“He's an Extraordinary Horse”: Buick Prepared for Notable Speech on Ascot's Opener

Notable Speech | Racingfotos.com

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One of the UK's biggest weeks is upon us and with perfect good-to-firm ground, Royal Ascot is set to welcome true summer Flat racing. That of the purest variety, favouring the faster of the breed, offering the opportunity for records to be threatened and broken. Two or three big names fell by the wayside on Monday, but most of the ones that matter in Europe will be here over the next five days as well as a select few from further afield. This meeting should be about the ability to move through the gears, to register slick furlong splits which thankfully we can now measure soon after the event to inspect the way the contest really unfolded.

In that regard, it hardly gets any more exciting than the Guineas hero Notable Speech (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), Wednesday's G1 Prince of Wales's S. favourite Auguste Rodin (Ire) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) and Friday's G1 Commonwealth Cup protagonist Inisherin (GB) (Shamardal) to name but three. The former is Godolphin's principal Ascot runner in 2024, defending his unbeaten record in Tuesday's G1 St James's Palace S. Drawn in five for the mile feature, Charlie Appleby's bolt from the blue will relish being able to draft around here awaiting Buick's signal to eat up the ground with that in-built fuel injection.

Eerily similar but possibly slightly more talented than the yard's most recent Dubawi powerhouse Coroebus (Ire), who in 2022 became the eighth to complete the 2,000-St James's Palace double this century and fourth since 2015, TDN Rising Star Notable Speech has all of his trainer's proverbial boxes ticked. It is Buick that gets to feel the ultimate buzz of steering him, however. “I don't like to compare horses, but I've never ridden one before who can do what Notable Speech can do,” the rider revealed. “He's an extraordinary horse and the way he won the Guineas was impressive. So far he's shown no chinks.”

Metropolitan And Continental…

Fortunately, this year's Royal Ascot has a large French contingent willing to risk reputation for ultimate reward and it is refreshing that connections of Metropolitan (Fr) (Zarak {Fr}) have taken the plunge in the St James's Palace. While he is certain to meet a different proposition to the eighth-placed Henry Longfellow (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) he encountered in ParisLongchamp's rain-hit G1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches and has another stellar miler to contend with in the Irish Guineas hero Rosallion (Ire) (Blue Point {Ire}), it is difficult to put a limit on the potential of Mario Baratti's flagship performer at present. He also has a perfect draw in two and one of the most talented jockeys in Europe on board in Alexis Pouchin, so it's really all down to whether he is good enough.

Adding intrigue is Jean-Etienne Dubois' Darlinghurst (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}), who reverts to a mile having beaten the subsequent G1 Prix du Jockey Club runner-up First Look (Ire) (Lope De Vega {Ire}) in the nine-furlong G3 Prix de Guiche at Chantilly last month. By a sire whose progeny excel at Ascot, he proved he can produce rapid fractions on the Polytrack at Cagnes-sur-Mer earlier this year and we all know how all-weather form translates here.

“He hasn't really had any tough battles or Classic races, so this is going to be like we say in France, his Arc,” trainer Jerome Reynier said. “I guess this became the plan when he won his Class Two in Cagnes-Sur-Mur. The times and the speed of his turn of foot was quite impressive and we said after that we would give him two months off and go for the Prix de Guiche on turf and then if he wins that we would aim to go to Royal Ascot with a chance.”

The X Facteur…

France's other big chances on day one come in the G1 Queen Anne S. courtesy of Big Rock (Fr) (Rock Of Gibraltar {Ire}) and Facteur Cheval (Ire) (Ribchester {Ire}), but where their 2023 exploits converge in importance they were carried out on vastly different ground. Big Rock, one of those Thoroughbreds who has had to endure the mysterious merry-go-round of switching yards for reasons unknown and undisclosed, is for sure a specialist when it gets soft. His display in the QEII, where Facteur Cheval was six lengths back in second was impressive, with consecutive early sectionals which killed the contest, but on faster ground in the Lockinge he was at his limit for the first half and where the fast-ground animals kept piling it on he paid the price.

Maurizio Guarnieri has the task of getting the best out of Big Rock as Christopher Head did at three, but after the debacle of the Lockinge and the ditching of Aurelien Lemaitre for Christophe Soumillon let's hope this isn't a horror story unfolding. Conversely, Facteur Cheval has continuity on his side having taken Darlinghurst's trainer Reynier to the heights last term. Used at the time of his Sussex second as a stick to beat Paddington with, the clock told the true tale of that race as he ran the final three furlongs faster than Ballydoyle's winning machine. Coming of age last time in the G1 Dubai Turf, he is poised to emulate his sire's success in this in 2017.

“We saw him performing really well on good ground in Dubai, so we can go to Royal Ascot with a lot of hope,” his trainer said. “Goodwood and Ascot were his first times out of France and now as a five-year-old he is more mature mentally and physically and he's ready to run even better. Now he is in the shape of his life and we couldn't be any more happier with him.”

Stars Out…

Tuesday's opening card sees some key TDN Rising Stars on show, with the surprise Lockinge hero Audience (GB) (Iffraaj {GB}) joined by outsider Hi Royal (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) in the Queen Anne. Audience is just second time over a mile here and the Cheveley Park homebred is as dangerous as he was before Newbury, where he churned out constant sprinting sectionals, but he is no longer under the radar. Hi Royal was twice Classic-placed last term and after a spell in the wilderness is around 40-1, but has a) Ryan Moore on board, b) first-time blinkers on and c) is from Kevin Ryan's yard successful 12 months ago with a 33-1 shot in Triple Time (Ire) (Frankel {GB}).

In many ways, those that carry the TDN Rising Star banner in the juvenile races are the most exciting and Camille Pissarro (Ire) (Wootton Bassett {GB}) is the only one to fly the flag in the G2 Coventry S. He has to up his game after losing out in a Marble Hill he was supposed to win, but Aidan O'Brien has remained steadfast in his faith in the colt and he is the sole Ballydoyle representative in a race keenly coveted by the stable.

Other TDN Rising Stars on display include the live G1 King Charles III S. outsider Purosangue (GB) (Aclaim {Ire}), the day's kingpin Notable Speech, fellow St James's Palace runners Henry Longfellow and Unquestionable (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}) and the Listed Wolferton S. favourite Israr (GB) (Muhaarar {GB}) and longshot Knight (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}).

USA(scot)!

As ever, American owners have a heavy involvement at Royal Ascot this week with Team Valor's Facteur Cheval setting the tone in the opener. Race two sees Barbara Banke's Stonestreet Stables, Tracy Farmer and John Oxley represented by a high-profile runner in the Joseph O'Brien-trained colt Cowardofthecounty (Ire) (Kodi Bear {Ire}). Having beaten Ballydoyle's best 2-year-old seen out so far in Whistlejacket (Ire) (No Nay Never) in authoritative fashion in a fast time at The Curragh in April, he is deeply promising as he bids to emulate the 2011 Coventry success of his relative Power (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}).

Debutantes Dare To Dream…

One of Royal Ascot's more intriguing stories this week is the baptism of fire of Raphael Freire. Remarkably, his first runner in Britain comes in the Coventry with Amo Racing's unraced Angelo Buonarroti (Justify). This is surely an impossible task, but he is oven-ready for this in terms of raw ability having fetched €1million at the Arqana Breeze-up and his relative Churchill (Ire) did win the Chesham as a maiden.

There are other breakthroughs of significance on day one. Kieran Shoemark has his first Royal Ascot carrying the responsibility of representing the Gosdens, with a couple of rides on no-pressure outsiders to help prepare for the big one on Inspiral (GB) (Frankel {GB}) the next day; plus first-season sires Pinatubo (Ire), Mohaather (GB), Hello Youmzain (Fr) and Without Parole (GB) could have their big moments in the Coventry with the first two represented by the fancied York novice one-two Andesite (GB) and Yah Mo Be There (GB) respectively.

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