Godolphin pair on Cups wish list

Colour Vision and Opinion Poll are prime Melbourne Cup targets after their Ascot Gold Cup quinella

“Nothing is too good for the Melbourne Cup,” declared Godolphin’s racing manager Simon Crisford after the stable overnight quinellaed the Ascot Gold Cup with Colour Vision and Opinion Poll with a triumphant Frankie Dettori aboard the winner.

Crisford was responding to the question as to whether either of today’s runners or yesterday’s Prince Of Wales’s Stakes third Farhh might be aimed at the 2012 Emirates Melbourne Cup.

“Obviously it’s too early to call but they’ll have entries for the Cup and we’ll wait and see their ratings and how they’re handicapped. Today’s two are very genuine stayers of course and Farhh looks very progressive,” he said.

It was Saeed bin Suroor’s fifth win in the race and the same for Dettori who is still clearly the most popular jockey in the UK.

He was greeted with thunderous applause after his trademark star jump dismount from the four-year-old winner.

And any thought that Dettori is playing clear second fiddle to the young gun Mickael Barzalona might have to be put on hold.

“Sheikh Mohammed gave Frankie the choice of rides here and he went the right way,” Crisford said.

Dettori had ridden both horses in their last start wins. Colour Vision, who had beaten 2012 Melbourne Cup runner-up Red Cadeaux at Kempton on May 2, is now two from two for bin Suroor after being formerly prepared by Mark Johnston.

The Gold Cup was marred by a very slow pace. The overall time of 4.42.05 was about 25 seconds outside the course record and even 18 seconds slower than the median time.

Colour Vision won by a half length from Barzalona’s mount Opinion Poll and held the race after stewards inquired into interference in the straight. Saddler’s Rock was a neck back in third place.

“It means a lot to us to win this race,” Crisford said, “it’s one of the highlights of the week and our whole operation is aimed at winning the flagship races like this and the World Cup which we claimed earlier in the year.

“Colour Vision is a resolute stayer and probably better on faster ground but he coped well with the conditions today. The experience of Frankie is always an asset and I knew he wasn’t going to get beaten when he saw Barzalona on his outside.”

The Gold Cup has not been a great precursor to Melbourne Cup success with Yeats’ seventh behind Delta Blues in 2006 the best result among those who’ve tried and failed or failed to get to the post. The list includes Drum Taps, Double Trigger and Kayf Tara.

The 4/5 Gold Cup favorite Fame And Glory, who won the race last year, was a labouring seventh.

“He has come back fine and seems to be fine after the race. It was an interesting race,” said trainer Aidan O’Brien in reference to the slow pace.

John Oxx, trainer of Saddler’s Rock who is also a target for the Melbourne Cup, was frustrated by the lack of speed.

“It was a bit of a farce of a race. Obviously if you win it’s not a problem but my horse is normally so relaxed but today he was tugging the whole way,” he said.

So You Think confirms his star status

So You Think overnight showed the world what a star he is with a comprehensive win in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.

The former Bart Cummings trained champion won by two and a quarter lengths from The Queen’s Carlton House and the victory prompted a remarkable post-race interview from his present trainer Aidan O’Brien whose 19 year-old son Joseph was in the saddle for his first Royal Ascot winner.

O’Brien, who now has 37 Royal Ascot winners and is unquestionably one of the world’s great trainers, conceded that he had taken too long to sort out the son of High Chaparral and failed to heed the advice which had come from the legendary Cummings.

‘It’s taken me a year and half to learn how to train him, ‘O’Brien said, ‘I’m sorry it took me so long but now we have him back where Bart had him. He’s now in a place where we’ve never had him before and today he showed his great class.

‘I feel like he’s better than we’ve ever had him before. We reviewed everything we’d done with him. We listed to what Bart had said. I didn’t resent him commenting on the horse. I was delighted to hear him speaking from the heart. I’d been overworking him, galloping the speed out of him but we’ve turned that around and he was brilliant today,’ he said.

So brilliant, in fact, that the wonderfully gracious O’Brien said he wold now speak to the owners and be ‘pleading hard to them to keep him going.’ O’Brien indicated that the Coral Eclipse Stakes at Sandown on 7 July would be his next run but no decisions have been made.

O’Brien’s tally of Royal Ascot winners is third, among current trainers, behind Sir Henry Cecil (74) and Sir Michael Stoute (63) but they each trained their first winner at the meeting in the 1970’s while O’Brien’s first was in 1997.

So You Think started the favourite at 4/5 in what broadcaster Jim McGrath described as his ‘crowning achievement’.

He now boasts 14 wins from 23 starts and has had nine northern hemisphere starts on turf for six wins, two seconds and a fourth in the Arc. In 2011, he won more prize money in England and Ireland than any other horse.

Joseph O’Brien was delighted to add a Royal Ascot win to his Derby and 2000 Guineas successes. The young man, who stands just on six feet tall, said: ‘He relaxed lovely today and quickened up really well. He was never going to get beaten when he saw Carlton House coming on his inside. He’s got loads of class. He’s an exceptional horse, ‘ O’Brien junior said.

Frankel blitzes rivals in Queen Anne

The world’s highest rated horse Frankel was a devastating winner on Day 1 at Royal Ascot

Frankel, the world’s highest raced horse, had the Royal Ascot crowd abuzz when he appropriately recorded his 11th straight win by the same number of lengths in a staggering performance in the Queen Anne Stakes overnight (AET) Tuesday.

He opened the show in spectacular fashion and it was such a breathtaking and sustained display of galloping that he probably upstaged the earlier arrival of The Queen in her Diamond Jubilee year.

Frankel, ridden by Tom Queally for trainer Sir Henry Cecil, exploded away from his rivals from the 600 metres to score a stunning win in the coveted Group 1 mile.

Excelebration was condemned to his fifth placing from as many attempts tackling the Cecil star after racing in a more forward position than previously.

Side Glance, owned in the same interests as Emirates Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden, was a neck back in third, with Caulfield Guineas winner Helmet unplaced after sharing the lead with Frankel’s pacemaker.

A measure of Frankel’s quality is that Excelebration has won every time, bar on debut, when he has not taken on Frankel and that numbers six times including four Group races.

And there’s more to come according to trainer Cecil.

“He’ still improving,” Cecil said matter-of-factly, “and it looks like he will get the mile and a quarter (2000 metres).”

Cecil is never one to get carried away. He then simply observed that there were a number of options for the horse in the UK over the coming months including the Eclipse Stakes, the Sussex Stakes or the Juddmonte International.

“The horse will tell me what to do,” Cecil said.

Queally was a touch more animated declaring that Frankel “would have finished up in Lego Land” had he really let him go. That being in the next suburb!

“This would be his best performance today. He was awesome. He settled and travelled so easily and had the others off the bridle a long way out,” Queally said.

Frankel, who opened at 1/5 with some local bookmakers before being backed into 1/11, was victorious on the same day 12 months ago winning the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes.

Some joy for Aussies in Kings Stand

Ortensia failed in the Kings Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, but Aussie jockey Zac Purton was in the winners circle

It was not the outcome many Australians expected or perhaps hoped for but we could claim some part of the 2012 King’s Stand spoils with Hong Kong-based Australian jockey Zac Purton partnering the New Zealand-bred Little Bridge to victory.

Australian-trained favourite Ortensia, for Craig Williams and Paul Messara, ran below her best and was beaten 6.8 lengths into ninth place, while the Luke Nolen-partnered Medicean Man ran into fourth place for Australian trainer Jeremy Gask who is now based in the UK.

Little Bridge, trained in Hong Kong by Danny Shum, posted his third successive win as he controlled the 1000-metre Group 1 sprint from start to finish to win by three quarters of a length from Bated Breath with a length further back to Sole Power in third.

It was Purton’s first ride in England on his first visit to the UK and the former star Brisbane apprentice was understandably elated.

“This is right up there with the best moments of my career. It means a lot. This is a carnival that everyone wants to be part of,” he said.

Purton said that he always had the race under control, delivering an historic victory for Hong Kong horses at Royal Ascot.

“He began really well. He probably sprung one and a half to two lengths clear and was then coasting on the bridle. I knew when I pushed the button at the 200 (metres) he’d respond,” he said.

“He’s close to my heart this horse. I found him before he’d raced and rode him in all his early trials. He’s got great talent and I really thought he could win today,” said Purton who returns immediately to Hong Kong to ride there on Wednesday night.

Trainer Shum was overcome with delight. “I love you,” he declared to Purton as the trophies were presented and later said that he would not be partying after the race but heading back to Newmarket to check on his horse.

“I will kiss him to death tonight,” he said referring to the horse.

Jeremy Gask described running fourth in this Group 1 event as “nearly as good as winning” after his charge Medicean Man came from near last to finish three lengths from the winner.

“He’s a beauty this horse and it’s great to be a player in these big races here. He’s run a super race after settling so far back. They just went a faction quick for him at the 1000 (metres),” Gask said.

“I was so pleased to give Luke (Nolen) a ride her and so pleased with the horse’s performance. We might back him up in the Wokingham later in the week and he could go close there.”

Victoria’s globetrotting jockey Craig Williams could offer no excuse for Ortensia’s below par performance.

“She was just a bit flat today and didn’t pick up when I called on her. She got involved in an early scrimmage but that wasn’t a big issue and I don’t think the ground was a problem either. She was just flat today,” he said.

As the winner of leg 5 of the Global Sprint Challenge, Little Bridge will now be invited Flemington this November to contest leg 9, the $1m Patinack Farm Clasic (1200m), during Melbourne Cup week.

The Australian Story at Royal Ascot

Black Caviar, Ortensia and So You Think headline the Australian interests at Ascot’s Royal Carnival this week.

While Black Caviar, Ortensia and So You Think demand the majority of the Australian attention at Royal Ascot this week, there are a number of other races across the five day carnival that offer a strong Australian connection.

Tuesday Night, June 19, 2012

Race 1 – 11:30pm (EST) Queen Anne Stakes (G1 – 1600m)

Frankel – The world’s highest rated horse is expected to stretch his unbeaten run to 11 with victory in the Queen Anne Stakes. The Sir Henry Cecil-trained galloper has never looked challenged in any of his races and is odds-on to kick off the Royal Ascot Carnival with a bang.

Excelebration – Aidan O’Brien-trained talent who has an impressive record but has failed to conquer Frankel on each occasion they’ve met. Was one of 10 horses invited last week to contest this year’s Sportingbet Cox Plate so MVRC officials will be cheering him on.

Strong Suit – Owned in the same interests as Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden, the Richard Hannon-trained miler has been earmarked as a possible Spring Carnival visitor and could be the international ace that RV and the VRC are keen to lure for a race like the Emirates Stakes.

Helmet – This season’s Caulfield Guineas winner will make his debut for Godolphin trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni after finishing down the track in the G2 UAE Derby at his final appearance for Peter Snowden on Dubai World Cup Night in late March.

Race 2 – 12:05am (EST) King’s Stand Stakes (G1 – 1000m)

Ortensia – The Paul Messara-trained mare is well fancied to continue Australia’s recent domination of the King’s Stand Stakes. The six-year-old possesses a booming turn-of-foot that was on display in her last start G1 Al Quoz Sprint win in Dubai.

Wednesday Night, June 20, 2012

Race 3 – 12:45am (EST) The 150th Anniversary of The Prince of Wales’s Stakes (G1 – 2000m)

So You Think – The dual Cox Plate winner, now trained in Ireland by Aidan O’Brien, will be sent out a short-priced favourite to atone for his shock defeat in this race last year. Was an emphatic last-start winner of the G1 Tattersalls Gold Cup (2000m) at The Curragh last start.

Planteur – A potential Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival raider, the Marco Botti-trained galloper has been one of the best-performed middle distance horses in the past 12 months. He’s been invited to contest the Sportingbet Cox Plate at Moonee Valley in October.

Thursday Night, June 21, 2012

Race 3 – 12:45am (EST) The Ascot Gold Cup (G1 – 4000m)

Fame And Glory – Defending Gold Cup champion out to continue trainer Aidan O’Brien’s stranglehold on the race. Odds-on favourite who will relish the marathon 4000m distance and will prove a most popular winner if victorious.

Opinion Poll – Godolphin’s premier stayer who was runner-up in this race last year to Fame And Glory. Has only finished further back than fourth twice in his 25-start career. High on the wish list of internationals for this year’s Emirates Melbourne Cup.

Colour Vision – Flashy grey Godolphin stayer who has been touted as a possible Emirates Melbourne Cup entrant later this year. He was a brilliant winner of the G3 Sagaro Stakes (3200m) on the artificial surface at Kempton last start, defeating 2011 Melbourne Cup runner-up Red Cadeaux.

Ibicenco – Former German galloper now trained in the UK by Luca Cumani and owned in Australian interests by OTI Racing. Powerful stayer that could progress to the Emirates Melbourne Cup later this year. On trial over the testing 4000m journey.

Memphis Tennesee – Lightly raced stayer out of the Aidan O’Brien yard that has been touted as a possible contender for the Emirates Melbourne Cup. Returned to racing after a lengthy layoff with an impressive G3 win at Chester last start. (Also entered for the G2 Hardwicke Stakes on Saturday)

Saturday Night, June 23, 2012

Race 2 – 12:05am (EST) The Hardwicke Stakes (G2 – 2400m)

Aiken – Highly promising stayer who has won six of his seven career starts. Defeated 2011 Emirates Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden in a G2 race at Chantilly earlier this month and is considered a chance to head to Melbourne for this year’s Spring Racing Carnival.

Dunaden – Last year’s Emirates Melbourne Cup hero who may head to the Arc de Triomphe instead of defending his Cup title in November. Followed up his Cup victory with a win in the G1 Hong Kong Vase and has finished third in both runs this preparation.

Jakkalberry – Promising stayer recently purchased by Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock for the feature events of Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival. Has done most of his racing in Italy and has also displayed strong form in Group 1 races in the UK, Hong Kong and Dubai.

Quest For Peace – Another owned by Australian interests, the lightly raced galloper has displayed strong form around some of the best stayers in Europe. He is a chance to feature in the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival for OTI Racing’s Terry Henderson and Simon O’Donnell.

Red Cadeaux – 2011 Emirates Melbourne Cup runner-up who is being primed for a tilt at the race again this November. Won the G2 Yorkshire Cup over 2800m this campaign and was super impressive when second to St Nicholas Abbey in the G1 Coronation Cup last start.

Race 3 – 12:45am (EST) The Diamond Jubilee Stakes (G1 – 1200m)

Black Caviar – Undefeated Australian superstar looking for her 22nd consecutive victory. The eyes of a nation will be on her and she is a hot favourite to account for the best European sprinters. Victory will be the jewel in the crown of the careers of both trainer Peter Moody and jockey Luke Nolen.