Aga turns up heat

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The Aga Khan bids to have his first winner in Britain since his self-imposed exile after the infamous Aliysa doping affair when Ashkalani runs in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday.

The last time the British public saw the famous red and green silks carried to victory was in November 1990, by Madiyla at Folkestone. Ashkalani will set out to impress a rather more celebrated gathering and can expect a greater reward if he is successful: prize money for the week will be in excess of pounds 2m, making Royal Ascot the year's most valuable European meeting.

The St James's Palace Stakes is one of three championship contests, and pitches together three 2,000 Guineas winners. Ashkalani took the French version, his immediate victim, Spinning World, franked the form by taking the Irish, and Mark Of Esteem won at Newmarket.

Spinning World was judged unlucky at Longchamp, but Ashkalani showed top-class acceleration that day and was always holding his rival. He has blossomed since.

Bosra Sham's absence from the Coronation Stakes on Wednesday means the fillies' pecking order will remain on hold. Shake The Yoke, given a dreadful ride in the French Guineas, can stake her claim by turning the tables on her conqueror, Ta Rib, and give the raiders a Group 1 double.

Double Trigger produced the performance of the meeting last year when he led all the way in the Gold Cup and has looked equally formidable this term. It was exactly 20 years ago that Sagaro won the second of his three Gold Cups, and the Mark Johnston-trained chestnut can put himself on course to emulate that great stayer's hat-trick.

The first to take the stage in what will be a frenetically competitive week are the older milers in the Queen Anne Stakes. The Godolphin candidate Charnwood Forest is the pick here, 5lb better off than his Lockinge Stakes conqueror Soviet Line and on going he favours. Smart Alec will also appreciate the better ground.

If the ground is not over-firm by Friday, the Hardwicke Stakes, for the older middle-distance generation, will feature a clash between Michael Stoute's progressive Election Day, and the runners-up in last year's Derby and St Leger, John Gosden's Tamure and Henry Cecil's Minds Music. This year's Derby form comes under scrutiny for the first time in the King Edward VII Stakes, in which Tamure's stablemate Shantou goes for consolation for his Epsom third. He may have most to fear from Prize Giving and Fort Nottingham. In the five-furlong dash for the King's Stand Stakes, Royal Applause, who took the Coventry Stakes at the meeting last year, can show his appreciation for a return to the minimum trip, with a rejuvenated Mind Games the danger.

Paul Cole knows what it takes to win with a two-year-old at the meeting, having won the Coventry, Norfolk and Chesham Stakes five years ago. He can take the fillies' race, the Queen Mary Stakes on Wednesday, this time with More Silver, but his Coventry candidates may have to give best to Deadly Dudley.

The handicaps are the usual nightmare to unravel, but two who could repay support are Missile in the Britannia Stakes on Tuesday and Akil in the Hunt Cup on Wednesday.

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