Ben Linfoot profiles the overseas stars heading to Royal Ascot
Ben Linfoot looks at the international challenge ahead of Royal Ascot 2013.
By Ben Linfoot
Last Updated: 11/06/13 10:21am
Animal Kingdom (Graham Motion)
There's plenty of chat about this Animal Kingdom. Odds-on favourite for the Queen Anne Stakes since the news that Godolphin's Farhh would miss the race, the Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup winner is by far and away the class act in what promises to be an explosive start to the Royal meeting. But there are question marks. Concerns about his ability to handle a softer surface are on the wane thanks to the warm weather and good forecast, but he's twice raced over a mile on turf and both times he's been beaten.
The stiff mile at Ascot will help given his ability over nine and ten furlongs while the paucity of opposition - Lockinge fifth Declaration Of War is currently the second favourite - is another reason not to take him on. His preparation has also been meticulous. Based at David Lanigan's in the last month, jockey John Velazquez jetted across the Atlantic just to ride Animal Kingdom in a piece of work at Ascot at the end of May to get him used to the Berkshire turf.
After winning on the Kentucky dirt and the Meydan Tapeta, a victory on the Ascot grass would be a fitting end to a stunning career and further prove his versatility before he takes up duties as a much sought-after shuttle stallion.
Shea Shea (Mike de Kock
Shea Shea is quick. In the Meydan Sprint at the Dubai Carnival he smashed the track record for five furlongs on turf at the track, only to break it again in the Al Quoz Sprint on World Cup night running a staggering 56.41 seconds. His breakthrough on the international racing scene has come relatively late, his Meydan wins (at the age of six) the first time he has won outside of South Africa.
Yet such was the impression he made in Dubai he's rocketed to the head of the betting for the King's Stand Stakes though a Diamond Jubilee challenge four days later is now looking unlikely. The way he's been finishing his races over five, though, gives hope that he might just emulate Choisir's fantastic achievement of the big-sprint double if he were allowed to take his chance.
Shamexpress (Danny O'Brien)
Australian sprinters have taken over Royal Ascot in the last ten years. Choisir, Takeover Target, Miss Andretti, Scenic Blast, Starspangledbanner and Black Caviar have all won in Berkshire after cutting their teeth Down Under and Shamexpress is the latest Aussie speedster to try his luck in the UK.
He was no match for Black Caviar in the Lightning Stakes at Flemington in February but there's no shame in that and the son of O'Reilly showed what he can do when he put in a career-best effort to win the Lexus Newmarket Handicap at the same track on his last start. He came fast and late that day over six furlongs and unlike most of the blood and thunder merchants in the aforementioned list he looks to be at his best when waited with.
Maxios (Jonathan Pease)
Maxios has taken his form to another level this year. The Monsun five-year-old broke a losing run of six consecutive defeats in Pattern races when he beat Reliable Man to the Group Three La Coupe de Maisons-Laffitte last September and he's kicked on from that win in 2013. On April 7 he returned in the Prix d'Harcourt and showed nice acceleration to beat Don Bosco by three parts of a length, that Group Two victory ensuring he'd be pitched into top company on his next start.
That came back at Longchamp on April 28 when he was second to Pastorius in the Prix Ganay, a gallant effort in defeat as he was headed only late on and beaten by just a length. Indeed, he was a length clear of Dunaden and three lengths clear of Giofra that day.
On his last start, in the Prix d'Ispahan, he finally broke his Group One duck when staying on well to lead close home, half a length clear of Marco Botti's Dubai World Cup third Planteur at the line. Versatile regarding ground conditions, the French raider looks likely to be a big player in the Prince Of Wales's with no standout candidate set to line up in that contest this year.
Altano (Andreas Wohler)
We've seen more and more German runners in the UK since Danedream's exploits in the King George with her stablemate Amarillo winning the feature Group Three at Haydock only last Saturday. It looks like there will be German representation at Royal Ascot, too, as Altano could run for Andreas Wohler in the Gold Cup, a trainer who is familiar with bringing horses over to England.
He brought Chopin over to contest the Derby earlier in the month and he's had two winners on these shores before, one on the Flat and one in a bumper at Fontwell in the January of 2012! Altano won the Group Three Oleander-Rennen at Hoppegarten on May 19 when he beat stablemate Earl Of Tinsdal into third, with that rival much shorter in the betting for the Gold Cup. However, Wohler insists Earl Of Tinsdal needs some rain if he's going to compete and with the weather forecast dry, it could be Altano who runs for Germany in the week's feature.
Sea Siren (John O'Shea)
Coolmore's Sea Siren bounced back to form in the Group One Carlton Mid Doomben 10,000 on May 25 when finishing second to Epaulette over seven furlongs. That looks to have booked her ticket to Ascot for the Diamond Jubilee though she had gone off the boil a little prior to that, finishing down the field in top sprints at Rosehill, Randwick and Eagle Farm.
However, her form when beating and finishing second to Mental at Moonee Valley and Flemington at the back end of 2012 stands up and this daughter of Fastnet Rock has been very well backed in recent days. Given her connections, a big run is clearly expected.