Gleneagles targeting a perfect start to Ascot week

Picture: Getty

Picture: Getty

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Dual 2000 Guineas winner Gleneagles heads a field of six for the St James’s Palace Stakes on the opening day of Royal Ascot tomorrow.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained colt has looked a cut above his fellow three-year-olds in picking up both Classics at Newmarket and the Curragh. He appears to have frightened away plenty of opposition but has not scared off French 2000 Guineas hero Make Believe.

The Andre Fabre-trained colt, who was supplemented at a cost of £35,000, had his form boosted by the victory of his stablemate and Poule d’Essai des Poulains runner-up New Bay in the French Derby. Make Believe’s owner Prince Faisal also retains an interest in Belardo, with Godolphin buying into last season’s champion two-year-old.

Trainer Roger Varian is praying there is still time for showers to hit the Berkshire course. “Belardo is a big price but we are hoping for thunderstorms to come. The horse is in super form and has come on for his run in the Irish Guineas,” said Varian.

Sir Michael Stoute has an interesting contender in Consort, who is taking a big hike in class after winning his two starts, most recently in the Heron Stakes at Kempton. Hugo Palmer’s Solario Stakes scorer Aktabantay makes his belated seasonal debut, while Godolphin’s Latharnach, trained by Charlie Appleby, completes the sextet.

Freddy Head reports Solow to be in tip-top shape ahead of his clash with Hong Kong superstar Able Friend in tomorrow’s Queen Anne Stakes.

Solow was a brilliant winner of the Dubai Turf at Meydan in late March and followed up with an equally stunning display in last month’s Prix d’Ispahan at Longchamp.

Victory would provide trainer Head with a second victory in the Royal Ascot curtain-raiser following the magnificent mare Goldikova’s triumph in 2010.

“He’s very well, things couldn’t be better and we’ll see how good he is. It’s his toughest task. He’s never faced as many good horses, but we’ll see what he’s worth,” he said.

John Moore’s Able Friend is almost untouchable in his homeland and adds intrigue to what promises to be a thrilling contest for which eight horses have been declared. Heading the home challenge are the Richard Hannon-trained duo of Night Of Thunder and Toormore, who were first and second in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

Andre Fabre’s mare Esoterique is a second French challenger, while Aidan O’Brien’s Cougar Mountain is the sole Irish representative.

Kevin Ryan’s Glory Awaits and Here Comes When from Andrew Balding’s yard make up the eight. Arod, Cable Bay and Rizeena were the three withdrawals at the final declaration stage.

Sole Power will have 18 rivals in his way as he attempts to win an unprecedented third King’s Stand Stakes.

Eddie Lynam’s Irish sprinter is one of 11 horses to have won the five-furlong dash twice, but as yet none have gone on to make it three. Though accepting it is a tall order, Lynam reports his sprightly eight-year-old to be ready for the task awaiting him.

“We’re ticking off the days,” said the County Meath handler. “We’re very happy with him and he loves the place.

“I know it’s a big ask [to win three in a row], but we’re very hopeful.” Among the opposition is Australian mare Shamal Wind. Robert Smerdon’s charge bids to follow in the hoofprints of former winners from Down Under in Choisir (2003), Takeover Target (2006), Miss Andretti (2007) and Scenic Blast (2009). Ryan Moore rides.

Meanwhile, course and distance winner Bright Flash could be the answer to what is a wide-open EBF Stallions Fillies’ Handicap at Carlisle today. David Brown’s daughter of Dutch Art was presumably showing her shrewd trainer plenty prior to her juvenile debut last summer as the Nottinghamshire handler sent her down to Glorious Goodwood for her racecourse introduction.

She looked a winner waiting to happen after finishing fourth on that occasion and ran a similarly promising race when filling the same position in the traditionally strong Convivial Maiden at York’s Ebor meeting.

The first two from that race are now rated in excess of 100, while Bright Flash sits on a handy perch of 77.

Following that effort on the Knavesmire, Brown’s charge made it third time lucky in some style at this track and there was nothing wrong with her comeback effort and handicap debut at Doncaster little over a week ago.

With that run under her belt, Bright Flash looks sure to go well on her return to Cumbria.

Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby has never had a runner at Carlisle, making the presence of King Of Country in the Price Boosts At bookies.com Maiden Stakes of clear interest.

The son of Dubawi was unraced as a juvenile and has plied his trade in better races further south so far this season.

He finished down the field at Newmarket on debut and failed to get home over a mile and a half at Kempton next time.

His fourth placed finish behind the 95-rated Proposed over 10 furlongs at Sandown recently is a truer reflection of King Of Country’s ability and any sort of improvement should make him hard to beat.

SELECTIONS

2:15 Searanger

2:45 A J Cook

3:15 Rasselas

3:45 Bright Flash (nap)

4:15 Save The Bees

4:45 King Of Country

5:15 In Due Time

Nottingham

6:10 Ahdaf

6:40 Just Us Two

7:10 Robin Park

7:40 Hanno

8:10 Fantasy Gladiator 8:40 Lady Knight

Southwell

2:30 Cardinal Rose

3:00 Furrows

3:30 Cara Court

4:00 Bella

4:30 Jalingo

5:00 Billy Congo

5:30 King’s Realm

Windsor

5:50 Dream Ruler

6:20 Alkhor

6:50 Kumanavsumfun

7:20 Tamayuz Star

7:50 Hannington

8:20 Julieta

8:50 Saint Honore

Double

Bright Flash

3:45 Carlisle

King of Country

4:45 Carlisle

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