Palace marks Aga's return

A racing dynasty is back at Royal Ascot. Greg Wood reports
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The Independent Online
Two names stood out when the entries were published yesterday for the opening afternoon of the Royal meeting at Ascot next Tuesday. Balanchine, last year's Oaks and Irish Derby winner, is listed as expected in the field for the Prince of Wales's Stakes.

Even more significant in the long term, however, could be the appearance of Adjareli in the St James's Palace Stakes, because John Oxx's colt will carry the green and red silks of the Aga Khan on to a British racecourse for the first time in almost five years.

The chronology and technical intricacies of the Aga's long dispute with the Jockey Club following Aliysa's disqualification as winner of the 1989 Oaks are best left in the history books where they now belong.

The result, though, was that the Aga Khan declared himself dissatisfied with the British Turf's drug-testing procedures (Aliysa, an easy winner of the Epsom Classic, subsequently tested positive for camphor).

In late 1990, the Aga withdrew his string of almost 100 horses from their British stables and announced that his colours would not be seen here until his concerns had been addressed.

He admitted several months ago that he now believes British procedures to be acceptable, but the arrival of Adjareli at Ascot will still be significant. He is one of the world's major owner-breeders, whose paddocks have produced three Derby winners, Shergar, Shahrastani and Kahyasi, as well as such fine performers as Darshaan, Natroun and Doyoun. As such, his absence from the British turf has been a cause for much regret.

Adjareli's appearance at Ascot does not necessarily imply that the Aga Khan will soon be stabling horses in Britain too. None the less, the colt's arrival is encouraging, and he will go to post for Tuesday's Group One race with every chance following his close second to Spectrum in last month's Irish 2,000 Guineas.

"It's nice to have any horse that's able to run in a good race," Oxx said yesterday, "and it's also nice to be bringing one to England again. We haven't had many over the last few years that we'd have needed to bring anyway, but if we weren't taking Adjareli to Ascot then we'd have to look further afield which would make things a bit more awkward."

Last month's run behind Spectrum was only Adjareli's third outing, so Oxx is hopeful that there is still better form to come. "I don't think the race at The Curragh suited any of the first three," the trainer said. "It was too slow a gallop and Spectrum got first run on them. All credit to him, he won well, but it was an unsatisfactory race from that point of view and we'll be hoping for a decent gallop on Tuesday."

The stiff Ascot track should certainly suit Adjareli, but the opposition is likely to be just as demanding. The 12 entries include Bahri, a short- head behind Adjareli in Ireland, Vettori, the French 2,000 Guineas winner who ran respectably in the Derby just six days ago, Henry Cecil's well- regarded Charnwood Forest and Annus Mirabilis, from Michael Stoute's yard.

Indeed, at 11-2, Adjareli is only fourth in William Hill's book on the St James's Palace, with Bahri heading the market. The latest betting is: 4-1 Bahri, 9-2 Vettori, 5-1 Annus Mirabilis, 11-2 Adjareli, 7-1 Atticus (trained in France by Criquette Head) and Charnwood Forest, 10-1 Flemensfirth, 14-1 bar.

Vettori is just one of seven representatives of the Godolphin operation on the opening day's card. Emperor Jones is an entry for the Queen Anne Stakes, while Balanchine could be joined in the Prince of Wales's Stakes by Darnay, Flagbird and Shepton Mallet.