Check out what the trainers say ahead of Wednesday's meeting at Ascot which features the return of Stradivarius.
Stradivarius starts on the road to a possible fourth successive Ascot Gold Cup when he makes his seasonal debut in the Longines Sagaro Stakes at the Berkshire course.
John Gosden, who trains the horse with his son Thady, reports Stradivarius to be in good form but expects him to come on a lot for Wednesday’s comeback outing.
The seven-year-old has to recover from disappointing showings in his last two starts of 2020, although both were run on unsuitable ground.
Stradivarius had been his brilliant self before then, winning a third Gold Cup by 10 lengths and picking up a fourth Goodwood Cup in a row. He also warmed up for a crack at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with a good second to Anthony Van Dyck in the Prix Foy at ParisLongchamp.
“He’s ready for a return. Obviously the last two races were both run in exceptionally heavy ground. He wasn’t in love with it. There was no pace in the Arc, then they sprinted,” said Gosden.
“He ran very well in the Prix Foy and did nothing wrong before that. He’s a seven-year-old full horse now, so to that extent age is becoming a bit of issue – maybe less so if he was a gelding, but he’s a full horse. But he seems happy in himself and is his usually vociferous self, so we’re looking forward to running him.
“He likes Ascot, obviously, and I feel the trip is right to start him off at two miles. He’s a bigger, heavier horse this year so he may well need his first race. We’ll see how he runs. If he needs another race, there’s the Yorkshire Cup – but we’ll see.
“He’s bigger, he’s a seven-year-old and he’s weighing heavier – so to that extent he may need two races before the Gold Cup. We don’t know.”
Nayef Road won this race last year when it was run at Newcastle, but he then had to play second fiddle to Stradivarius at both Royal Ascot and Goodwood.
The Mark Johnston-trained entire is having his first race since finishing third in the Lonsdale Cup at York in August.
“If Stradivarius comes back in the same form as last year then he’ll be extremely difficult to beat,” said the Middleham handler. “We’ve run some very good horses against Stradivarius and come second. That said, we’ve got a much stronger team this year and it’s going to be very interesting to see.
“I’d say to beat Subjectivist and Sir Ron Priestley (this season), Stradivarius is going to have to be absolutely at his best. So, if nothing else we’re going to see if that’s the case.
“Nayef Road is fine. He did have a setback at the end of last season but he seems to have got over it well, and he’s ready to run.”
Of the rest of the field, Charlie Fellowes has given Prince Of Arran stalls practice because his seasoned stayer has been slowly away in his last two races.
The Newmarket trainer believes it has worked the oracle and will help the eight-year-old show the kind of form that has seen him placed in the last three runnings of the Melbourne Cup. He was also second in this race in 2017.
“He loves Ascot, loves the quick ground. He’s done a bit of stalls work since his last two races, where I wasn’t pleased with the way he jumped out, and that seems to have done the trick,” said Fellowes.
“It’s a tough race, but we’re rated 114, and around Ascot he’s got his perfect conditions. He can run a good race. He’ll have to be very good to beat Stradivarius, but I think we can be in the mix behind him.”
Supremacy will try to boost his already strong claims for the Commonwealth Cup when he makes his seasonal reappearance in the Qipco British Champions Series horseracinghof.com Pavilion Stakes.
The Clive Cox-trained colt had a tremendous juvenile campaign, winning the Group Two Richmond Stakes at Glorious Goodwood and the Group One Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket. He has to carry a 4lb penalty on Wednesday, for the latter success.
Supremacy was beaten on his racecourse debut last season, and Cox is pleased to be able to run him before next month’s Group One at the Royal meeting, for which he is ante-post favourite at around 9-2.
“I’m delighted that it’s this year and not last, with the chance to have a prep and not go to Ascot first time out,” said the Lambourn trainer.
“He’s done really well, but this is very much his first step back, and he comes to himself when it gets a bit warmer – so while I’m pleased we’re back in action, it is very much his first step of the year.
“He’s a wonderful horse and he’s got such an amazing temperament for a sprinter, which is why I’m really pleased we’ve got a chance to have a trial race in the build-up to Royal Ascot. That is where we’re looking for him to come to the boil 100 per cent.
“I really don’t know if we’ll run him again before Ascot. I’m very happy we’ve got a chance to run on some quick ground. A lot of these horses have been running through the winter and have had recent runs. This is his first step back with a penalty. I’m looking forward to getting him back on track.”
Haqeeqy steps up to Listed company for the Charlie Waller Trust Paradise Stakes, after winning the Lincoln Handicap in eyecatching fashion on only his sixth career start.
The four-year-old, by Lope De Vega, produced a decisive turn of foot to win going away by a length and a half at Doncaster last month.
Trainer John Gosden feels this is the right opportunity for Haqeeqy on the back of that victory.
“He did it well. He finished off that race very strongly, and that’s an obvious step to go to a Listed from a race like that,” he said.
Sir Busker won the Silver Hunt Cup over the course and distance at the Royal meeting, and also covered himself in glory in two attempts in Group company.
Runner-up in the Celebration Mile, the William Knight-trained gelding was fourth to The Revenant in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in October.
Sam Hoskins, racing manager for owners Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds, said: “We’re really looking forward to seeing him run back. William is really pleased. He’s grown and has strengthened up even more during the winter.
“I’m sure he’ll come on for the run a little bit, but I’m hoping he’ll be bang there.
t was a great performance in the QEII, and if he hadn’t have hung all the way across the track he may well have beaten Palace Pier for third.
“That was obviously very different ground to what it will be on Wednesday, but hopefully he’ll run a big race again. Ascot suits him perfectly. He likes to be ridden patiently. We won’t see him until late, hopefully.”