Overseas raiders ready to take Ascot by storm

 
Bill Esdaile
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year’s Royal Ascot will be more cosmopolitan and international than ever before with the arrival of arguably the strongest raiding party ever assembled. Tomorrow’s King’s Stand Stakes, possibly the world’s premier five furlong sprint, is packed full of horses from around the globe.

The Barry Hills-trained Equiano broke a five-year sequence of non-British trained winners by landing the spoils 12 months ago, but the betting suggests that the prize will be heading overseas once again.

Australia have won three of the last five runnings of the Group 1 contest and Star Witness is a best-priced 9/2 favourite with William Hill to make it four from six.

The four-year old has apparently travelled over well and his Melbourne-based handler Danny O’Brien is bullish.

“If Star Witness turns up in the form he was in for Melbourne Cup week, which I hope he is, then he is going to be hard to beat,” commented O’Brien. “It’s great that the Australian horses keep travelling to England and we hope to keep up the good record at Royal Ascot.”

Star Witness will be joined in tomorrow’s race by Hong Kong raider Sweet Sanette who arrived in Britain last Saturday.

According to Millard’s wife Beverly she can be a bit temperamental but has settled down well and all the preparations are on track. Mrs Mallard said: “We think she has come on since her last race and that she will be there at the finish on Tuesday.” The six-year-old is currently available at 16/1 with both William Hill and Paddy Power.

American training legend Todd Pletcher is having his first runners at Royal Ascot this week and Bridgetown is set to line-up along with Overdose (Hungary), War Artist (Germany) and Holiday For Kitten (USA).

Another one of tomorrow’s feature races is the St James’s Palace Stakes and all eyes will be on the Henry Cecil-trained Frankel who is the world’s joint top-rated horse. However, Europe’s best three-year-old miler is set to be taken on by his Japanese equivalent, Grand Prix Boss, who is available at 17/1 on Betdaq.

Koji Kubo, assistant to trainer Yoshito Yahagi, is more than aware of the task they face in attempting to lower the colours of last month’s runaway QIPCO 2,000 Guineas winner, but are confident of a bold show.

“I believe that Grand Prix Boss is the best mile horse in Japan and it is very exciting to have him racing against your best horses at Royal Ascot, the most prestigious meeting in Europe,” he said last week. “Frankel is a superstar, even in Japan everyone knows how good he is, but Japanese racing fans are excited to have a runner against him.”

The last word has to go to the Australians who are already planning next year’s mission.

Peter Moody, the man who saddles Hinchinbrook in Saturday’s Golden Jubilee Stakes, announced his intentions this week to bring Black Caviar, arguably the world’s fastest horse, to Ascot next year. We’ve only got 12 months to wait – blink and you may miss it.