Racing UK

Lockinge preview: Martyn Meade hoping Aclaim can take top billing

Friday 19 May 2017

Watch an interview with Martyn Meade and Galileo Gold's Newmarket gallop plus read the views of connections ahead of the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on Saturday

By Andy Stephens

Martyn Meade believes Aclaim has what it takes to upstage Group 1 winners Galileo Gold and Ribchester in the £350,000 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

The four-year-old was a revelation when tried beyond six furlongs towards the end of last season and reeled off a hat-trick of wins at Ascot, Newbury and Newmarket. He saved the best for the last when landing the seven-furlong Group 2 Dubai 100 Challenge Stakes in fine style on the Rowley Mile.

Aclaim will be stepping into Group 1 company for the first time in the QIPCO British Champions contest, but Meade believes his charge is more than ready to compete at the highest level.

The Newmarket-based trainer said: “He’s a little professional who has done everything well. All his work at home has been good, he’s not put a foot wrong.

“Jamie Spencer [his jockey] has sat on him once this year and was very pleased with the way he has progressed. His first comment was that he’s a much stronger horse than last season which was interesting because when you see and live with them every day they grow in front of you.”

Aclaim, a general 9-1 chance, has an official rating of 114, which suggests he has to improve again to beat the likes of Ribchester (122) and Galileo Gold (121), the pair who head the market.

“You have to take the ratings into account but they are not the be-all and end-all because a horse like this can improve and, on the work I’ve seen at home, I’d say he has. I’ll be very surprised if he cannot improve another 5lb or 6lb.

“Ground wise he is very versatile. He’s such a well-put together, strong horse and I cannot believe it will be softer than when he had that really good win at Newbury [in September].”

Aclaim is owned by Canning Downs, a stud based in Queensland who bred him. In the past they have watched from afar but not this time.

“It’s a double excitement because they are coming all the way over from Australia to see the race, so they are obviously optimistic,” Meade said.

“They’ve not been over before, so let’s hope he runs well for them.

“I’ve had broodmares with them here for a long time and it’s only now they are starting to race some of the progeny.”

The betting suggests the pair most likely to spoil the party for the Australian visitors are Galileo Gold, winner of the QIPCO 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes last year, and Ribchester, who took the Jacques Le Marois at Deauville. They met four times in Group 1 races last term and the score between the old adversaries is 2-2.

Galileo Gold, who will represent the sponsors and provide Frankie Dettori with a 16th ride in the race, has delighted Hugo Palmer with his preparation, which included a gallop at the Craven meeting at Newmarket last month (see video below).

He said: "I am very excited about running Galileo Gold. It has been a long winter and a long wait.

"We have had him fit and ready for some time. I'm looking forward to seeing him out again.

"I think he is one of the few horses in the field that is not ground dependent. He is more relaxed this year compared to 12 months ago and he has grown up.

"I won't be saying to Frankie to make the running, but Frankie knows the horse very well and he has not become one of the world's best jockeys by just listening to trainer's instructions but by assessing conditions of the race and executing tactics.

"It will be the first time that Frankie has sat on him since riding him in a racecourse gallop at the Craven meeting."

Ribchester has already been in action this term, losing little in defeat when third at Meydan on World Cup night after nine furlongs in the Dubai Turf stretched his stamina.

Richard Fahey, his trainer, said: "Everything has gone according to plan with Ribchester - there have been no issues.

"I am very happy - his work is good and he is good. I don't think the ground will bother him so we are comfortable going into the race.

"Ribchester won the Mill Reef (at Newbury as a two-year-old) and it was quite heavy that day so this probably won't be the softest ground he has raced on. I don't see the ground as a problem at the moment.

"We thought about giving him a break after Dubai but he came back so fresh and well that we carried on and did not back off too much.

"Physically he looks better this year. He has done real well since coming back from Dubai and physically he is starting to mature."

Ribchester is one of three runners for Godolphin along with stablemate and likely pacemaker Toscanini and the Charlie Hills-trained Dutch Connection.

Hawk Wing memorably surged home by a record 11 lengths in the 2003 Lockinge and Aidan O’Brien will be hoping Somehow can produce something similar. The only filly in the line-up and was an easy winner of the Group 2 Charm Spirit Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket 12 days ago.

O'Brien said: "She's good. She only ran at Newmarket a couple of weeks ago, but she seems to be in good form.

"She's dropping back to a mile, but we're happy with her since Newmarket. She's up (in class) to Group One company now, but we think she's in good form."

David Simcock is also double-handed with Lightning Spear and Breton Rock. At seven, the latter would become the oldest winner since the Lockinge became a Group 1 contest in 1995.

Mitchum Swagger completes the line-up and David Lanigan, his trainer, says his soft-ground specialist should not be underestimated. He is encouraged that the going is currently good to soft, soft in places, with more rain forecast.

“He’s a soft ground horse and provided he gets his conditions he won’t disgrace himself,” Lanigan said. “Whereas a lot of horses won’t go on extremes it doesn't matter how soft it gets for him.

“There’s some top-class opposition but I’d like to think my record shows I don’t throw my horses in Group 1s for the day out. I would not be at all surprised if he ran into a place.

“He’s only run two disappointing races in his career - once at Leicester when it was quickish ground

and the other was on Champions Day in October when it was again on the fast side.”

Mitchum Swagger had been declared to run in a Listed contest at Windsor on Monday but was withdrawn before the meeting was abandoned on safety grounds.

“It looked a winnable race but the rain forecast did not materialise and so we pulled him out. It could prove a blessing in disguise,” Lanigan said.

“His reappearance run at Sandown [when fifth in the bet365 Mile at Sandown] has brought him on and his work has been a lot better than it was this time last year.”

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