International Cast Eye Royal Meeting

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Golden Pal winning the Shakertown | Coady

Entries from nine countries appear on course for the eight Group 1 races at Royal Ascot, headlined by the world's three highest-rated sprinters: Nature Strip (Aus) (Nicconi {Aus}) (Australia, 124), Golden Pal (Uncle Mo) (USA, 121) and Home Affairs (Aus) (I Am Invincible {Aus}) (Australia, 120). The Australian pair–who may face Golden Pal in the G1 King's Stand S. or contest the G1 Platinum Jubilee S.–are joined by fellow Australian invader Artorius (Aus) (Flying Artie {Aus}) (Anthony & Sam Freedman), set to run on the final day of the meeting.

Last year's G1 Everest winner Nature Strip has annexed eight Group 1 victories, including the G1 T J Smith S. at Randwick Apr. 2. Home Affairs took the G1 Lightning S. at Flemington in February. The race has been a key stepping-stone for Australia's five Royal Ascot winners–Choisir, Takeover Target, Miss Andretti, Scenic Blast and Black Caviar all winning the five-furlong King's Stand.

“We have nominated both Nature Strip and Home Affairs for the King's Stand S. and the Platinum Jubilee S. This is to keep our options open as anything can happen with horses but we should have an exciting Royal Meeting, that is for sure,” said Chris Waller's assistant trainer and racing manager Charlie Duckworth. “Nature Strip has just come back into the stable after a short break following a busy racing preparation, while Home Affairs is back in work and going well. The plan is for both horses to do the majority of their work on home soil prior to travelling to England.”

Standing in the way of the Australian runners in the King's Stand is Golden Pal, sparkling winner of last fall's GI Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. The four-year-old kicked off this season with a win in the G2 Shakertown S. at Keeneland Apr. 9.

“Golden Pal is doing great, he really is,” said trainer Wesley Ward. “It was a powerful performance from him in the Shakertown–but it was a comeback and I really think his next run is going to be something special. He is a once in a lifetime horse–certainly the best I have ever had–and I think he will stamp that with his performance at Ascot if he runs like I am expecting him to.

“Physically, he is an awesome specimen now and mentally he is really coming into his own. I am just so excited to get him back over there.”

Also slated to contest the Royal meeting for Ward, Platinum Jubilee S. contender Campanelle (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) will bid to join a select group of horses to have won three different Royal Ascot races in successive years. The 4-year-old captured the G2 Queen Mary S. in 2020 and last year was second past the post in the G1 Commonwealth Cup before the placings were reversed due to interference.

“Barbara Banke [owner] and her team are so excited to get Campanelle back over there,” added Ward. “She had a strong performance on her comeback win at Keeneland the other day. If you watch that race against some of the fastest fillies in the country, what she did was pretty impressive.”

Representing Japan in the G1 Prince of Wales's S., G1 Dubai Sheema Classic winner, Shahryar (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) may accompanied from Japan by fellow Group 1-winning contender Grenadier Guards (Frankel {GB}), who will target the Platinum Jubilee.

Hideaki Fujiwara, trainer of Shahryar, said: “I discussed with the owner [Sunday Racing Co Ltd] about future plans after Shahryar won the Dubai Sheema Classic and we agreed that the next target for Shahryar must be the races with the highest profile in the world. I believe the Prince of Wales's S. is the ideal spot for the horse.”

There are 16 entries representing the USA at today's Group 1 entry stage. Among them is a host of runners trained by Graham Motion (Spendarella (Fr) (Common Grounds {GB}), G1 Coronation S. and Sy Dog (Slumber {GB}) (G1 St James's Palace S.) in addition to Brad Cox (Caravel (Mizzen Mast) (G1 King's Stand S.) or G1 Commonwealth Cup). Christophe Clement, who is responsible for last year's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Pizza Bianca (Fastnet Rock {Aus}), is targeting the Coronation S. The 3-year-old filly is owned by celebrity chef, Bobby Flay.

Clement said, “All options are open for Pizza Bianca after her second at Aqueduct last weekend. I am yet to have a discussion with the owner and suspect we will make a decision in the next two or three weeks. There is another stakes race in four weeks at Pimlico that she could go for and then from there you can go to Ascot. The filly will tell us what she wants to do but at the moment all options are wide open.”

Clement may also be represented by Slipstream (More Than Ready) and stakes winner Derrynane (Quality Road).

“Slipstream is very much on course for the Commonwealth Cup,” he confirmed. “He won [the Listed Palisades S.] impressively at Keeneland in April and I don't think I will run him back before Ascot. This horse has a very good mind and goes on any ground. He is very mature as well having been a good 2-year-old last year. I think he is a good horse.”

“I have also nominated a very fast filly called Derrynane. She is top-class but needs the ground on the firmer side. Similarly with Pizza Bianca, there is a stakes race for her [in the US] in late May and we may go there before deciding about the Commonwealth Cup.”

 

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