Friday 18 August 2017

Cox hopeful of inflicting yet more Ascot heartache on O'Brien and Co

Trainer Clive Cox
Trainer Clive Cox

Greg Wood

Aidan O'Brien saddled one Group One winner at Royal Ascot last year. Clive Cox sent out two. Cox has a 42pc strike-rate in the Royal meeting's Group Ones since 2010. O'Brien's strike-rate in the same period is 16pc. Which one of the two do you want on your side at the biggest meeting of the year that starts on Tuesday?

The sensible answer is both. O'Brien has long-since established himself as one of the finest trainers since the Second World War and has not drawn a blank at the Royal meeting since 2003. But Cox's record there is a reminder that there is a world beyond the 200-plus strings of the championship contenders, inhabited by trainers who are every bit as capable when they have the right raw materials. Cox made the point last year when Profitable took the King's Stand Stakes on the opening day, and then underlined it 24 hours later, as My Dream Boat, the 16/1 outsider of six, ran on strongly to deny Found - the Arc winner later in the year - in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes. His 84/1 Group One double took almost everyone by surprise.

While the trainer is eager to compete against figures such as O'Brien and John Gosden, he has no wish to join them as the marshal of a thoroughbred army. Cox says: "We've got 100 horses and for me that's in a comfort zone that I can maintain and manage. It's all about the quality not the quantity for me and I'd rather be known for keeping that in order than for expanding beyond where we're comfortable.

"Horses are individuals, and I'm very much in tune with still noticing that and providing every individual with the care and attention they deserve."

Cox will be up against O'Brien with his major hope of the week, when Harry Angel takes on Caravaggio in Friday's Commonwealth Cup, a race that is widely seen as the most competitive Group One of the meeting. Profitable returns to the King's Stand Stakes alongside his stable companion Priceless, while Heartache is the second-favourite for the Group Two Queen Mary Stakes on Wednesday.

Cox joined the growing list of trainers employed by Godolphin after Profitable's Ascot success last year, when he was sold to Sheikh Mohammed's operation as a stallion prospect. Harry Angel also runs in the royal blue colours having been sold on after a course-record-breaking success in the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock last month. "Harry Angel [has] matured and got more confidence about his whole demeanour now and I'd hope he can bear that out on Friday. Heartache couldn't have been more impressive when she won at Bath and we think highly enough of her to give it a crack in the Queen Mary."

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