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Charlie Fellowes' English Oak looks bound for the Royal meeting
Ed Walker's English Oak looks bound for the Royal meeting

Which yards are hitting form in time for Royal Ascot?

With Royal Ascot on the horizon, we highlight five trainers with the best strike-rates in recent weeks.

*Trainers by strike-rate in Britain/Ireland since May 6 with 25+ runners

Charlie Appleby 33.3% (30 runners, 10 winners)

With four of the five Cassics now run and Royal Ascot coming up, it shouldn’t be too surprising that racing’s superpowers are hitting full stride at this stage of the season.

Having looked well equipped for the Derby at one stage, Charlie Appleby was left with Dante runner-up Ancient Wisdom as his sole runner, but while he proved disappointing, there was a much better showing in the Oaks from Dance Sequence who finished a good second.

Diamond Rain, a daughter of Oaks winner Dancing Rain, didn’t take her chance at Epsom but she looked a smart prospect when readily winning a listed race at Newbury and would be an interesting runner in the Irish Oaks.

Five of Appleby’s ten domestic winners in the period under review were two-year-olds and no doubt some of those will be seen next at Royal Ascot. Of those, Mountain Breeze made it two out of two at Newmarket, looking a potential Albany filly, while there were taking debuts from colts Ancient Truth at Newmarket and Age of Gold at Yarmouth.

As well as some good winners for Appleby in the States, globetrotter Rebel’s Romance added to his Dubai Sheema Classic success by bagging another valuable overseas prize in the Champions & Chater Cup, providing his trainer with his first winner in Hong Kong.

Diamond Rain
Unbeaten Shamardal filly Diamond Rain

Aidan O’Brien 25.3% (95 runners, 24 winners)

Nobody has sent out more winners in recent weeks in Britain or Ireland than Aidan O’Brien and at an impressive strike-rate too. The obvious highlight was City of Troy putting his disappointing effort in the 2000 Guineas behind him and reclaiming his spot at the head of the three-year-old generation by winning the Derby, with a promising run too from stablemate Los Angeles in third.

The winner could now take in the Irish Derby before being campaigned in the USA. City of Troy wasn’t the only one to leave his last run behind at Epsom, as Luxembourg shook off a poor run in Dubai when making all in the Coronation Cup, setting himself up for next month’s King George at Ascot, while Point Lonsdale was another coming off a defeat in Dubai when taking the Ormonde Stakes at Chester in clear-cut fashion.

Another Ballydoyle older horse in good heart before Royal Ascot is Kyprios whose latest win in the Levmoss Stakes at Leopardstown sets him up for a bid to regain the Gold Cup which he won in 2022. Like Appleby, O’Brien has had some youngsters stake a claim for Royal Ascot in recent weeks, including Naas Group 3 winner Fairy Godmother who looks another leading contender for the Albany and Henri Matisse who could improve a lot for his narrow debut win at the Curragh.

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Charlie Hills 23.3% (43 runners, 10 winners)

Charlie Hills has had a dozen winners all told this year, but ten of them have come in the last month. However, the markets don’t yet seem to have caught on to the stable’s good recent form judging from starting prices of 28/1, 16/1 (twice), 12/1 and 11/1 for some of those winners.

It’s not surprising, then, that backing the stable’s runners blind would have returned an excellent profit of £76.50 to a £1 stake. Their big winner in this period has been smart sprinter Mitbaahy, new to the yard this year, who won the Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh under a classic Jamie Spencer ride and would be a leading contender for the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes which the same connections won last year.

Also thriving is useful four-year-old handicapper Divine Libra, a winner at Chester in May before a close third at Newmarket later in the month. Socialite has quickly established himself as a useful three-year-old, following up a winning debut at Leicester with a ready success at Doncaster, and is open to further improvement, while The Ice Phoenix is another three-year-old going the right way judged on his win in a mile handicap at Ascot, a race won by subsequent Britannia winner Docklands last year.

Jamie Spencer with Mitbaahy at the Curragh
Jamie Spencer with Mitbaahy at the Curragh

James Fanshawe 22.7% (44 runners, 10 winners)

James Fanshawe had one of his best recent seasons numerically last year with 50 winners and on top of some fine form in general over the last month, the stable has unearthed a flag-bearer at the highest level in Ambiente Friendly. Already with useful form at two, he burst onto the Derby scene when winning the Lingfield Derby Trial with plenty of authority and confirmed that smart effort with a fine run behind City of Troy at Epsom, no match for him in the end but impressing with how he’d travelled through much of the race.

Connections are understandably keen to avoid bumping into the winner again, though it remains to be seen if he takes up his King Edward VII Stakes entry. Ambiente Friendly’s owners, The Gredley Family, also have a progressive three-year-old staying handicapper in East India Road (a half-brother to their Royal Ascot winner of last year Burdett Road), a winner at Salisbury, while Leicester handicap winner Pique’ is a similar type.

Wannabe Brave is an ordinary staying handicapper, but his recent all-weather hat-trick illustrates his stable’s good form, while Northumberland Plate entry Sea Legend made his first start for the yard a winning one at Newcastle. Commonwealth Cup entry Kind of Blue made it two from two when winning at Doncaster, and while Royal Ascot might come a bit soon, he’s related to the stable’s crack sprinters The Tin Man and Deacon Blues.

Ed Walker 22.7% (44 runners, 10 winners)

With identical stats to Fanshawe is Lambourn trainer Ed Walker who sent out eight winners in six days in the latter half of May with some likely Royal Ascot types among them, none more so perhaps than very promising three-year-old Almaqam.

He followed a successful reappearance in a Yarmouth maiden by winning the listed Heron Stakes at Sandown with a much-improved performance, and while he has plenty of Group 1 options further down the line, he could well take in the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot which his stable won with Waipiro last year. He’s out of a smart mile and a half winner, so the step up from a mile looks sure to suit.

English Oak is a progressive four-year-old handicapper and will be of interest in whichever race he contests at Royal Ascot, looking one to follow after storming clear to land the odds over seven furlongs at Haydock.

Back with the three-year-olds, other promising types include the well-bred Midnight Gun who showed plenty of improvement when getting off the mark at Nottingham and unexposed Goodwood handicap winner Queen’s Reign, while four-year-old filly Dreamrocker very much caught the eye when third at York last time and is a half-sister to her stable’s very smart mare Dreamloper who improved with age.

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