Royal Ascot: Highland Avenue pleases Charlie Appleby with 'battle-hardened' prep for St James's Palace Stakes

Highland Avenue and La Barrosa set to represent Charlie Appleby in the St James's Palace Stakes on the opening day of Royal Ascot week; watch every race at Royal Ascot live on Sky Sports Racing, June 15-19

Hurricane Lane wins the Feilden Stakes at Newmarket 2:33
Derby-winning trainer Charlie Appleby discusses his leading hopes for Royal Ascot, headed by a 'battle-hardened' Highland Avenue in the St James's Palace Stakes.

A "battle-hardened" Highland Avenue leads the hopes of Derby-winning trainer Charlie Appleby going into Royal Ascot next week.

The Newmarket Feilden Stakes winner followed home John and Thady Gosden's contender Mostahdaf at Sandown on his latest effort, but pleased his trainer in the soft ground and under a penalty weight.

The pair could well do battle again in the St James's Palace Stakes on the opening day of Ascot's five-day meeting, live on Sky Sports Racing.

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Asked about his plans for the St James's Palace Stakes, for which he has four entries, Appleby told Sky Sports Racing: "As it stands at the moment, Highland Avenue will go there.

"We saw him finish second at Sandown on the soft ground there. He's come out of the race very well. I was delighted with the run and he had the penalty.

Royal Ascot Group 1 races

2.30 Tuesday - The Queen Anne Stakes

3.40 Tuesday - The King's Stand Stakes

4.20 Tuesday - The St James's Palace Stakes

3.40 Wednesday - The Prince of Wales's Stakes

4.20 Thursday - The Gold Cup

3.40 Friday - The Commonwealth Cup

4.20 Friday - The Coronation Stakes

4.20 Saturday - The Diamond Jubilee Stakes

"I'm a big believer that when you go to Ascot you've got to be battle-hardened. He's put that onto his CV now.

"He won well at Newmarket and had had that profile from the all-weather. Going to Sandown was very much a stepping stone to the St James's Palace, as long as he ran well.

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"I'm very much looking forward to seeing him on a quicker surface at Ascot.

"We'll add La Barrosa into the St James's Palace picture. We were pleased with his run at the Curragh on his last start there. It was just the soft ground that I felt meant we didn't see the best of him. He travelled well into the race but just couldn't pick up in that ground.

"He's come out of that race well and deserves to be in the line-up."

Speed key for Naval Crown at Ascot

Naval Crown, in blue, is set to drop back in trip for the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot
Image: Naval Crown, in blue, is set to drop back in trip for the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot

Naval Crown will drop back to seven furlongs for the Jersey Stakes a week on Saturday after his fourth in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.

"As we saw in Dubai, he's got a lot of natural pace," Appleby said. "He lost nothing in defeat on his first run back and then ran a very gallant race in the Guineas.

"It's very much a pace angle, that's his forte.

"We might step Creative Force up from six [furlongs] to seven to run him in the Jersey as well.

"On what he's achieved he deserves to be at Ascot. On his pedigree there's no reason why he shouldn't be able to step up to the seven."

Adam Kirby celebrates victory in the Epsom Derby on board Adayar 2:06
Derby winning jockey Adam Kirby pays tribute to trainer Charlie Appleby for showing faith in him in riding Adayar to victory at Epsom.

Recent Yarmouth winner New Science is all set for the Chesham Stakes after delighting Appleby with his debut victory.

"His homework has always pleased us," Appleby said. "Physically, he's done well for his run and had an easy time for a week after his run. He's back in full work now and mentally and physically he's taken it all very well.

"We're very much looking forward to taking him to Ascot.

"He's a nice work horse, not electric. He's a sharp, seven furlong individual. We've got some nice seven furlong horses coming through but for what he's achieved so far, he'd be up there in the top rank."

Appleby reports all three of this Derby runners to be well after the race. Epsom winner Adayar is being aimed at Ascot in July for the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes, while third-placed Hurricane Lane heads to the Curragh for the Irish Derby.

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One Ruler, who finished in sixth, has the option of the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot but Appleby is also considering a trip to the US for the Belmont Derby.

"We're going to take a look at him over the next few days and whether he goes into the Hampton Court," Appleby said. "He'd have a four-pound penalty in there but we're slightly looking more on the international scene for him. Something like the Belmont Derby could well be on his radar."

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