Overseas stars targeting Royal Ascot glory

Overseas stars targeting Royal Ascot glory

1st May 2024
Leading Australian sprinter Chain Of Lightning, French heavyweights Big Rock and Facteur Cheval, US challenger Crimson Advocate and Japanese contender North Bridge headline contenders from seven countries for the Group 1 contests and early-closing Group 2 races at Royal Ascot.
 
Royal Ascot offers a record £10 million in prizemoney in 2024, with all eight Group 1 prizes worth a minimum of £650,000 and no race run for less than £110,000.
 
Chain Of Lightning is being aimed at the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes over six furlongs, a race her co-trainer Peter Moody won in 2012 with outstanding racemare Black Caviar.
 
Australian sprinters have a formidable record at Royal Ascot, with seven wins in total across the King Charles III Stakes, formerly the King’s Stand Stakes, and the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes.
 
Chain Of Lightning recorded her first G1 success for Moody and Katherine Coleman in a strong edition of Randwick’s T J Smith Stakes at the beginning of April, before finishing sixth at the same track in the G1 All Aged Stakes a fortnight later.
 
Moody said: “Chain Of Lightning is in good order. She ran at Randwick 10 days ago on a very heavy track and did not handle it, but she has come through the race well. The plan of attack with her at the moment is a little unique. She will have her next and probably only lead up run between now and Ascot in the G1 Doomben 10,000 on May 18. Then she will head to the broodmare sale on May 24, so it depends on who owns her after that but, if she is still in my care, it would be my intention to travel her over for Royal Ascot on June 5.

“She is a strong, robust mare, who is pretty bombproof. She is not as big as Black Caviar, but there is certainly plenty of size and strength about her. She appreciates a little bit of cut in the ground and her form in recent seasons has been curtailed by very firm tracks. Firm by our standards is very firm by UK standards, so I think she will appreciate the surface at Ascot, and she is very good over seven furlongs, which in my opinion is what you need to win over the 1200m there. She does not have the class of a Black Caviar, not too many have, but under the right conditions, I think she can be competitive anywhere.”
 
Reflecting on Black Caviar, Moody added: “It is quite extraordinary that it was 12 years ago, although when I go out the back and pat her four-year-old son and two-year-old daughter, I suppose it does hit hard for me every now and again!
 
“I have a lot of good memories after the race, although beforehand it was quite hard with all the expectation. Because I had been over a couple of times before, it was nice to get that success. We were gutted a year earlier when we brought Hinchinbrook and he went amiss on the eve of the race. I think Chain Of Lightning sits in the mould of a Hinchinbrook or a Magnus, who was third in the King’s Stand Stakes, in terms of quality.”
 
Chain Of Lightning’s compatriot Asfoora arrived in Newmarket last week ahead of the King Charles III Stakes, with Henry Dwyer’s mare due to have a prep run in the G2 Temple Stakes at Haydock Park on May 25.
 
A dual G2 winner at Caulfield, Asfoora has twice gone close at G1 level, most notably chasing home the world’s highest-rated sprinter Imperatriz in the Moir Stakes at Moonee Valley in September.
 
Dwyer said: “Asfoora had a quiet weekend after arriving on Thursday night, but she had a saddle on her back on Monday and all went well. She had another canter this morning and I would imagine we will do a bit of pace work with her on Wednesday.

“She is not the easiest to place in that she is one of our better sprinters in Australia – not the best by any means but in the top 10. However, most of our best sprints are over 1200m, whereas in the UK there is a good programme over 1000m at Haydock, Ascot, Goodwood and York, which is why we decided to travel.
 
“Her last three wins have come over 1100m, but she has form over 1200m and everyone tells me the King Charles III Stakes rides more like a six-furlong race. It won’t be an easy task for her, although it is all relative to the competition. We have bumped into Imperatriz a couple of times and, if we can be semi-competitive with the world’s best sprinter, we are hoping that will translate to the UK.
 
“It is very exciting to be bringing a runner to Royal Ascot. I have been to the meeting three or four times in the past and it is always a lovely experience. To have a runner there has long been an ambition of mine and hopefully Asfoora can tick that box well.”
 
Facteur Cheval has already tasted success on the world stage for Jerome Reynier, having overcome a deep field in the nine-furlong G1 Dubai Turf at Meydan earlier this year.
 
The progressive five-year-old made the frame in four consecutive G1 events in Europe last season, including behind Big Rock in Ascot’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO).
 
Reynier said: “I have been very happy with Facteur Cheval since he returned from Dubai and it will be interesting to see him back at Ascot, especially now he has proven himself at the highest level on good ground.

“The Queen Anne Stakes is the target as he travels well and likes plenty of pace in the race. We feel that he is a pure miler, who was able to stretch out to nine furlongs in Dubai, and the programme in Europe is very good for a horse like him. After Royal Ascot, he will head back to Goodwood for the Sussex Stakes and then we will consider the second part of the season, although I imagine he will again end up in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
 
“Dubai was the first time he has been on a plane and in a different environment in the buildup to a race, so we were very pleased with the way he handled everything. He is very mature now and it is possible that he could travel even further afield.”
 
Connections of last season’s G2 Queen Mary Stakes heroine Crimson Advocate hope she can follow up in the King Charles III Stakes, a double completed by the Wesley Ward-trained Lady Aurelia in 2016 and 2017.
 
Trainer George Weaver said: “Crimson Advocate is doing well and we would like to be in a position to bring her back to Royal Ascot, given how she performed last year, most likely for the King Charles III Stakes against males.
 
“We have had trouble getting a race into her this year because a couple of intended engagements have been taken off the turf. The next race we are looking at is the Mamzelle Stakes over five and a half furlongs at Churchill Downs on May 11.”
 
Fellow US handler Chad Brown is set to make his Royal Ascot debut with G1 Coronation Stakes hopeful Sweet Rebecca, who maintained her unbeaten record in the Memories Of Silver Stakes at Aqueduct last weekend.

Speaking to the NYRA’s media team after the race, Brown said: “It all worked out and I do think this filly might be my first Ascot starter. For right now, I’d say it’s likely her next start would be in the Coronation. She is a serious filly and trains with a lot of power.

“I want to thank Mr John Stewart for purchasing her and transferring her to me and my team. I’m so happy for him. He is new in the game and building an impressive roster of both racehorses and broodmares, and he’s a real pleasure to deal with.”

Interest from Japan covers four entries, including North Bridge (Takeshi Okumura) who was third behind Romantic Warrior in the G1 FWD QEII Cup at Sha Tin on Sunday and has also travelled to Qatar this year. T O Royal (Inao Okada) and Blow The Horn (Tatsuya Yoshioka) are two potentially intriguing Japanese runners in the Gold Cup with the duo having finished first and second in the two-mile G1 Tenno Sho at Kyoto last weekend.
 
Since 2003, 220 runners from outside Europe have competed at Royal Ascot from 10 different jurisdictions; the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa, Bahrain, the UAE and Qatar.
 
All eight Group 1 races at Royal Ascot are part of the QIPCO British Champions Series. Four Royal Ascot contests are part of the Breeders’ Cup Win & You’re In Programme – the King Charles III Stakes, Queen Anne Stakes, Prince of Wales’s Stakes and Norfolk Stakes.