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Laurens has big expectations to meet in the Lockinge | Racing Post

By Tom Frary

Since the heady days of Frankel (GB), Goldikova (Ire) (Anabaa) and Canford Cliffs (Ire), the older miling division has been devoid of a genuine star turn and Saturday’s G1 Al Shaqab Lockinge S. at Newbury offers another poser. Perhaps the G1 Matron S. and G1 Sun Chariot S. heroine Laurens (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}) will be the one in a race that has been kind to fillies of her nature, with Rhododendron (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), Peeress (GB) (Pivotal {GB}), Red Evie (Ire) (Intikhab) and Russian Rhythm (Kingmambo) successful from a small pool since 2004. Also a winner at the top level over a mile and a quarter and beyond, having annexed the Prix de Diane and Prix Saint-Alary, John Dance’s pride and joy is reported in top order by trainer Karl Burke.

“Whatever we’ve done with her at home, I’m sure she’ll improve a little bit,” he said of the 4-year-old, who was last seen finishing eighth in the G1 Queen Elizabeth S at Ascot on Champions Day. “We were obviously disappointed with her final run and I put it down to it being at the end of a long season. But in hindsight, she’d just had her Herpes jab not long before it because of a new ruling and I’ve a feeling it just knocked the edge off her.”

Burke has some words of warning for her opponents. “She’s a heavier filly this year. She certainly has improved physically–she’s probably got quicker as she’s got stronger. She bossed the females last year and I think she can do the same to the boys. I think the mile division probably lacks a star and I hope she can fill that gap.”

As usual, Aidan O’Brien has a well-respected representative in Prince Faisal bin Khaled and Michael Tabor’s ex-Andre Fabre-trained Le Brivido (Fr) who is also by Laurens’s sire. He has plenty to find on his latest third in the G3 Gladness S. over seven furlongs at Naas Apr. 13, but two years ago he was finishing a close second in the G1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches before winning the G3 Jersey S. at Royal Ascot and he would not be at Ballydoyle if he did not still possess that kind of class. “I was happy with Le Brivido’s first run of the year and that was his first run for us,” O’Brien said. “Obviously we’ve never run him over a mile, so we’ll find out if that is what he wants.”

Behind Le Brivido when an unlucky fifth in the Gladness was last year’s G1 Irish 2000 Guineas hero Romanised (Ire) (Holy Roman Emperor {Ire}), who is still relatively lightly-raced and may be open to progress at four. Trainer Ken Condon said, “He didn’t get the clearest of runs [last time], so all in all we were pleased. I liked the way he went through the line. It was important he didn’t have a gruelling race first time out–and he didn’t. The race is coming up at the right time–he seems to come to himself at this time of year. It will be a tough race, but one I’m very much looking forward to.”

Romanised was fifth to Without Parole (GB) (Frankel {GB}) in the G1 St James’s Palace S. at Royal Ascot last June and like the Irish Classic hero the Gunthers’ flagbearer lost his way thereafter. Fifth in Meydan’s G1 Dubai Turf over nine furlongs Mar. 30, he sports blinkers for the first time and John Gosden will be hoping that they relight his fire while the 2018 G1 1000 Guineas heroine Billesdon Brook (GB) (Champs Elysees {GB}) is another on a retrieval mission. Third in the G2 Dahlia S. over nine furlongs at Newmarket May 5, the Stowell Hill homebred is edging towards the kind of odds she was when storming past Laurens in the Newmarket Classic 12 months ago.

On a talent-filled Newbury card, the opening six-furlong Listed Shalaa Carnarvon S. sees Shadwell have a strong hand which includes the Charlie Hills-trained 750,000gns Tattersalls October Book 1 purchase Khaadem (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}), followed by the bid of Sir Evelyn de Rothschild’s top-flight performer Crystal Ocean (GB) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) to register back-to-back renewals of the G3 Al Rayyan S., better known as the Aston Park S. “He has definitely strengthened up and looks to be sharper than last year,” Sir Michael Stoute’s assistant James Horton said. “We know he stays the mile and a half well and this is a good stepping stone going forward. It was either here or travelling to Ireland for the Tattersalls Gold Cup and having a hard race. He is in good form, so fingers crossed it all goes smoothly.”

‘TDN Rising Star’ Headman (GB) (Kingman {GB}) heads the runners for the prestigious Al Zubarah London Gold Cup H. which boasts a classy honour roll including the former Roger Charlton-trained stars Al Kazeem (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) and Time Test (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}). That Beckhampton handler is keen to see how Khalid Abdullah’s still unexposed relative of Flintshire (GB) (Dansili {GB}) and Enable (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}) performs in this race won almost always by embryo pattern-race performers.

“Obviously he created a big impression when winning at Newcastle on his debut and then we were a bit disappointed when he was beaten by Zakouski at Kempton, although he was giving him seven pounds and the winner looked good,” Juddmonte’s racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe said. “We also dropped back to seven furlongs. He was a bit disappointing first time out this season, but you do tend to get exaggerated distances on soft ground. He came out of that fine, has been working well, and we hope this will put him back on the right road.”

In opposition to Headman is Saeed Suhail’s Apr. 16 Newmarket handicap winner Solid Stone (Ire) (Shamardal), who bids to follow where the fellow Sir Michael Stoute-trained GI Canadian International hero Cannock Chase (Lemon Drop Kid) led after taking this in 2014.

“I think this horse could take a similar route to Cannock Chase–I think he’ll go in that direction,” the owner’s racing manager Bruce Raymond said. “You need a potential group horse to win this usually. He’s working well and he’s got improvement in him.”

Wesley Ward brings Ice Wine Stable’s Apr. 18 Keeneland maiden special weight winner Joker On Jack (Declaration of War) to the valuable Olympic Glory Conditions S. over six furlongs, where he meets Ballydoyle’s Apr. 24 Dundalk debut winner Fort Myers (War Front) and Godolphin’s Apr. 18 Newmarket novice scorer Well of Wisdom (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}) in the fascinating Royal Ascot pointer won in 2016 by Mehmas (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}). Anthony Oppenheimer’s ‘TDN Rising Star’ Star Catcher (GB) (Sea the Stars {Ire}), a half-sister to the aforementioned Cannock Chase who so impressed over this course and distance Apr. 12, is one of an intriguing cast for the Listed Haras de Bouquetot Fillies’ Trial along with Sunderland Holdings’ well-regarded maiden Sea of Faith (Ire) (Sea the Stars {Ire}).

Last year, her trainer William Haggas saddled the owners’ Sea of Class (Ire) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) to break her maiden in this and there are strong vibes for a repeat for the homebred who was fourth on debut in a decent 10-furlong novice contest at Sandown on Apr. 26. “It’s a big step up for her,” Haggas commented. “She is useful and we need to know short-term targets. She is not as quick as Sea of Class at all and more a galloping type.”

At Newmarket, another ‘TDN Rising Star’ in Jash (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) reappears in the seven-furlong Listed King Charles II S. against four rivals with Simon Crisford hoping he can build on a juvenile campaign which saw him finish second in the G1 Middle Park S. “Jash has taken a long time to come to himself this spring,” he explained. “He has been working very nicely over the last few weeks and that has brought him forward to where we want him. I’m very happy with him going into the race. The purpose of taking him to the Rowley Mile a few weeks ago was to get him moving and stretching his legs. We never asked any questions that day, but he moved up well. Obviously races like this are competitive, but this is a good starting point for him. As far as we are concerned he should get the trip and it is the ideal distance for him. He doesn’t have the physique of a sprinter. He is a long-striding horse that covers a lot of ground and has got a great mindset.

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