Blue Point and Masar make it a major Royal Ascot day for Godolphin
Jim Bolger saddles South American import in Wokingham Handicap
James Doyle rides Blue Point to win the King’s Stand Stakes during day one of Royal Ascot on June 18th. Photograph: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse
Aidan O’Brien could have to up to 10 runners on the final day of Royal Ascot although it is his great rivals at Godolphin who can be forgiven for feeling the weight of expectation on Saturday.
Masar makes his long-awaited return to action in the Group Two Hardwicke Stakes but even last year’s Derby hero might struggle for centre stage against his stable companion Blue Point.
Tuesday’s superb King’s Stand winner bids to become the first horse since the Australian star Choisir in 2003 to complete Royal Ascot’s Group One sprint double in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
O’Brien’s hope Le Brivido drops back to six furlongs after his own Day One exertions when fifth in the Queen Anne over a mile.
However in a truly international field, with other runners from the US, France, New Zealand and Singapore, Blue Point’s local track record makes him a formidable proposition.
His only defeat in five Ascot starts was a couple of years ago in a vintage Commonwealth Cup and since then the son of Shamardal has matured into one of the finest sprinters in the world.
Ascot’s final uphill climb once again brought the best out of him on Tuesday when accounting for Battaash and a five-year-old sprinter returning to action four days later shouldn’t be a massive ask.
“This is his last season in training and he’s only got two more opportunities to run at Ascot – in the Diamond Jubilee and on Champions Day in October by which time the ground might be gone for him,” reasoned his trainer Charlie Appleby.
If the favourite’s form does take a dip then The Tin Min, winner of this race two years ago, looks to hold the best credentials for taking advantage.
Masar’s performance in beating off Roaring Lion into third in last year’s Derby looks all the more meritorious considering the latter’s subsequent achievements.
So there’s inevitably a sense of what might have been had the chestnut colt not suffered a leg injury shortly after Epsom.
Any Derby winner’s return at four is always keenly anticipated and given improving ground conditions the decision to skip Wednesday’s Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and wait for a lesser mile and a half task looks to have worked out.
“His preparation has been great and he’s hit every target during his recovery,” Appleby has assured. “If he can show on Saturday afternoon what he’s been showing up in the mornings he’ll be a live contender.”
This looks a hot Group Two however with the Coronation Cup winner Defoe taking his chance as does O’Brien’s Southern France who came up against the Gold Cup hero Stradivarius at York last month. Godolphin also look set to have the Jersey Stakes favourite in Space Blues, a race in which O’Brien has both So Perfect and Fire Lily.
That representation pales however in comparison to the opening Chesham Stakes with four from Ballydoyle taking on Godolphin’s sole hope Pinatubo. The impressive Curragh maiden winner Lope Y Fernandez looks a potential star in this.
The last of Jim Bolger’s eight Royal Ascot successes was in 2013 with Dawn Approach in the St James’s Palace Stakes.
He saddles an intriguing Wokingham hope in Southern Horse who was Group One placed in his native Argentina and has a first start for his new trainer off a mark of 104.
Bolger has a superb record in Saturday’s domestic feature, Down Royal’s Magners Ulster Derby, having won it four times in the last five years.
Godolphin’s Halimi is his hope this time although King’s Vow, one of three from Joseph O’Brien, may be hard to beat in the €100,000 highlight.