After his big rival was seemingly conjured from nowhere, Magician was this evening threatening a disappearing act from the big showdown between Classic winners on the first day of Royal Ascot.
The Ballydoyle colt has suffered a setback and may not be able to take on Dawn Approach, whose surprise candidature for the St James’s Palace Stakes had only been announced on Wednesday.
Aidan O’Brien has Mars standing by to tackle the 2,000 Guineas winner if Magician, impressive in the Irish version, fails to line up. His patrons at Coolmore issued an optimistic statement on their website, explaining: “Magician sustained minor bruising after receiving a knock yesterday. Aidan is very happy with him today and he is 100 per cent sound.” But it is thought things are borderline, with a decision set to be delayed until shortly before declarations for Tuesday’s race are made tomorrow morning.
Mars, winner of his sole start at two, has finished well for sixth in consecutive Classics this season – first behind Dawn Approach at Newmarket, and then behind Ruler Of The World at Epsom, where Dawn Approach finished tailed off as favourite.
With the big meeting imminent, it is a quiet Saturday. But Smoothtalkinrascal (2.55) is recommended at Sandown after his extraordinary performance over the downhill five at Epsom on Derby day, bursting through from the rear to fail by just a neck. Even if suited by a reckless pace up front, he was taking on seasoned rivals and against his own age group must only prove himself on this faster ground.
Stableford (1.50) looks on a fair mark for his handicap debut while Ashaadd (2.20) also arrives on the upgrade, since being gelded. At York, Crackentorp must go well in his quest for a third consecutive success in the Queen Mother’s Cup for women amateurs. But War Singer (2.05) will be ably assisted from the saddle and should relish the return to this trip.
Westwiththenight (2.40) shapes like she has unfinished business, while Ladys First (3.15) looks a solid option against some less reliable types. Rivellino (3.50) remains ahead of the game, judged on the way he tanked along while stuck in traffic at Newmarket last time.
Channel 4 also takes in a valuable sprint handicap at Musselburgh, where Nero Emperor (3.35) has few miles on the clock himself but has been deemed worth a journey from Ireland by respected connections.
Chris McGrath's nap
Polar Venture (5.20 York)
Gandalak (4.10 Musselburgh)