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Dublin: 20 °C Tuesday 16 July, 2019
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Donn McClean: Lots of Irish chances still to come as Royal Ascot starts at full speed

You don’t ease your way in at Royal Ascot, writes Donn McClean. You don’t have the chance.

Ryan Moore on Arizona (file pic).
Ryan Moore on Arizona (file pic).
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

THE GREAT THING about Royal Ascot – or one of the great things about Royal Ascot, because there are many – is that it starts at full speed. Queen Anne Stakes, Coventry Stakes, King’s Stand Stakes, St James’s Palace Stakes. You don’t ease your way in. Rat-tat-tat-tat. You don’t have the chance.

Aidan O’Brien won the Coventry Stakes on Tuesday with Arizona, Royal Ascot win number 66, and he won the St James’s Palace Stakes with Circus Maximus, number 67.

The route that Arizona had taken to Royal Ascot was quite different to the path that Circus Maximus had charted. Arizona won his maiden by eight lengths at The Curragh on Irish Guineas weekend at the end of Ma, and, on the back of the impression that he created then, he was sent off as favourite for the Coventry Stakes, a race that Aidan O’Brien had won eight times in the past. He travelled well through his race towards the far side for Ryan Moore, and he showed an impressive turn of foot to hit the front on the run to the line.

The Coventry Stakes is a two-year-olds’ race, so the body of evidence that lies in the pre-race formbook is relatively limited. That said, the form of this year’s renewal looks strong, with the well-regarded pair, Threat and Guildsman, hailing from the yards of Richard Hannon and Archie Watson respectively, filling the places behind Arizona. And it was not that surprising that the bookmakers made the No Nay Never colt favourite for next year’s 2000 Guineas.

Aidan O'Brien Aidan O'Brien. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

While the Coventry Stakes had probably been on Arizona’s radar for a while, the St James’s Palace Stakes was, by contrast, a little bit of an after-thought for Circus Maximus. Supplemented to the race just six days earlier, he was dropping back down in trip to a mile after winning the Dee Stakes at Chester over 10 and a half furlongs, and finishing sixth in the Epsom Derby over a mile and a half.

Wearing blinkers for the first time on Tuesday, he was sharply away from stall one along the inside, and Ryan Moore quickly had him into a nice racing rhythm just up on the outside of leader Fox Champion. The Galileo colt responded willingly when his rider asked him to early in the home straight. He hit the front just outside the furlong marker, and he kept on strongly all the way to the line to repel the late lunge of King Of Comedy.

Two Irish-trained winners on the day, then, and others ran well. Ryan Moore went close to landing a treble when he rode the Willie Mullins-trained Buildmeupbuttercup to finish second to The Grand Visir in the Ascot Stakes, while Arctic Fire ran a fine race for Denis Cullen to finish sixth in that race under Mark Gallagher. And Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore went close again in the final race on the day, the Wolferton Stakes, to finish second behind impressive winner Addeybb, with the Joseph O’Brien-trained Latrobe keeping on well for fourth, beaten a nose and a short head for second.

And in the opener, the Queen Anne Stakes, the Ken Condon-trained Romanised ran a big race, belying big odds, to finish fourth behind Lord Glitters. He didn’t have a lot of luck in-running either, rider Billy Lee had to sit and wait for a gap on the run to the furlong pole and, when he got it, his horse picked up really well. He closed on the leader all the way to the line. Winner of the Irish 2000 Guineas last year, there could be another big race in the Holy Roman Emperor colt soon.

Shane Foley on Romanised wins the race Romanised, ridden by Shane Foley on that occasion, wins at The Curragh last month. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

There will be more Irish chances during the week. Magical in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on Wednesday, Norway and Western Australia in the Queen’s Vase on the same day, Fleeting in the Ribblesdale Stakes on Thursday, Hermosa in the Coronation Stakes on Friday, Ten Sovereigns in the Commonwealth Cup on Friday, Lope Y Fernandez in the Chesham Stakes on Saturday. All trained by Aidan O’Brien.

But the Irish Royal Ascot challenge is not only about Aidan O’Brien.

There is Ickworth in the Queen Mary Stakes on Wednesday for Willie McCreery and Daughter In Law for Kieran Cotter, Settle For Bay in the Royal Hunt Cup also on Wednesday for David Marnane, bidding to land his second Royal Hunt Cup. There is King’s Field for Joseph O’Brien in the same race, bidding to land his first.

There is Red Epaulette for Michael O’Callaghan in the Windsor Castle Stakes on Wednesday, Hand On Heart for Fozzy Stack in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes also on Wednesday, Sunday Sovereign for Paddy Twomey in the Norfolk Stakes on Thursday, Fresnel for Jack Davison in the Ribblesdale Stakes also on Thursday.

Lil Grey, probably, for Sheila Lavery in the Albany Stakes on Friday, Sea The Lion for Jarlath Fahey in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes, also on Friday. Justifier, perhaps, for Ger Lyons in the Chesham Stakes and On A Session for Aidan Fogarty in the Jersey Stakes on Saturday. Thomas Hobson and Max Dynamite in the Queen Alexandra Stakes for Willie Mullins also on Saturday, Twilight Payment for Jim Bolger and Brazos for John Murphy and Snow Falcon for Noel Meade in the same race, Pallasator for Gordon Elliott, bidding to win back-to-back renewals of the race. And others. Lots of others.

Lots of chances, lots of Irish trainers represented. And still four more days to go.

Rat-tat-tat-tat.

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About the author:

Donn McClean

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