SLADE Power is aiming to give trainer Eddie Lynam an incredible third winner from just four runners at this year’s Royal Ascot in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes today.
Lynam’s Sole Power won his second King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday, while the two-year-old Anthem Alexander showed tremendous speed to claim the Queen Mary on Wednesday.
Slade Power has a favourite’s chance, too, having won on Champions Day over course and distance on soft ground. He looked an improved performer when beating Maarek by an easy two lengths on his seasonal reappearance, when there was also plenty of give in the ground. However, Lynam does not see a quicker surface as a barrier.
“Asking for three out of four winners this week might be a bit much, but thankfully Slade Power doesn’t know that,” said the County Meath handler. “He’s in very good form at home and is a course-and-distance winner. I’m very happy with him and he’s travelled over well and settled in. He’s got no excuses.
“I’m not worried about the ground at all. We’ve always thought he’s very versatile on the ground. It won’t be any quicker than it was on July Cup day last year when he was third to Lethal Force. He showed then he could handle it. It would cap an unbelievable week if he wins.”
Slade Power’s chief market rival is Roger Varian’s Aljamaaheer, a top-class miler who has reverted to sprinting. He was a fast-finishing third on his first run over six furlongs since his debut in the Abernant at Newmarket and will wear first-time blinkers.
The one proven Group 1-winning sprinter in the field is Tom Hogan’s globetrotter Gordon Lord Byron. His versatility is shown by the fact he has won the Prix de la Foret over seven furlongs in France, the Sprint Cup at Haydock over six and a Group One over a mile in Australia. “He’s been in great form since his last run at Sha Tin,” said Hogan. “He looks great and feels great.
Zero Money gets the chance to run in the Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot following the defection of Saayerr. With the William Haggas-trained three-year-old found to have been sore yesterday morning, Zero Money, the first of three reserves, is promoted into the 28-strong line-up. Trained by Hugo Palmer, the eight-year-old gelding contested last season’s Wokingham but beat just four horses home at odds of 33-1.
Palmer said: “Getting to Royal Ascot is like being in the Olympics, it’s such a big thing. We’re delighted the horse has got into the race and the owners are thrilled. He’s well drawn in stall 19 and enjoys fast ground.”
Richard Hannon launches a formidable three-pronged attack. Stable jockey Richard Hughes partners course-and-distance winner Ninjago, with Ryan Moore and Jimmy Fortune booked to ride Professor and Annunciation respectively.
The trainer said: “We have three shots in the Wokingham and they all have a shout. Ninjago loves these big handicaps – he was fifth in last season’s Stewards Cup – and he ran a cracker when third at Newmarket, after which we pinpointed this race. Professor was a bit unlucky not to win a Listed race at Salisbury last Sunday, so he is a winner without a penalty and, like Ninjago, he won’t mind the ground, but Annunciation, who has been close up in all his three races this year, would probably prefer a drop of rain.”
Irish handler David Marnane is doubly represented with 2012 Wokingham winner Dandy Boy and talented stable companion Nocturnal Affair.
Meanwhile, connections of Telescope have not lost faith in the colt as he attempts to get off the mark this season in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Sir Michael Stoute’s four-year-old finished second to Noble Mission in very soft ground at Sandown in the Gordon Richards Stakes on his return to action in April.
And while he did get closer to Lady Cecil’s subsequent Group 1 winner in the Huxley Stakes at Chester, he was still pretty well beaten. Harry Herbert, racing manager to owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, feels the fast ground at Ascot and the more conventional nature of the track will see him in a much better light. “First time out this season we knew he’d need the run as he’d put on lots of condition over the winter and was a lot more relaxed at home,” said Herbert. “He had been proving harder to get fit and then we went on to take on Noble Mission again at Chester and while we got closer the ground was too soft for him, really. This is more his bag. The track will suit, the ground is perfect and we expect him to run very well.”
While Royal Ascot takes centre stage, they also race at Ayr and Andrew Balding can also strike Listed gold with Swan Song who looks the pick in the Scottish Sun/EBF Stallions Land O’Burns Fillies’ Stakes.