Six things we learnt from the Royal Ascot press conference - Qemah is back

Thu 15 Jun 2017

By Andy Stephens at Newmarket

Qemah back in the groove

A notable absentee from the meeting will be Almanzor, the highest-rated horse in Europe, but Jean Claude-Rouget, his trainer, still has a leading contender for the meeting in Qemah.

The four-year-old filly was a decisive winner of the Coronation Stakes at the meeting last year but fluffed her lines in Group Three company at Lingfield on her return when an easy-to-back Evens favourite.

“Lingfield was a bit of a disaster,” said Harry Herbert, who is also the racing manager for owners Al Shaqab. “She was too fresh and Frankie could not get cover or get across. It was a bit of a disappointment but it’s taken the buzz out of her and she’s training really well and her last piece of work was very good.

“As a dual Group One winner going into the a Group Two, with no penalty, you would have to hope she will run very well.”

Qemah is quoted at 4-1 in a market headed by the John Gosden-trained Laugh Aloud at 5-2.

Ward’s relief over Lady Aurelia

Wesley Ward was relieved to report that none of the nine horses he worked at Ascot on Wednesday emerged with any issues.

In particular, the trainer was delighted to report Lady Aurelia, 7-2 favourite for the King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday, in peak condition after her impressive spin under Ryan Moore.

“I was a little worried she kind of did a little too much yesterday - she had the bleeding issue here last fall (autumn),” he said.

“This year she’s been perfect but we really have not asked her to do as much as she did yesterday, so I was really relieved when the vet scoped her and she was clean. I was really nervous before then, but now I’m very confident.”

With a lack of suitable races in America, Lady Aurelia could well either remain in, or return to, Britain for the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York in August.

Frankie Dettori will ride the bulk of Ward’s horses at Ascot but the Italian will be required to ride Denaar in the Al Shaqab colours in the Coventry Stakes.

In his absence, John Velazquez will ride Arawak, who is Ward’s contender in that race. Velazquez partnered the trainer’s first two Royal Ascot winners in 2009 - Strike The Tiger and Jealous Again.

Wind of confidence behind Black Sails:

Sheikh Fahad’s Qatar Racing operation have hit the post numerous times at Royal Ascot with their one "goal" being Extornist, winner of the 2103 Windsor Castle Stakes. They will be hoping to at least double that tally this year.

Lightning Spear (Queen Anne) and Simple Verse (Gold Cup) are leading fancies for their Group One assignments but David Redvers, the racing manager, believes the best chance of a winner in the maroon colours lies with Black Sails, who runs in the Albany Stakes.

The Ger Lyons-trained youngster, a general 14-1, was an impressive winner on her debut at the Curragh and Redvers said: “We’ve got some very exciting two-year-olds and I’m particularly looking forward to seeing them in action.

“Black Sails was very impressive in Ireland and is possibly our best chance. She’s very talented and she will go there with a certain degree of confidence.”

Last year Bletchley represented Qatar Racing in the Albany after winning on her debut and was beaten a short head at 16-1.  

Patriot power:

Tepin gained a famous victory for America in the Queen Anne Stakes 12 months ago and that has inspired Todd Pletcher to try to pull off the same trick with American Patriot.

You would not want the striking four-year-old son of War Front to tread on your foot - he is an imposing thoroughbred - and he produced a career-best effort when beaten a neck by Heart To Heart in the Grade One Maker’s 46 Mile on turf at Keeneland on his latest start in April.

Pletcher has won two of the three legs of The Triple Crown this year but his previous two runners at Royal Ascot, in 2011, failed to make an impact.

“We are hoping he’s the right type of horse for the race,” Ginny DePasquale, the assistant trainer, said. “He looked good in Keeneland and he’s been breezing very well.

“He went out for a canter this morning [on the Limekilns] and dealt with the open space, so we are keeping our fingers crossed. We are hoping for a clean trip and that he can run up to his best.”

Of the stable’s great season. She added: “The Kentucky Derby is the premier race in the United Stakes for three-year-olds and to win the Belmont Stakes right after means it has been an amazing six weeks.”

American Patriot is a general 25-1 for the Queen Anne in a market dominated by Ribchester. 

Royal Ascot syndicate in running:

There will be some wild celebrations if either Headway (Coventry Stakes) or Projection (Wokingham) are successful.

The pair are owned by the Royal Ascot Racing Club, which was formed in 1998 and previously enjoyed success at the meeting with the Michael Bell-trained Revenue in 2002.

Headway, trained by William Haggas, was a taking winner at Chester last time, while the Roger Charlton-trained Projection has solid form in similarly big sprints but has suffered the odd injury setback along the way.  

“He’s a really tough sprinter, loves the hustle and bustle,” said Harry Herbert, who is manager of the Royal Ascot Racing Club horses. “He’s just the sort of horse who should run well in the Wokingham if he gets there in one piece.”

There are more than 200 members of the Royal Ascot Racing Club and they might well be lured by the odds on offer. Headway is 25-1 for the Coventry, while Projection is a standout 16-1 with bet365. 

A Value runner:

Long On Value is dismissed as a 33-1 chance for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes on Saturday week but do not be put off by his chunky odds.

The Bill Mott-trained six-year-old was 66-1 when beaten a nose in the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan last time when he had familiar names such as Limato, Jungle Cat and Washington DC adrift.

Mott, who has trained champions such as Cigar, Theatrical, Paradise Creek and Escena, will only arrive in Britain on Tuesday and it has been his son, Riley, who has been supervising Long On Value’s preparation in Newmarket.

“It was frustrating [to go so close in Dubai] but it was rewarding to take him halfway across the world and compete with that international field and that gave us the confidence to try him here at Ascot.

“Competing with that level of horse opened the door to be here today. He’s settled in well - it’s so far, so good.”

Long On Value had a solo breeze on the Limekilns on Thursday morning.

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