Sacred Kingdom hopes to shake off jet lag

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The Independent Online

Once again, it looks as though the British can be relied upon to step hospitably aside when two more foreign speedballs show up at Ascot this afternoon.

Indeed, the hosts' principal interest in the Golden Jubilee Stakes is to discover exactly what kind of international showdown will next be staged on their soil, in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket next month. For either J J The Jet Plane, from South Africa, or Sacred Kingdom, from Hong Kong, must come up with something pretty special to promise credible opposition to Scenic Blast, such a brilliant winner for Australia here on Tuesday.

J J The Jet Plane, winner of three Group One prizes in his homeland, made an auspicious reconnaissance when dominating a small field down the road at Windsor earlier in the month. Of course, the whole point of the Global Sprint Challenge is to weave together disparate international formlines. For the moment, it seems fair to favour the orient express, Sacred Kingdom, on the basis that he has beaten more diverse opposition.

In cutting down the local champion, Rocket Man, he opened up a big gap in Singapore last month to Diabolical – who had been beaten only narrowly by King's Apostle, much the most interesting of the home team today, over this course and distance last September. That performance showed that Sacred Kingdom had retrieved the terrifying speed he was showing before an injury last year, notably in destroying his rivals at the Hong Kong international carnival in 2007. His victims that day included Marchand d'Or, who carried all before him on his return to Europe the following season. The one caveat is that Sacred Kingdom has made an exacting journey far more recently than did J J The Jet Plane his own.

Sadly Takeover Target, the veteran Australian raider who finished down the field in Singapore, must wait for the July Cup for another crack at the winner after dropping out with a temperature yesterday. The home cause has meanwhile enlisted one recent immigrant in Ialysos, who apparently did some fairly extraordinary things in Greece and made a solid start for Luca Cumani at Haydock last month. The extra furlong will suit, but a peak performance from Sacred Kingdom (3.45) would set up an epic match with Scenic Blast.

The only other Group race on the card is the Hardwicke Stakes. Dr Fremantle is the class act after finishing fourth in the Derby last year, but he will always be vulnerable over this distance until learning to settle better. Though better known as an all-weather performer, Dansant (3.05) has done well from limited opportunities on turf, and will be primed and fresh for this.

The two leading fancies for the Wokingham Handicap have been drawn on opposite sides of the track, and events this week imply that Jimmy Styles (4.25) may have fared best. Regardless, as a lightly raced sprinter making rapid improvement, he could conceivably be back here next year in the Golden Jubilee itself.

The other handicap on the card, the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes, can also go to a well-drawn, lightly-raced type who travels like one who will prove better than his present rating. Having gone clear impressively, Crackentorp (5.00) either idled or tired on his reappearance at Goodwood.

The card opens with a race for the Chesham Stakes so competitive that it is difficult to choose even between the two Ballydoyle colts. Beethoven (2.30) is preferred, having got much closer of the pair to a useful type named Love Lockdown in races at home. Those still needing a winner in the last may find the longest race in the calendar tough going, but it is probably Amerigo (5.35) who retains most scope for further progress.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Strictly (3.50 Newmarket)

NB: Crackentorp (5.0 Ascot)