Ballydoyle lead way but more to Irish Ascot team than just O'Brien
Everyone knows about the Ballydoyle battalion expected to dazzle at Royal Ascot this week, but there is far more to the Irish challenge than the brilliant Aidan O'Brien.
O'Brien is a warm-order favourite to enhance his glittering CV and walk away as top trainer again on Saturday after five pulsating days of racing, but there are many other Irish trainers hoping to forge their own history at the Berkshire track.
Settle For Bay (David Marnane)
Royal Hunt Cup Handicap, Wednesday
Handicaps at Royal Ascot are a bear pit and that makes last year's performance by Settle For Bay when routing a field of 30 in the Hunt Cup all the more impressive.
Tipperary trainer Marnane - a top amateur rider who has wins in Galway's prestigious GPT Handicap and the Punchestown Champion Bumper among an impressive list of riding achievements - is certainly no stranger to Ascot.
Dandy Boy landed the Wokingham in 2012 for the Bansha handler and hopes will be high of a repeat bid for stable stalwart Settle For Bay off a 6lb higher mark this time around.
The manner with which he travelled into the race 12 months ago before pulling away was breathtaking and while he hasn't produced a similar display in his four subsequent starts, he merits at least a second glance at 10/1.
Marnane - who set up permanently as a trainer 14 years ago - has proved himself more than capable, but the son of Rio De La Plata must buck the trend as no horse has secured successive victories since Master Vote (1947-48).
Daughter In Law (Kieran Cotter)
Group Two Queen Mary Stakes on Wednesday
Cotter - a former National Hunt jockey - is not a name that will be familiar to casual racing fans, but the Laois trainer could be parachuted into the public consciousness this week via Daughter In Law.
Backed off the boards on debut before finishing third, the Requinto filly brought her home work to the track on Irish 2,000 Guineas day to scorch home in a 5f sprint.
The two-year-old speedster - which dons a distinctive red hood - left a lasting impression at the Curragh and is available at 33/1. Were she trained by one of the bigger guns, she would be a quarter of that price.
Wednesday could be a red-letter day for Cotter, who has a small but select stable of 15 horses and is making a splash with four winners already this season as he builds his operation.
The 54-year-old Cotter looks set to duke it out with the game's finest on Flat racing's biggest stage and Daughter In Law could ruffle a few feathers.
Sunday Sovereign (Paddy Twomey) Listed Windsor Castle Stakes on Wednesday or Group Two Norfolk Stakes on Thursday
Twomey was well-known in the breeding, breeze-up and pinhooking business before starting his training career in 2012 and he has made a similar name for himself in that field.
The Tipp trainer - whose previous Ascot foray saw Van Der Decken finish fifth in the 2016 Coventry Stakes - recently had the third home in both the Irish 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas.
His growing status was highlighted when Sunday Sovereign became the first Irish-based horse to run in the silks of King Power Racing after being snapped up following his impressive Curragh maiden triumph.
The Equiano colt made some smart rivals look very ordinary on his next start at Tipperary and has bundles of potential, with 5f engagements in the Windsor Castle (7/1) and Norfolk Stakes (4/1 favourite).
It may only be June, but the Cashel trainer has already equalled his best season yet with six victories and the best of Sunday Sovereign may be yet to come.
Romanised (Ken Condon)
Group One Queen Anne Stakes tomorrow
Condon will never forget the day he joined the pantheon of Classic-winning trainers when Romanised landed last year's Irish 2,000 Guineas.
Settling into his new surroundings in the historic Osborne Lodge on the Curragh, Cork native Condon has made a solid start to the current season and hopes will be high that the stable's standard bearer can cause a 33/1 shock at the Royal meeting.
Romanised ran a belter when fourth in the Lockinge - beaten less than four lengths behind Michael Stoute's Mustashry - in what was the son of Holy Roman Emperor's finest display since that famous day at the Curragh 12 months ago. If Billy Lee can get a similar tune out of him tomorrow, it wouldn't be a shock to see the four-year-old make the frame.
Fresnel (Jack Davison)
Group Two Ribblesdale Stakes on Thursday
Few have served better apprenticeships than Dunboyne native Davison having gained experience with the likes of Clive Cox, Jim Bolger, Gai Waterhouse and Eddie Lynam.
The Meath trainer sent out his first winner at Dundalk last August and just 10 months later he finds himself on one of racing's grandest stages.
It would be a struggle to find a horse to match the rock-solid form of Fresnel, with the Sea The Stars filly fourth behind English Oaks second Pink Dogwood in the Salsabil Stakes at Navan on her penultimate start.
Fresnel split subsequent winners Tarnawa and Altair that day and was unlucky not to make the top three when a close fourth in the Musidora at York on her last start. At 16/1, she could surprise a few people.