Racing: Maktoums prepare Dubai team for Royal Ascot

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The Independent Online
THE Maktoum family's team for Royal Ascot next week will include three horses from their flourishing operation in Dubai.

Woodhaunter (Britannia Handicap), Promise City (Windsor Castle Stakes) and Aljathaab (Chesham Stakes) will attempt to add to the success of Dayflower, trainer by Satish Seemar, who became the first horse Dubai-trained horse to win in Britain with a victory at York last month.

Woodhaunter, a three-year- old colt, was stabled at John Gosden's Newmarket yard last season, winning one of his four starts and finishing sixth behind Maroof in Goodwood's Lanson Champagne Vintage Stakes. But punters will find it much harder to assess the chances of Promise City and Aljathaab, both unraced two-year-olds from a batch of 11 juveniles bought at last year's Keeneland Sales. All three Royal Ascot challengers are now trained by Richard Conway.

'It was always the intention to take the most mature two-year- olds to Ascot,' the trainer said yesterday. 'Aljathaab is the most forward of the group. He is a very nice horse but we have not been able to test him in Dubai.

'It is asking a lot of him to run at Ascot first time out against winners but he has a mind capable of dealing with the stress of the meeting. Promise City is not as forward but has been training well.'

Woodhaunter has run several times in Dubai and Conway believes he may be on a lenient handicap mark in this country. 'He's been very lightly rated because the English handicapper did not take the races in Dubai seriously,' Conway said. 'His light weight definitely helped make the Sheikh's mind up to run.'

The Royal Ascot challenge of Khalid Abdullah, whose three- year-olds are dominating the Classic generation, is also taking shape. Zafonic, the brilliant 2,000 Guineas winner, will spearhead his assault in the St James's Palace Stakes on the meeting's opening day, while Specified (Cork & Orrery), So Factual (Jersey Stakes) and Factual (Queen Anne Stakes) will also be strongly fancied. Allegan may also attempt a trip in excess of two miles for the first time in the Gold Cup on Thursday.

Ladbrokes yesterday opened a book on the meeting's big handicap, Wednesday's Royal Hunt Cup. Gymcrak Premiere is their 10-1 favourite, followed by 14-1 High Premium, 16-1 Colour Sergeant & Efharisto, 20-1 others.