Weighty case for Taghrooda
In receipt of age and sex allowances, TAGHROODA must have a tremendous chance of extending her unbeaten record in an intriguing renewal of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
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A highly impressive winner of the Oaks at Epsom on just her third career start, John Gosden's filly - on the orders of her owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum - by-passed last week's Irish Oaks to take on the older horses here and can take advantage of a 15lb weight concession.
While the Epsom form looks nothing to get too excited about - though third placed Volume ran a very game race behind Bracelet in Ireland - Taghrooda was in a different class, always looked to be travelling like a winner and came readily clear.
With Leitir Mor entered to set a fast pace for stable-companion Trading Leather (second to runaway winner Novellist last year), this is sure to be a tough test but the selection has a pedigree laden with stamina hailing from the family of Gold Cup winners Enzeli and Estimate, and I believe she has the potential to be top class.
Market rival Telescope is sure to be a big rival.
Always highly regarded, the son of Galileo put up the standout performance of his career when thrashing Hilstar and Pether's Moon by seven lengths over the course and distance last month in the Hardwicke Stakes, a race that Harbinger, also owned by a Highclere syndicate, won en route to his sensational 11-length King George win in 2010.
Indeed, there are career similarities between the two horses and, like Harbinger, Telescope could well be reaching his peak at the same time.
However, this does appear to be a much stiffer task and Hilstar, beaten since by the ageing Cavalryman at Newmarket, would probably have finished closer to him but for being caught behind runners.
The form of another Ascot race, the Prince Of Wales's Stakes, is probably stronger. Magician, runner-up but no match for The Fugue, finished two-and-a-half lengths in front of fourth-placed Mukhadram who has since gone on to beat Trading Leather in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.
Of the latter contest, I felt the front two may have had the run of the race given that they chased the pacemaker Somewhat (who held on for a surprise third) all the way whereas other rivals appeared to be given too much to do.
Mukhadram, a grand horse with a superb attitude, needs to prove his stamina over a mile and a half whereas Magician was a winner over the distance when beating The Fugue at the Breeders Cup last autumn. Moreover, the likely fast ground will be ideal for Magician whose run at the Royal meeting was easily his best of the season so far, so perhaps he will confirm the placings with Mukhadram.
The Derby was run in a much faster time than both the Oaks and the Coronation Cup so Romsdal, beaten four-and-a-half lengths into third in the classic by Australia, could well be over-priced at around 20-1.
This is another horse with a particularly willing attitude and I was amazed how well he ran at Epsom given that, of all the runners, he appeared to be the most excitable before the race. It will be important that he handles the parade and preliminaries here in a calmer manner.
Finally, Eagle Top completes a fantastic team of three-year-olds for the Gosden team and it is a measure of the regard in which this colt is held that connections paid £75,000 to supplement him for this race and, because of the ground, are now considering not running him!
The lightly-raced son of Pivotal put up a hugely taking display when landing the King Edward VII Stakes over the course and distance last time and the runner-up Adelaide has since finished a close second in the Belmont Derby in New York. A line through third-placed Scotland suggests there may not be much to choose between Eagle Top and Romsdal but stable jockey William Buick is set to ride the former providing he is given the green light to run.
Earlier, the Longines International looks competitive to say the least but, with high number-drawn runners winning the Victoria Cup (Gabriel's Lad), the Hunt Cup (Field Of Dream) and the Buckingham Palace Handicap (Louis The Pious) here this season, stalls positions could be important.
None of those previous winners look so well drawn this time but HORSTED KEYNES from stall 25 must be a huge player.
A fast-finishing second in the Buckingham Palace, Roger Varian's progressive four-year-old was taken out of the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket subsequently due to rain-affected ground but should have conditions to suit.
The fact that Horsted Keynes was five-day declared for the Group Two Lennox Stakes at Goodwood on Tuesday looks significant and he is taken to confirm the Royal Ascot form with the Buckingham Palace third Watchable, another improving type.