The Co Meath trainer Eddie Lynam has already enjoyed a wonderful Royal Ascot with a winner on each of the first two days and has not quite finished yet.
Sole Power’s late surge in the King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday and the arrival on the big stage of another potential sprinting star, Anthem Alexander, in the Queen Mary Stakes on Wednesday have been two of this meeting’s standout moments.
A victory for Slade Power (4.25 Ascot) in this afternoon’s feature, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, would top even those highlights and hopes are extremely high in the Lynam camp that this classy speedster can win his first Group One. It would be a fantastic achievement for Lynam. To win both big Royal Ascot sprints would be quite something; for a relatively small stable to do it with different horses would be something else.
Slade Power only began to show what he was really capable of as a four-year-old last season after breaking a pelvis at Ascot in October 2012, but by the end of the campaign had won three times and finished placed in two Group One contests.
A little more improvement is needed to become a champion, but he is a stronger horse this year, according to home reports, and better, too, judged on his hugely impressive comeback win over another crack Irish sprinter, Maarek, at the Curragh last month.
Richard Hannon started the week perfectly when Toronado, his first Royal Ascot runner, landed the Queen Anne Stakes and there is a good chance he can also make his mark on this final day with Ninjago (5.00 Ascot) in the Wokingham Handicap.
Glen Moss almost won another Ascot cavalry charge last time over seven furlongs and will be even better suited by this drop to six. But stall two is off-putting – last year nothing with a single-figure draw finished in the first 10.
Ninjago, drawn in the middle today, was a comfortable winner at the course last year and is a leading player following an eye-catching third at Newmarket on his seasonal return.
Telescope (3.45 Ascot) has promised much more than he has delivered to date, but he won a decent race at York in August and can be forgiven his two defeats at the hands of the much-improved Noble Mission this spring when soft ground was against him.
It is high time he properly walked the walk and, with ground and distance seemingly ideal in the Hardwicke Stakes, there should be no excuses.
Arab Spring is a potential Group horse running in a handicap, but so is the more lightly weighted Hamelin (3.05 Ascot), whose extra stamina might well make the difference in what is likely to be a strongly run affair.
It is hard to believe that a horse beaten in a Leicester handicap last time off a modest rating of 92 (though it transpired his blood was “upside down”) would end up sharing the limelight with superstar stablemates Kingman and The Fugue, but that was the impact made by Eagle Top in yesterday’s King Edward VII Stakes.
William Buick had so much horse underneath him as he closed on the hot favourite Adelaide in the home straight that he took a pull on the reins, anxious not to strike the front too soon. And then when he said go, it was all over in a few strides.
“This is a top, top horse, you’ll be hearing a lot more about him,” said Buick, while trainer John Gosden is already plotting an ambitious campaign after this spectacular “Ascot Derby” victory.
Eagle Top was quoted as short as 4-1 for the St Leger, but this colt has an electric turn of foot and Gosden is not inclined to step him up in distance, saying “I don’t mind going fancy in autumn, but it will be over a mile and half.”
It would be no surprise if Eagle Top turned out first for next month’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes –Gosden and Buick completed the same Ascot double with Nathaniel in 2011. One thing is for sure: Eagle Top will not be running in a handicap again.
Rizeena, rated one of the best juvenile fillies in Europe last year but a disappointment in the 1,000 Guineas, bounced back to her best in the Coronation Stakes for the evergreen Newmarket trainer, Clive Brittain, who though in his 80th year, needed no invitation to break into his trademark celebratory jig.
Estimate and Leading Light, the previous two winners of the Queen’s Vase, both won the Ascot Gold Cup the following year, which gives Hartnell a lot to live up to. Mark Johnston’s three-year-old had to survive a stewards’ inquiry after drifting badly left and impeding both the placed horses. He has been clipped to 14-1 for the St Leger.
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