Laurens wins the Matron Stakes
Laurens wins the Matron Stakes

Laurens firmly on target for Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes

Laurens is among 17 confirmations for Saturday's Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, the second race in the mile category of the 2019 QIPCO British Champions Series.

Karl Burke's stable star is already a five-time Group One winner, and makes her reappearance in the first top-level contest for older horses this season. While the Leyburn handler admits Laurens will improve slightly for the outing, he has been pleased with her preparation at home - and an away day on the Polytrack at Newcastle.

"She will definitely improve, as most horses do for a run," said Burke. "She's been to Newcastle for a gallop - she's done loads of work - and I'd say she's about 95 per cent fit. She looks in great order, and she's working well, but she'll need to be all of that in a Group One. She'll have another final blow on Tuesday, and hopefully that will be her good enough.

"As for ground, I think she's very versatile. In Ireland (for last September's Matron Stakes), it was very quick ground - and while we came out of it fine, unfortunately (runner-up) Alpha Centauri didn't."

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Laurens continues to impress her trainer, on and off the course.

Burke added: "She's a fantastic specimen. I don't think we've had a horse that looks so good, moves so well and has the form in the book to back it up - there aren't many like her, she floats across the ground.

"The Lockinge looks wide open. That's not to say we're going to go and win it. You'd have to respect David O'Meara's horse (Lord Glitters), because his are going very well - and that might be our concern, ours aren't really firing on all cylinders just yet. But then again, they weren't going into the Guineas and the Prix Saint-Alary last year - it was only after she'd won that the yard kicked into gear. We're having the odd winner, but the majority are not performing as I would like. She's done everything I've asked of her, though, so we've got to go and give it a shot."

"I was talking to Joe O'Gorman (head lad) this morning, and we both agreed the horses looked better in February when we had the nice weather - then when it got colder, it has knocked them back.

"We're used to getting beat in this game, but it's frustrating when they don't perform to the level you're expecting. They are scoping clean, look fit and healthy and there's absolutely no reason why we shouldn't run - so we go there quietly confident."

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Aidan O'Brien has left in former Andre Fabre inmate Le Brivido and I Can Fly this weekend, while last year's Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Romanised completes the Irish challenge.

Beat The Bank heads there in form, having scored at Sandown already this season, while Without Parole and Accidental Agent both won at Royal Ascot last year.

O'Meara's globe-trotter Lord Glitters, Richard Hannon's 2018 1000 Guineas winner Billesdon Brook, Sir Michael Stoute's Mustashry and Ed Walker's Stormy Antarctic are some of the others in the mix.

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