Check out the view from connections

York Friday preview: What the trainers say

Check out the view from connections ahead of Friday's big-race action at York.


15:45 Boodles Yorkshire Cup Stakes

Vauban will look to put Melbourne Cup disappointment behind him and tee up a return to Royal Ascot in Friday’s Boodles Yorkshire Cup.

Willie Mullins’ top-class hurdler pulverised his rivals in the Copper Horse Handicap at the summer showpiece meeting last year before proving his worth at Pattern level in the Group Three Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown.

The Rich Ricci-owned six-year-old was subsequently sent off favourite to win Australia’s biggest race three months later, but was a spent force early in the home straight in the hands of Ryan Moore and passed the post a well beaten 14th.

Having been given plenty of time to recover from his trip across the globe, Vauban reappears in the Group Three feature on day three of the Dante Festival, with the trainer’s son and assistant Patrick hoping he can prove himself a genuine Gold Cup contender on the Knavesmire.

“Vauban had a nice break after going to Australia, he’s in good shape and hopefully he’s ready to start another Flat campaign,” said Mullins.

“Melbourne didn’t happen for him last year unfortunately, but he’s ready to start back, probably on the road to Ascot and maybe a crack at the Gold Cup. This looks an ideal place to start, it’s a very competitive race and there’s a few of them that look quite closely matched. We’re hoping for a good run and we think it will bring him forward.”

William Buick will be on board Vauban for the first time, with Moore committed to partner Tower Of London for Aidan O’Brien.

The four-year-old has enjoyed a productive winter abroad having landed the Red Sea Turf Handicap in Riyadh and the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan.

Moore told Betfair: “I always thought a lot of him at three but he is really blossoming now. He shaped very much like a Group One-winning stayer in waiting when winning at Meydan last time, so I’d hope and expect he will be going close here, even under his 3lb penalty.

“It’s a tough Group Two, and he will need to progress again to win this, but this is an exciting horse for the season.”

The trainer added: “We’ve been very happy with Tower Of London really. He’s progressing well. He ran a nice race in the St Leger, but has shown in his last two races that he’s improving quickly. He did well to win in Saudi when he met some trouble, but then in Dubai what he did was really pleasing.”

Last year’s Yorkshire Cup hero Giavellotto returns to defend his crown for Marco Botti after finishing behind Tower Of London on his last two starts.

“This has been his target since Dubai and we are very happy with his condition,” said Botti.

“A mile and six is the perfect trip for him and he has run two of his best races at York, but we are hoping the ground won’t change much as we wouldn’t want to run on soft ground. Tower Of London looks the main danger, and we’d been hoping he would be taking a different route, but he now has to give us weight whereas we’ve been giving him weight, so hopefully we can reverse the form.”

Giavellotto also ran with real credit at York when third in the Lonsdale Cup during the Ebor Festival, involved in a thrilling finish with Andrew Balding’s Coltrane and Wathnan Racing’s Ascot Gold Cup hero Courage Mon Ami.

This time it is Wathnan’s Gregory in the line-up as last year’s Queen’s Vase winner and St Leger fifth attempts to announce himself as a player in the staying division.

“John and Thady (Gosden) seem very happy with his work and he’s done some nice work this spring,” said Richard Brown, racing adviser for the owners.

“It’s obviously his first run of the season and I’m sure he will come on for it, but we look forward to seeing him back and hopefully the ground is on the quicker side and he’s better on top of the ground. He’s come to hand a little quicker than Courage Mon Ami and is ready to run, so he will start here. We’ll get over this hurdle first and then worry about Ascot afterwards.”

William Haggas saddles both Naqeeb and stable stalwart Hamish, with the latter attempting to extend his impressive five-race winning sequence.

The eight-year-old will recommence his rivalry with Al Qareem having accounted for Karl Burke’s runner the last twice.

However, just a neck separated the pair at Newbury in the John Porter Stakes last month, with Al Qareem’s pilot Clifford Lee eyeing turning the tables on the Knavesmire.

He said: “He’s a lovely horse and very consistent as well. All he does is gallop and since Ascot last October he’s only been beaten by Hamish, who as we all know is pretty much unbeatable when he gets his conditions.

“We are hoping Al Qareem will strip fitter for that run, and the extra two furlongs of the Yorkshire Cup are in his favour too. There are a couple ahead of him on the official ratings, but he’s so consistent that he looks sure to go well.”

Roger Varian is riding on a crest of the wave with his fillies and his more circumspect approach with True Cyan could pay dividends in the Sky Bet Fillies’ Stakes.

The KHK Racing-owned daughter of No Nay Never made the perfect start in a Newmarket maiden last autumn and was not disgraced when fourth in the Nell Gwyn when returning to the Rowley Mile for her second start.

She was left in the 1000 Guineas until the declaration stage, with Varian electing to solely rely on his subsequent winner Elmalka while giving True Cyan that little bit of extra time.

That decision could prove a smart move as the Carlburg Stables inmate now challenges for Listed honours, with her team buoyed by recent Classic results both home and abroad.

“I think she will run well and she has trained really nicely since the Nell Gwyn,” said Varian.

“That form is starting to look good with the third (Kathmandu) being second in the French Guineas and the first two (Pretty Crystal and Dance Sequence) not being disgraced behind our horse in our Guineas. I thought she was a bit fresh in the Nell Gwyn, she raced without cover and I thought she did well to finish where she did. I’ve some belief in her and think she’s a nice filly.”

Varian’s hand in the one-mile contest is strengthened by Zenjabeela, who will be partnered by Oisin Murphy, while the chief danger to True Cyan could prove to be Charlie Appleby’s Devoted Queen, who maintained her unbeaten record on the same Kempton card Noble Speech thrived last month.

“Devoted Queen is in good order and I feel that she is ready to step up to this level now,” Appleby told

“She is a good-moving filly and ideally we would like decent ground, but she goes into this in great shape.”

John and Thady Gosden’s Spiritual was behind True Cyan in the Nell Gwyn and has been set some stiff tasks since winning a Leicester novice last summer. She tackles a mile for the first time in the hands of Kieran Shoemark.

Grant Tuer’s Bellarchi is quickly returned to the track for this shot at black type having toughed out an Ascot handicap last Saturday, while Kevin Ryan’s Bolsena also graduates to a higher level having bolted up at Newmarket during the Craven meeting.

The latter will be partnered once again by Ryan Moore, who told Betfair: “She was impressive when winning her maiden for me at Newmarket. This is a big leap up from maiden company, and she is currently only rated 87, but she has a great pedigree, being a half-sister to Triple Time and any number of other very good horses, so the potential is there to springboard off her current rating into this grade.”

The other Listed action on the card is the Clipper EBF Marygate Fillies’ Stakes for two-year-olds, which features a quick return to action for Tom Dascombe’s Lily Agnes winner Seraphim Angel.

The daughter of new sire Sergei Prokofiev was fourth behind Hugo Palmer and Michael Owen’s reopposing It Ain’t Two at Newmarket on debut and both are likely to be among the protagonists as they lock horns again.

One of the other key players in the five-furlong event looks to be Ollie Sangster’s Running Queen, who built on an encouraging fourth in a hot Newbury maiden when getting off the mark in a competitive Salisbury conditions event recently.

“It was a good performance at Salisbury and she seems to have come out of the race well and is in good form so we thought it would be nice to try to get some black type with her,” said Sangster.

“She’s always shaped like a nice filly at home and has shown plenty of speed. She improved from her first start to Salisbury and hopefully she can keep improving.”


15.35 Newbury Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes (Group 1)

It is very much the first day at school for Maurizio Guarnieri as he prepares to saddle Big Rock in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes.

Big Rock was rated the best miler in the world last year when trained by Christopher Head, but Guarnieri only welcomed the four-year-old to his Chantilly stables three weeks ago after owners Yeguada Centurion SL. decided on a switch for the new season.

The French-based Italian admits he is still getting to grips with his new charge, relying on the assistance of the colt’s regular pilot Aurelien Lemaitre to guide him in the right direction.

“I received the horse three weeks ago, so I am just starting to get to know him and he is just starting to get know me,” said Guarnieri. “He is a nice horse, like a nice man, he is quiet all the time and causes no problems, he is very easy.

“I did a canter with him on the racetrack at Chantilly with a lead horse and his rider Aurelien Lemaitre and he did the minimum, so I’m not sure if he is ready to run and what percent of his potential he is at or not. But his jockey said he is always this way and the horse is always quiet in the morning. A lot of good horses are this way.

“I appreciate having this horse and each day I learn a little bit more about him, but at the moment I do not understand 100 per cent of him.”

Big Rock has finished in the top two in 10 of his 11 career starts and having filled the spot of bridesmaid in races such as the Prix du Jockey Club and Prix du Moulin, finished 2023 with a deserved victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on British Champions Day.

The Rock Of Gibraltar colt relished the rain-softened ground at Ascot that day and Guarnieri is hoping for even more rain at Newbury as he assesses his charge’s big-race credentials.

“He’s in good condition and he’s really good mentally and this race was always the first on his programme so we will run and try,” continued the Italian.

“I think this race is very, very hard and there is not only Inspiral who can win the race. Big Rock has not run since 2023 so there is a lot we don’t know. But the jockey knows the horse and has ridden him every time, so there is a big feeling put on them and I hope they can do the best job for me.

“I hope it will start to rain, when it rains it is normally better for us. I’m hoping Big Rock can show his class in this race and I will be doing everything in my power to make him better. It’s a new start for both me and the owner and I thank them for the opportunity, we are looking forward to not just this race but also the whole season.”

In contrast, connections of Inspiral are hoping to see minimal rainfall ahead of her return to action.

The John and Thady Gosden-trained five-year-old claimed the scalp of Big Rock when defending her Prix Jacques le Marois crown last summer before going on to win both the Sun Chariot Stakes and land a blow over further at the Breeders’ Cup. However, she has never been at her best when there is cut in the ground and connections will be keeping a close eye on the weather forecasts.

“We hope to run, we’ve declared, we’ll just have to watch the forecast and see what happens,” said Chris Richardson, managing director of owners Cheveley Park Stud, who are also represented by the Gosden-trained Audience in the race.

“She didn’t enjoy soft ground when she ran in the Sussex and it’s still early in the year. We think she’s in good form, but we don’t want to risk her on ground which doesn’t suit as she is unlikely to put her best foot forward. She seems to come good in June and maybe that is the way it will work out again. We’d like to get her out earlier if we can, but we’ll see what happens between now and Saturday and see what John decides.

“The two of them (Inspiral and Audience) have been working together for the last few weeks and he is in there to make sure there’s pace in the race.”

John Gosden also has concerns about her draw in stall one: “We’re on wing of the field in one and all the pace is high, so that is a concern. At the moment she runs, but I will obviously be walking the course.”

While Big Rock and Inspiral are making their returns, Roger Varian’s consistent performer Charyn has made hay in the early part of the season, with the versatile son of Dark Angel now back to Group One company in search of a hat-trick.

Varian said: “The rain won’t harm Charyn, but he’s a versatile horse in terms of ground and we won’t mind conditions on Saturday. It’s a nice position to be in when you are not sweating on the weather and he is in good form. Although he didn’t win last year, on three or four of his performances, he only had to repeat that level to win the two races he has done so far. He wasn’t facing Paddington in his last two starts.

“His fourth in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, his third in both the St James’s Palace and the Sussex Stakes, all of those performances I think were good enough to do what he has done so far at Doncaster and Sandown. With that said, I was very impressed with him at Sandown and he was very powerful through the line. He will have to do more to win the Lockinge, but he goes there as one of the frontrunners in the market and deservedly so, and it is exciting.”

Charyn impressed when coming through the pack strongly to win the bet365 Mile at Sandown, with Ed and Simon Crisford’s Poker Face back in second and now looking to turn the tables.

The race also sees the return of last year’s 2000 Guineas third Royal Scotsman for Paul and Oliver Cole, while Karl Burke’s Flight Plan finished last season in the winner’s enclosure and is another dipping his toe into deeper waters.

13.50 Newbury Sky Sports Racing Aston Park Stakes (Group 3)

Desert Hero takes another step on the road back to Royal Ascot in the Sky Sports Racing Aston Park Stakes.

The William Haggas-trained four-year-old lit up the showpiece meeting last summer when providing the newly-crowned King and Queen with their first victory at the Royal meeting in the King George V Stakes.

Desert Hero went on to establish himself as a genuine Classic contender by following up in the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood before rounding off his three-year-old campaign with an honourable third in the St Leger at Doncaster.

And having made an encouraging return when beaten a head into second place by Okeechobee in Sandown’s Gordon Richards Stakes over a mile and a quarter, the chestnut son of Sea The Stars is well fancied to go one better and book his return to Berkshire next month, with the Hardwicke Stakes his objective.

“He ran very well at Sandown and he should be just as good if not better at this trip (mile and a half), it should be right up his street,” said Haggas.

“I thought he stayed on very well at Sandown and was just a bit rusty, but I was very happy with him. Hopefully we will have him for his very best after this for the Hardwicke.”

Another runner with Ascot on the agenda is John and Thady Gosden’s Middle Earth, who won three of his five starts last season but disappointed in the Leger. Now jointly owned by Qatar Racing and leading Australian trainer Ciaron Maher, the Roaring Lion colt will be heading across the globe later in the year, but not before showing up at the big Ascot meeting.

David Redvers, racing manager for Qatar Racing, said: “We’re very much looking forward to getting him back on track, he seems in rude health and the long-term target is the Melbourne Cup. Ciaron Maher has bought into him and going to Australia is very much the plan for later in the year.

“This race is a nice starting point and hopefully a stepping-stone to the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot. We think he’s done very well over the winter, physically he’s turned into a very nice horse having looked a bit of a baby last year, so we’re hoping he’ll improve.”

The Ralph Beckett-trained Salt Bay looked much improved for a gelding operation when a close third as a 33/1 shot for the John Porter over the course and distance last month and connections are hoping for another positive showing this weekend.

“His two best races have both come at Newbury so it is a place he likes and he seems to like a flat track,” said Alex Elliott, racing adviser to owners Valmont. “His first run back this year was top drawer and we think he has come forward from it. He won’t mind conditions and we’re looking forward to running him.”

Other hopefuls include Charlie Appleby’s King Of Conquest, George Baker’s stable stalwart Cemhaan and the long-absent German recruit So Moonstruck, who is poised to make his debut for Owen Burrows following 685 days off the track.

Rest of Newbury

Siyola has the chance to add her name to the Betfred Oaks picture when she runs in the Haras De Bouquetot Fillies’ Trial Stakes.

Held in high regard by her John and Thady Gosden training team, the daughter of Siyouni created a taking impression when scoring on debut at Sandown.

That earned the Juddmonte-owned filly a ‘win and you’re in’ ticket to the Oaks at Epsom and having seen the form of her Sandown success given a timely boost by Musidora scorer Secret Satire, connections view this Listed event as the perfect spot to step up in class and put Classic aspirations to the test.

“Her form got well franked at York, which is always nice to see. She’s a nice filly who won a nice maiden and it’s time to step up and see if we’re up to taking on something better or not,” said Barry Mahon, European racing manager for the owners, who saw their Bluestocking narrowly beaten in this race last year.

“I don’t think any soft ground will be an inconvenience to her unless it gets really deep ground, it’s an unknown but good to soft or soft should be fine. Ylang Ylang ran a lovely Oaks trial in the Guineas, Ralph Beckett had a nice filly win at Chester and the filly who won at York looked nice, but there hasn’t been a standout and it looks an open enough Oaks. We’re rolling the dice and hoping we can jump into that mix and if we’re not good enough, we will have to lower our sights.”

High-class fillies Warm Heart and Nashwa are the two most recent winners of this 10-furlong event, while William Haggas’ Sea Of Class is another top-level filly to graduate to better things after this contest.

Charlie Appleby’s Diamond Rain definitely has the pedigree to follow suit and showed she possesses plenty of ability on debut at Ascot, while Roger Varian won with Eshaada in 2021 and hopes to learn plenty about the well-entered Ejaabiyah who could bolt into Classic contention.

Varian said: “We think she’s nice, but she has only run the once. She’s a filly we have quite a lot of faith in and hold in quite high regard. This looks a good starting point and this will give us a steer where we head next, she’s well entered up. She’s got plenty of quality and I’m looking forward to getting her back on track.”

Horse Racing Podcast: A BAFTA Award Winning Show

The other Listed action on the card is the Highclere Castle Gin Carnarvon Stakes where James’s Delight attempts to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner Shaquille having won the same Newmarket handicap earlier this month.

He is one of two runners for trainer Clive Cox alongside the three-year-old filly Symbology and he is hoping conditions allow both of his candidates to get involved at the finish.

He said: “We’ve got a little bit of uncertainty with the rainfall predicted, but James’s Delight has made a wonderful start to the season winning at Pontefract and then when up 5lb at Newmarket on Guineas day. He’s in excellent form and will cope with any ease in the ground. I’m happy for him to take the step up to Listed company now he’s rated 102.

“Symbology makes her seasonal reappearance and is a filly we have always held in high regard and she brings some very good form with her from last season. She has done very well from two to three. I still have plenty of confidence she is a nice filly and I just hope conditions don’t get too soft for her so she can show her potential and class we believe she has.”

Shaquille, of course, was a notable performer for the north last season and another hoping to fill those boots is the unbeaten Pocklington who puts his Royal Ascot credentials to the test for Yorkshire handler Geoff Oldroyd.

“I think he will run a big race and he has trained well. He has probably improved and got stronger since his last run,” said Oldroyd.

“The main danger we have is we could do with good ground really, or quicker, so we’re hoping it dries up and he wouldn’t want soft ground. He’s fit and well and going there with a big chance, but his family all loved quick ground, so we just hope we don’t get rain. This is sort of a trial for Royal Ascot and if all goes well here, I would say that is where he will head.”

Relief Rally is another with a Commonwealth Cup objective as she drops back in trip to take on the colts, while Adaay In Devon has claims judged on her second to Jasour in the Pavilion Stakes on Royal Ascot Trials day.

Also returning to a sprinting distance is Eve Johnson Houghton’s Mister Sketch after the Mill Reef runner-up struggled to trouble the judge in the Greenham.

“William Buick got off after the Greenham and said seven furlongs may be within his compass later in the year, but he’s a big horse and he showed plenty of speed so we have dropped back to six and will give it a try,” said Richard Brown, racing adviser for owners Wathnan Racing.

“He didn’t get the most ideal trip (through the race) in the Greenham, but it’s a very fast pedigree and I think we will see him back to his best at six.”

More from Sporting Life

Safer gambling

We are committed in our support of safer gambling. Recommended bets are advised to over-18s and we strongly encourage readers to wager only what they can afford to lose.

If you are concerned about your gambling, please call the National Gambling Helpline / GamCare on 0808 8020 133.

Further support and information can be found at and

Like what you've read?

Next Off

Sporting Life
My Stable
Follow and track your favourite Horses, Jockeys and Trainers. Never miss a race with automated alerts.
Access to exclusive features all for FREE - No monthly subscription fee
Click HERE for more information

Most Followed


We are committed to Safer Gambling and have a number of self-help tools to help you manage your gambling. We also work with a number of independent charitable organisations who can offer help and answers any questions you may have.
Gamble Aware LogoGamble Helpline LogoGamstop LogoGordon Moody LogoSafer Gambling Standard LogoGamban Logo18+ LogoTake Time To Think Logo