Connections of Black Caviar will discuss the possibility of the unbeaten mare returning to Royal Ascot this year – although the chances are still “very slim” at this stage.
The seven-year-old mare stretched her record to 23 without defeat at Flemington on Saturday, sparking debate over whether she would return to Berkshire. While connections were initially not too keen on the idea, they have now conceded it will at least be discussed – with the carrot of a meeting with Frankel in the breeding sheds thrown in for good measure.
Part-owner Neil Werrett said: “Coming to Ascot again and visiting Frankel is not something we’d thought about before Saturday. It’s an amazing thought, but it’s still very slim. Nick Smith (Ascot head of communications) was with us until midnight after the race and was very keen to get her and her half-brother All Too Hard over to Ascot. All the owners had such a wonderful time at Ascot that it is something we would consider. I wouldn’t put a percentage on it, but it is something that will be talked about.”
Meanwhile, Paul Nicholls enjoyed yet another super Saturday as leading Champion Hurdle contender Zarkandar starred in a magnificent 131-1 across-the-card five-timer for the champion trainer.
While great rival Nicky Henderson remains long odds-on to claim his first trainer’s title since 1987, the master of Ditcheat has no intention of going down without a fight and still holds a narrow lead in the standings, with the Cheltenham Festival now just over three weeks away.
The undoubted highlight of the Nicholls benefit was Zarkandar’s routine victory in the Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton. Nicholls said: “That was a proper job. I’m relaxed now that my horses have run well in the big trials and they can’t go quick enough for Zarkandar. That final hill at Cheltenham suits him, he will relish that.”
Nicholls had earlier struck with Benvolio (17-2) in the Bathwick Tyres Yeovil Handicap Hurdle and completed his Wincanton three-timer with Minellahalfcentury (3-1) in the Bathwick Tyres Taunton Novices’ Hurdle. The champion trainer’s Rocky Creek and Far West also enhanced their reputations with notable triumphs at Ascot.
The undoubted star of the show at the Berkshire circuit, though, was Colin Tizzard’s Cue Card, who claimed a first Grade One prize since his Champion Bumper romp three years ago in the Betfair Ascot Chase. The 15-8 favourite turned in a tremendous round of jumping at the head of affairs and victory was assured when closest rival Captain Chris made a real mess of the second-last fence.
Cue Card is entered at Cheltenham in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase, and the latter seems his most likely target. “I expect we’ll leave a decision until nearer the time,” said Tizzard. “If Sprinter Sacre wasn’t in the Queen Mother, that would be very tempting, but if Sprinter Sacre’s there on his A-game, I’d imagine we’ll go the other way.”