Epsom and The Curragh – on his last two starts, finishing third and second respectively. Gosden assessed: “We’d be hoping to run Cracksman in the Great Voltigeur. A mile and a half, fresh ground on the Wednesday – he’s in good order. It looks a Voltigeur of great depth.”
Gosden also indicated that Shutter Speed is in line for a tilt at the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes, which takes place thirty-five minutes later on Wednesday. The Tattersalls Musidora Stakes winner over course and distance in May was subsequently fourth in the Group 1 Prix de Diane at Chantilly so eyes a share of the £1 million prize fund.
Cox eyes Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes for sprint duo
LEADING trainer Clive Cox is hoping to saddle two runners in this season’s Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York on Friday 25 August.
At this stage, both Profitable and Priceless are on target to line up in the five-furlong Group 1, which is worth £350,000.
The former, who runs in the colours of Godolphin, secured a Group 1 success in last year’s King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot and has enjoyed another solid campaign so far in 2017. He also showed his potential when winning in Listed company aged three here at York.
He has finished runner-up on all of his previous three starts including when bidding for back-to-back wins at Royal Ascot and when last seen in action in Group 2 company at the Qatar Goodwood Festival.
Those two defeats came at the hands of Lady Aurelia and Battaash respectively and a rematch could well be on the cards for Cox’s sprinting ace.
Profitable is set to be joined by the Alan Spence-owned Priceless, a daughter of Exceed And Excel who landed a Group 2 prize earlier this season in the Temple Stakes at Haydock.
That success came on ground officially described as ‘firm’ and Cox is hoping that the ground will be on the quick side for both of his charges.
He said: “At the moment both Profitable and Priceless are intended runners in the Nunthorpe.
“Both seem in good form at home and deserve to take their chance. The long-range forecast looks decent and this would be in both their favour.
“Profitable ran well at Goodwood – we were very happy with him. He has come out of the race in good form.
“It looks like being a very competitive race – certainly a mouthwatering contest – and one that will be great to be part of.”
Cox has plundered many of the UK’s top sprint prizes in recent years and just last month he landed the Darley July Cup at Newmarket with Harry Angel. He has yet to take the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes and it is no doubt a race he would love to add to his CV.
He added: “It is always great to have runners at York – especially in the big races. Everyone wants to be part of it. It is a great occasion and somewhere we love to have winners.”
Barney Roy is in great form
Trainer Richard Hannon relishing York test for stable star.
TRAINER Richard Hannon believes stable star, Barney Roy, “will take all the beating” in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York next Wednesday.
The Godolphin-owned colt was one of 15 horses today left in first running of a York contest at £1million prize money, at the latest entry stage.
The extended mile and a quarter Group 1 feature is set to deliver a mighty showdown between Barney Roy, Churchill and Ulysses.
The trio are vying for favouritism in the betting after, between them, delivering some superb performances so far this season.
Three-year-old pair Barney Roy and Churchill have clashed twice so far. Ballydoyle ace Churchill drew first blood when winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket but Barney Roy turned the tables on his rival with success in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Barney Roy has since been beaten by a nose in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown by progressive four-year-old Ulysses.
Hannon said: “Barney Roy is in great form at home and has done very well since the Eclipse.
“He's had a nice break and will go to Kempton for a bit of work this week. He heads there in fantastic order and the Juddmonte looks the ideal race for him.
“The Eclipse form has been boosted by the victory of Eminent on Tuesday (in a Group 2 at Deauville) and I think he will take all the beating at York.”
Hannon also outlined that he expects to be represented in other races through the four-day meeting, which runs from Wednesday 23 August to Saturday 26 August inclusive.
The master of Herridge Racing Stables talked about a contender for Britain’s richest nursery, at £70,000, adding: “Other runners will include the likes of Tangled in the (Betway) Nursery, who – having had to do a stalls test since Goodwood – heads there in great order.
“Kool Kompany has a few options available to him and hopefully can bring his best form back to the table after not a bad run in the Sussex.”
Sir Mark Prescott clarifies Ebor favourite's position re York start
Marsha to take on big guns in Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes
TRAINER Sir Mark Prescott has outlined that his ante-post favourite for the £285,000 Betfred Ebor will require ‘soft’ in the ground description to ensure that he line ups at York on Saturday 26 August.
Prescott’s charge Flymetothestars has won three of his five starts – all of which have come on all-weather surfaces.
The four-year-old Sea The Stars’ gelding was last seen on July 1 in the Stobart Rail Northumberland Plate when running a fine third, beaten just three-parts of a length by Higher Power.
He is currently 7/1 with sponsors Betfred for the Ebor, staged over a mile and three-quarters on the Knavesmire.
Prescott said: “Flymetothestars will only run if there is ‘soft’ in the ground description. It’s a very unusual situation isn’t it – he has never run on turf in his life. He ran extremely well in the Northumberland Plate and hence he is such a short price. But he has never run on turf, only on all-weather.”
Prescott also confirmed that flying filly Marsha is to be tasked with tackling big guns Lady Aurelia and Battaash in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York on Friday 25 August.
Marsha began the season with a dazzling victory in the Group 3 Palace House Stakes at Newmarket. The consistent four-year-old, owned by Elite Racing Club, has not been out of the three all season and is a course and distance winner having landed the Listed John Smith’s City Walls’ Stakes last July.
She was third behind Lady Aurelia in the Group 1 King’s Stand at Royal Ascot and also filled the same position on her last start at Glorious Goodwood behind Battaash in Group 2 company.
Now Marsha is ready to return to Group 1 company for a shot at the £350,000 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes.
Prescott assessed: “She is very consistent, run in all the top sprints this year and been placed every time.
“The Nunthorpe looks a marvellous race with some very, very fast horses in it and she is entitled to be there but Lady Aurelia and Mr Hills’ (Battaash) have both beaten her this year.
“They have beaten her fair and square before but in sprints tiny little things make a big difference.”
Lady Aurelia settles in at York ahead of Coolmore Nunthorpe bid
The American star filly, Lady Aurelia, is settling in at York ahead of her bid for further Group One glory in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes on Friday 25 August.
Trained by Wesley Ward, she is one of three intended runners for the Kentucky based operation, who are now enjoying a Yorkshire welcome, ahead of the four day Festival.
A likely first runner will be Happy Like A Fool, with the juvenile filly anticipated to be given a supplementary entry for the Sky Bet Lowther on Thursday 24 August. Having been second in the Group Two Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot, she hopes to land the richest British Group Two for two year old fillies, in the £225,000 Lowther. Connections are expected to confirm her intended participation by paying the supplementary entry fee of £15,000 by Noon on Friday 18 August.
Lady Aurelia herself was a winner at Royal Ascot and is considered to be the best three year old in the USA, putting up a memorable display of speed in the Group One Kings Stand Stakes over the same five furlong trip as the Coolmore Nunthorpe. The American filly is a general 6-4 favourite for York’s fastest race of the year, in front of King George Stakes winner, Battaash, from the Lambourn yard of Charlie Hills.
Completing the American raiding party is a third filly, Elizabeth Darcy, last seen running into second in a Group Three at Deauville after her European debut in the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes. Her target comes on Saturday 26 August in the Listed Julia Graves Roses Stakes, again over five furlongs, with £70,000 in the prize money kitty.
The three runners alongside companion thoroughbred, Strike The Tiger (a Royal Ascot runner back in 2009), are settling in well; with their stable staff enjoying the sights of one of Europe’s best known tourist cities.
In regular contact with Wesley Ward who is supervising runners on his home continent, assistant trainer Ed Veale who is with the runners in York said; “The horses and the team have had a great welcome and have settled in really well at York ahead of an exciting week. We dream of having a single winner at a big festival like the Ebor – Wesley came so close with Acapulco back in 2015 - so having live prospects in three Stakes races is a real buzz. We know it won’t be easy because everyone wants a share of that prestige and prize money.”
Ulysses and Barney Roy on York collison course in Juddmonte International
Coral-Eclipse principals Ulysses and Barney Roy are on course to clash again in what is shaping up to be a fantastic renewal of the Juddmonte International at York on Wednesday week.
The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Ulysses edged out Richard Hannon's three-year-old colt by a nose in Sandown's 10-furlong showpiece and connections have confirmed both horses will head to the Knavesmire, where the opposition could include dual Guineas winner Churchill.
Ulysses will be dropping back in trip after finishing second to Enable in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on his latest start.
Alan Cooper, racing manager for owners the Niarchos family, said: "Michael said on Monday he worked very nicely in the morning and the plan, all being well, is to go for the Juddmonte on Wednesday week.
"The long-term objective this year is the Breeders' Cup Turf again."
Barney Roy is reported in top shape ahead of a rematch with his Sandown conqueror.
"I'm very happy with him and we're all set for York," Hannon said.
"It was a fantastic run in the Eclipse. It proved that he gets the trip and that he's tough.
"Hopefully he can go to York and make amends."
Ulshaw Bridge all set for York return
TRAINER James Bethell is targeting the opening day of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival, Wednesday 23 August, at York with promising two-year-old, Ulshaw Bridge.
The High Chaparral colt is a proven course performer, having comfortably won the John Smith’s Novice Median Auction Stakes over six furlongs on the Knavesmire last month.
Connections are aiming for a first run in Group company, in the £90,000 Group Three Tattersalls Acomb Stakes, staged over seven furlongs.
An alternative option is the richest nursery in the land, the £70,000 Betway-supported contest over six furlongs that concludes the same card.
Ulshaw Bridge – named after the medieval structure that crosses the River Ure, a couple of miles east of his training base in Middleham – was 12/1 for that first career success in July, beating several well-fancied prospects.
“I was very impressed with him,” said Bethell. “The second (Midnight Wilde) has come out and won and I think something that finished way behind (Sands of Mali) has come out and won. So the form looks quite good.”
Ulshaw Bridge was subsequently a fast-finishing third, beaten just half-a-length in a six-furlong conditions race at Chester where the winner and runner-up both carried less weight than him.
It was the manner in which he finished that race, powering from last to almost win, that really caught the eye.
“I think that just the course being so sharp just caught him out a bit,” assessed Bethell. “But when he hit the straight he flew very fast. Another half a furlong – well, even less than half a furlong – he'd have won, I think.”
The fact that he was doing his best work late on has Bethell leaning towards the seven-furlong Tattersalls Acomb Stakes.
“We think he'd be better suited by seven furlongs but I’m possibly going to put him in the six-furlong nursery as well – just in case there's something very smart in the Acomb. But we'd like to go for the Acomb if we can.”
The colt, owned by Geoffrey Van Cutsem and Partners, is in good shape ahead of whichever opening day assignment he contests at York.
“He is well now and won't do a lot of fast work,” said Bethell. “He’ll probably have a little spin towards the end of the week and that’s it. But he is quite an easy horse to train.”
As for Ulshaw Bridge’s long-term prospects, Bethell is envisaging a horse that will keep taking forward strides as a three-year-old. “He should definitely progress and get stronger. He is a very nice horse to train.”
Hills looking forward Battaash clash with Lady Aurelia
TRAINER Charlie Hills has billed his stable star Battaash’s head-to-head with Lady Aurelia in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York as “what racing is all about.”
The pair have lit up the sprinting scene in 2017 with some superlative performances and now they are on schedule to clash in the £350,000 Group 1 on the Knavesmire on Friday 25 August.
The American ace, Lady Aurelia, trained by Wesley Ward, put up a sensational display to land the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Though, Battaash, owned by Sheikh Hamdan, has emerged as the leading British-trained speedster this season with three emphatic victories, earning an official rating of 122.
Two of those successes came at over the same five furlong trip as the York contest though both were at Sandown, the second in the Group 3 company, saw him smash the course record.
His Sandown wins were both recorded on top of the ground but the three-year-old has subsequently proved that he handles soft underfoot conditions when taking the Group 2 King George Stakes at the Qatar Goodwood Festival a week ago.
Hills has been pleased with his charge since that success and is relishing the prospect of taking him to the Knavesmire in two weeks’ time.
He said: “Battaash has come out of his win at Goodwood really well and we are looking forward to York now.
“He isn’t a horse who a needs a lot of work between his races so it is a case of ticking him over and keeping him in good form.
“I am happy with him. We were obviously delighted with his performance at Goodwood. He showed that he goes on any ground and beat a number of very good horses.
“It is not going to be easy at York – Lady Aurelia is obviously very good but there are plenty of other top sprinters in there too. Clashes like this are what racing is all about and we are looking forward to it.”
The Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes is sure to be one of the highlights of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival. Other likely participants include Group 1 winners Marsha, Profitable and Goldream.
Churchill set for the Juddmonte International
Churchill is set to step up in trip and compete against his elders in the 1m 2f Juddmonte International Stakes on Wednesday 23rd August at the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival.
After being a late non-runner in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood last week due to testing ground, A P O’Brien, Churchill’s trainer, has now said “It’s very possible his next race will be the Juddmonte International”.
After suffering defeat last time out in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in June Churchill will need to bounce back. However, it looks to be a tough contest for the 3 year old colt as he is set to take on the winner of the race Barney Roy who is the current 3/1 favourite for the race.
Battaash heads for mouth-watering clash with Lady Aurelia
Battaash, the vastly improved 3 year old sprinter, is set to take on the American super filly Lady Aurelia in what promises to be an exceptional renewal of the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes on Friday 25 August at the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival.
Battaash who has been progressing quickly through the sprinting ranks is set for his biggest challenge after spread-eagling some of the best sprinters in Britain in the Group 2 Qatar King George Stakes at Goodwood.
Lady Aurelia however will be a tough nut to crack as the American speedball as already won at two previous Royal Ascots by a combined distance of 10 lengths, which is an amazing feat over sprint distances, from this filly trained by Wesley Ward.
York Chairman talks Prize money and top class filly
York Chairman, Lord Grimthorpe talks to Mike Vince about the recently announced increases to prize money for the Welcome TO Yorkshire Ebor Festival. The reporter then asks for an update on Enable, the dual Oaks and King George winner who is being aimed at the Festival, listen to what her Racing Manager (also Lord Grimthorpe) says here.
Next Stage of Entries Unveiled
With the start of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival just three weeks away, the contenders for the lion’s share of the £4.4million prize money pot became a little clearer, as the next stage of entries for the leading contests was unveiled.
Headlined by the flying fillies Enable (Darley Yorkshire Oaks 24 August) and Lady Aurelia (Coolmore Nunthorpe 25 August), there are some fascinating contests in prospect.
To see the full list of entries for the early closing pattern races, please click here.
Enable Heading to York for Oaks Treble Challenge
Enable, already the impressive winner of the English and Irish Oaks, may well head to York to complete an Oaks treble by winning the Darley Yorkshire Oaks at the prestigious Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival.
Although the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes was originally muted after her victory in Ireland, Lord Grimthorpe, racing manager for the Juddmonte operation has now confirmed that Enable is more likely to compete against her own sex in the York Group 1.
The race promises to be one of the highlights of the Ebor Festival with last year’s winner and third, Seventh Heaven and Queens Trust, also possible runners in a race with a star studded roll of honour
A “Great” Voltigeur in prospect
The first stage of entries for the Group 2 Betway Great Voltigeur already indicated that it could be a vintage renewal with seven of the top ten in the St Leger field holding a marker for the Knavesmire contest.
Though not all fifty entrants will reach the stalls on Wednesday 23 August, one of the eye catching entries has had the nod from his Owner. Cracksman, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby runner-up, is being prepped for York according to Anthony Oppenheimer. Well versed in winning big races at York, notably with Golden Horn, Oppenheimer described the Great Voltigeur as "a very sensible idea", before adding, "If we did go to York, then he can either rest for the rest of the year and come back as a four-year-old, or we could look at something like that (St Leger). That's a long way off, though, and we've not yet got to the bottom of this horse."
For a full list of entries for the Betway Great Voltigeur due to run on Wednesday 23 August click here.
Ward plans Coolmore Nunthorpe for Lady Aurelia
After her stunning display in Group One company on the opening day of the Royal Meeting, American trained speedster, Lady Aurelia looks set for York’s fastest race, the Coolmore Nunthorpe.
Talking to the media after the race, her handler Wesley Ward, said "I'm going to sit down with the owners.
The Nunthorpe is where I'd like to go with her next. We'll get her home and get her back and hopefully she runs like she did today. I'm very, very excited.”
Friday 25 August is the target date.
Juveniles join the Ebor Festival party
The talented two year old horses have now been nominated to join the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival party, as the two Group Two contests for this age group received their first entries on July 11th.
With £225,000 up for grabs in the AL Basti Equiworld Gimcrack Stakes, it is little wonder that the winners of three Pattern races at Royal Ascot have been aimed at York’s famous contest. Sioux Nation (Norfolk Stakes) and Rajasinghe (Coventry Stakes) represent the vast experience of Aidan O’Brien and the emerging talent of Richard Spencer. Team Godolphin had a wonderful week in Berkshire in June with Sound and Silence being their leading York representative after success in the Windsor Castle Stakes. Some fourteen Yorkshire trained horses from five different yards will be hoping to keep the trophy in the home county.
Also offering £225,000 in prize money, the Sky Bet Lowther is the richest Group Two contest in the land for juvenile fillies. With September travelling from County Tipperary and Heartache flying the flag for syndicate owners, both are seeking to follow their Royal Ascot victories where a possible dozen Yorkshire contenders await them
Sky Bet Lowther Stakes entries as at 12/07/17
Actress (IRE), Alwasmiya (GB), Annie Capri (IRE), Beshaayir (GB), Butterscotch (IRE), Cape Bunting (IRE), Cavatina (GB), Chillala (IRE), Clemmie (IRE), Dan's Dream (GB), Dance Diva (GB), Dramatically (USA), Elizabeth Bennet (IRE), Ellthea (IRE), Ertiyad (GB), Global Rose (IRE), Happy Like A Fool (USA), Havana Mariposa (GB), Heartache (GB), Hence (IRE), Island Drive (IRE), Kalagia (IRE), Kareva (GB), Lamya (GER), Lever Park (IRE), Madeline (IRE), Maggies Angel (IRE), Mamba Noire FR), Maybride (GB), Mistress of Venice (GB), Model (FR), Natural (IRE), Neola (GB), Nootka Sound (USA), Now You're Talking (IRE), Nyaleti (IRE), One Minute (IRE), Oriental Song (IRE), Out of The Flames (GB), Peggy's Angel (GB), Play Mate (GB), Riverside Walk (GB), September (IRE), Snowflakes (IRE), So Hi Society (IRE), Special Purpose (IRE),Take Me With You (USA)
Al Basti Equiworld Gimcrack Stakes as at 12/07/17
Alba Power (IRE), Al Mustashar (IRE), Aqabah (USA), Bakht Khan (IRE), Barraquero (IRE), Battle of Jericho (USA), Beckford (GB), Buridan (FR), Cardsharp (GB), Cool Spirit (GB), Dali (USA), De Bruyne Horse (GB), Declarationofpeace (USA), Denaar (IRE), Encrypted (GB), Enjazaat (GB), Etefaaq (IRE), Faraasah (IRE), Folk Tale (IRE), Frozen Angel (IRE), G Eye Joe (GB), Grand Koonta (IRE), Great Prospector (IRE), Havana Grey (GB), Headway (GB), Hey Gaman (GB), Humble Gratitude (GB), I Am Power (IRE), Invincible Army (IRE), It Dont Come Easy (IRE), James Garfield (IRE), Jungle Room (USA), Last Voyage (USA), Magic Mark (GB), Man Power (IRE), Mashaheer (GB), Mendelssohn (USA), Mokaatil (GB), Murillo (USA), Mythical Magic (IRE), Nebo (IRE), Nine Below Zero (GB), Nobleman's Nest (GB), Prestbury Park (USA), Prince of The Dark (GB), Rajasinghe (IRE), Rebel Streak (GB), Red Roman (GB), Rewaayat (GB), Roussel (IRE), Royal Household (GB), Sands of Mali (FR), Santry (IRE), Savalas (IRE), Seahenge (USA), Sioux Nation (USA), Sound And Silence (GB), Staxton (GB), Stormbringer (GB), That's A Surprise (IRE), To Wafij (IRE), Tribal Quest (USA), Unfortunately (IRE), U S Navy Flag (USA)