Idaho can go one better than his brother in Hardwicke Stakes
September bids to emulate Churchill’s victory last year in Ascot Opener
Seamie Heffernan riding Idaho to win The Betway Great Voltigeur at York last August. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
With Ryan Moore on duty for the Queen in the Hardwicke Stakes, Seamus Heffernan is on board the Ballydoyle hope Idaho who will try to get one over on his big brother Highland Reel on the final day of Royal Ascot 2017.
Highland Reel came up a head short of Dartmouth in last year’s Hardwicke after which there were even suspicious muttering about the runner-up’s resolution.
Such an idea seems ludicrous now considering Wednesday’s Prince Of Wales’s Stakes winner has come to be regarded as the epitome of globe-trotting toughness. But it does prove how a year can be a very long time indeed in racing.
Stinging proof of that for the Coolmore team will come in the Ascot finale with the appearance of their one-time ‘great white hope’ US Army Ranger in the Queen Alexandra Stakes.
It’s the longest race on the British programme, normally the preserve of stamina-laden jumpers rather than Derby runner-ups, and seems something of a last throw of the dice for a colt that once promised so much in 2016.
US Army Ranger finished in front of Idaho when they filled the placings behind Harzand at Epsom just over a year ago.
But the future looks rosier for Idaho who subsequently finished runner-up in the Irish Derby, won the Voltigeur before luck deserted him in the Leger when he unseated Heffernan at Doncaster.
A subsequent appearance in Canada turned into something of a non-event too and he failed to cut much ice behind his year old full brother on his reappearance in the Coronation Cup.
Now Idaho gets to have a crack of his own at the Moore-ridden Dartmouth but crucially he is set to do so on the sort of quick ground he won so impressively on at York and on which Highland Reel especially thrives.
It may be asking too much for Idaho to thrive with age the way his brother has. He hasn’t won a top-flight prize yet for one thing.
But his three year old campaign was up to the same level ratings-wise and with Dartmouth usually best on a softer surface, this looks a good opportunity for Idaho to reboot his career – and avenge some Hardwicke family honour.
An Irish team of just seven – the smallest of the week – lines up on Saturday but there will be some confidence in Thomas Hobson pulling off the same Ascot Stakes-Queen Alexandra double for Willie Mullins that Simenon managed in 2012.
With Ryan Moore committed to US Army Ranger, Donegal born-Martin Harley takes over on Thomas Hobson who sliced through his opposition to win on Tuesday.
Mullins has slight concerns about very fast going but they must pale compared to the conundrum US Army Ranger presents to Aidan O’Brien. Maybe this will indicate he’s a Gold Cup prospect for 2018 but it’s a long way from the hopes originally invested in him.
In contrast the future looks bright for the Ballydoyle juvenile September, one of four fillies lining up for the opening Chesham Stakes which Churchill won a year ago.
The daughter of Peeping Fawn put up an outstanding debut effort at Leopardstown and O’Brien also won the Chesham in 2011 with Maybe who was an outstanding juvenile filly.
There is no Irish contender for the final Group One of the week, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, which sees Moore back on the likely favourite Limato.
Henry Candy’s versatile runner endured something of a nightmare in Meydan in the Spring when well behind France’s The Right Man who opposes again today.
So does the versatile US hope Long On Value, just beaten in that Al Quoz on Meydan, and who will relish this stiffer test. Bill Mott’s veteran could be appropriately named.