Royal Ascot: Irish Kingpins Dominate The Features

Tahiyra | PA Media


Royal Ascot Friday sees the Irish contingent to the fore as TDN Rising Stars Tahiyra (Ire) (Siyouni {Fr}) and Little Big Bear (Ire) (No Nay Never) exercise iron grips on the feature G1 Coronation S. and G1 Commonwealth Cup respectively. While the former flashed her considerable talent just twice as a juvenile, Ballydoyle's champion of 2022 domineered his way through three important black-type tests before injury halted his momentum. Now the winner of the Irish 1000 Guineas, Tahiyra comfortably has the measure of chief rival Meditate (Ire) (No Nay Never) so far in her career but if there is one thing Dermot Weld will know about beating Ballydoyle is that you have to do it again and again and maintain your level.

Little Big Bear, who became the latest in a line of his stable's big guns to miss a beat in the 2000 Guineas, may actually get a mile in time but while he is so comfortable at these sprint trips and Paddington (GB) (Siyouni {Fr}) is around it is a case of back to basics. As he sauntered back to winning ways in the G2 Sandy Lane S., it was as if that dull day at Newmarket where his brilliance was diminished never happened. Intriguingly, it was an experience shared with his key opponent and fellow TDN Rising Star Sakheer (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}), who also struggled to cope with his speed edge bludgeoned by conditions on the Rowley Mile.

Sakheer's trainer Roger Varian was giving off all the right vibes on Thursday. “He looks like he could still be a high-class colt, we certainly believe he can be, and we're looking forward to Friday,” he said. “He had an easy time after the Guineas and we were always going to come to Ascot, but he's built up over the last few weeks into this race nicely, his work has been on point, he's been really well and we're hopeful.”

Newmarket woes also apply to the case of Lezoo (GB) (Zoustar {Aus}), who was among the backwash in the 1000 Guineas and now gravitates back to her comfort zone. She has to improve even off her G1 Cheveley Park S. win, which puts her on a virtual par with the now-retired Middle Park hero Blackbeard (Ire) (No Nay Never) who was always a few pounds adrift of Ballydoyle's champion last term. She and Sakheer are joined by the G2 Gimcrack S.-winning TDN Rising Star Noble Style (GB) (Kingman {GB}), so disappointing behind the revelation Shaquille (GB) (Charm Spirit {Ire}) in Newbury's Listed Carnarvon S. last time, in having a lot to find with an elite Little Big Bear but this is Royal Ascot where certainties have a way of unravelling.

The Gosdens showed on Wednesday and Thursday that they are never to be left out of the group 1 equation and despite her obvious experience deficit, Normandie Stud's TDN Rising Star Queen For You (Ire) (Kingman {GB}) goes into the Coronation which her dam Fallen For You (GB) (Dansili {GB}) won in 2012 as very much a live contender. It's not just about pedigree with her, however, as her performance when narrowly denied by Sounds Of Heaven (GB) (Kingman {GB}) with the run of the race favouring that Jessie Harrington raider in York's Listed Michael Seely Memorial S. confirmed her as a major talent.

“She is the least experienced in the field, but improved when upped in class at York and has taken that in her stride,” Thady said. “This is another major step up, but we feel she has every right to take her chance.” Kate Harrington added of Sounds Of Heaven, “She is lovely filly and a very underestimated filly who only does as much as she has to. She has a great mind and I think Ascot will really suit her. We're hopeful of a big, big run.”

In the opening G3 Albany S., the Crisfords' impressive Doncaster maiden winner Carla's Way (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}) will have an abundance of followers now that the time performance of that defeat of the subsequent 11-length-winning TDN Rising Star Star Of Mystery (GB) (Kodiac {GB}) is known. Lezoo's half-sister Navassa Island (Ire) (Territories {Ire}), now the property of Ecurie Ama Zingteam, also wowed with her sectionals despite going down to the re-opposing Porta Fortuna (Ire) (Caravaggio) on a spectacular debut in Naas's G3 Coolmore Stud Irish EBF Fillies Sprint S.

TDN Rising Stars Matrika (Ire) (No Nay Never) and Persian Dreamer (Calyx {GB}) are just two more in the mix in the Albany, which for the past three years has featured the following season's 1000 Guineas heroine in the beaten trio Mawj (Ire) (Exceed And Excel {Aus}), Cachet (Ire) (Aclaim {Ire}) and Mother Earth (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}). Interestingly, the Newmarket maiden taken by Mawj and Cachet prior to meeting their match here was won last month by Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum's Jabaara (Ire), another daughter of Exceed And Excel with big hopes attached. “She will like the fast ground if it stays that way and six furlongs looks her trip for the moment,” Varian said. “She's an exciting filly, I think.”

Amo Racing broke their duck at the Royal meeting on Thursday and the racing and operations manager Tom Pennington is excited about their representative here. “I haven't lost any faith in Persian Dreamer, she was very impressive on debut,” he said. “The sharp five furlongs on quick ground at York in the Marygate has probably played against her and she didn't let herself down. She's a big, strong filly and just didn't enjoy the ground.”

In the day's other pattern race, the presence of Amo Racing's Derby runner-up King Of Steel (Wootton Bassett {GB}) has ensured a small line-up, with a trio of Derby disappointments engaged headed by Juddmonte's Arrest (GB) (Frankel {GB}) and Jeff Smith's Artistic Star (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). Roger Varian is keen to come back quickly from the Blue Riband, the form of which received a major boost with the win of Waipiro (Ire) (Australia {GB}) here on Thursday. “He has looked great from the day he got back from Epsom and is in good form,” he said. “He looked very good in defeat and that bodes well for this week, the rest of the season and beyond hopefully. These races are not easy to win, but he looks like a horse who will take us to the big spots and we look forward to Friday.”

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