Bolger's Approach should reassert his utter superiority
After last Wednesday's dramatic about-turn, Dawn Approach will tomorrow spearhead a potent Irish challenge on day one of what promises to be a fascinating week at Royal Ascot.
Thrust into what turned out to be a calamitous Epsom Derby bid at the behest of his majority owner Sheikh Mohammed, the brilliant 2,000 Guineas hero's unexpected participation in the St James's Palace Stakes has led to suggestions that the Godolphin supremo has again exercised his 51pc influence to compel Jim Bolger to veer off his stated course.
With Godolphin's Ascot team left pretty threadbare after Farhh was ruled out a couple of days prior to the Dawn Approach volte-face, the subsequent sequence of events is understandable. Anyway, tomorrow's three-year-old Group One is all the better for Dawn Approach's presence.
He is short odds to get back to winning ways over his favoured mile, but Aidan O'Brien's facile Irish 2,000 Guineas victor Magician is a deeply progressive rival.
Still, should Dawn Approach prove none the worse for his 'bull in a china shop' Epsom antics, the suspicion is that he will reassert his utter superiority at this trip.
A Festival that boasts a truly international flavour begins with the fragile American-based Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom tackling a Queen Anne Stakes that lacks real depth due to Farhh's absence.
South Africa, France and Australia will be among a clatter of other nations well-represented, but once again it is the Irish contingent that boasts the most quality among the raiding parties.
Sole Power is the only cross-channel hope in tomorrow's King's Stand, as he bids to kick-start a potentially lucrative week for Eddie Lynam, who also has Viztoria in Friday's Coronation Stakes and both Sole Power and Slade Power in the Saturday's Diamond Jubilee.
Sole Power's partner Johnny Murtagh, four times leading Ascot jockey and second only to Frankie Dettori on the list of current riders with 39 wins, is pencilled in for a book of rides that isn't done justice by odds of 50/1 to top this year's pile.
Starting with Sweet Lightning in Wednesday's Hunt Cup, Murtagh may also saddle three runners in his new guise as trainer.
Denis Hogan is another fledgling handler with Inis Meain engaged in Friday's Wolferton, David Nagle's Maarek and Tom Hogan's Gordon Lord Byron could run in the Diamond Jubilee, and Pat Shanahan might try to add to his recent Chester brace with Ralston Road in the same day's Queen's Vase.
On Wednesday, Duntle could deliver David Wachman his third Festival winner, as Camelot goes on a retrieval mission in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes.
Of course, with Battle Of Marengo, Stubbs and Sir John Hawkins to draw from as well, O'Brien is deserving of his odds-on status to secure a fifth trainers' title.
Intriguingly, though, Simenon's two coups in 2012 meant that Willie Mullins departed last year's meeting with an identical proportion of the Irish horses' joint-record haul of eight as O'Brien.
This time, having saddled his 100th Grade One winner in France last week, the irrepressible champion National Hunt trainer relies on Gigginstown Stud's Midnight Oil in tomorrow's Ascot Stakes as he tries to enhance a recent spree that has seen four of his last five runners score – including two on the Flat.
He then sends Simenon into battle against big guns like Dermot Weld's Rite Of Passage and John Oxx's Saddler's Rock in Wednesday's Gold Cup.
For what it's worth, Simenon has plunged from 12/1 to 7/1 in recent days to deliver the Closutton-based wizard a debut Group One triumph on the Flat under Murtagh. Go figure.
SOPRANO EDGES HOME AT CORK
Heavy rain led to a spate of withdrawals at Cork yesterday, and both developments combined to leave the game Midnight Soprano record a battling head win in the Noblesse Stakes.
After Dermot Weld's favourite Princess Highway was scratched from the 12-furlong contest, English challenger Cubanita headed the market.
However, Paul Deegan's six-year-old mare dug deep on her seasonal bow to plunder a first Group Three win and an eighth in all.
The 5/1 shot was ridden by the owner-breeder Jim Monaghan's grandson Marc, the five-pound claimer belatedly getting off the mark for 2013 in the €75,000 feature event.
In the Listed sprint, Maarek was turned over at odds-on by Tommy Stack's smooth-travelling course specialist Cape Of Approval (11/2) under Billy Lee, who completed a stunning 1,519/2 treble on Stack's Overland Express in the concluding maiden.
Stack suggested that Cape Of Approval might now take in the Wokingham Handicap at Ascot on Saturday.
3 Number of winners that Henry Cecil's widow Jane saddled from four runners across two meetings in England yesterday, after recording a double on Thursday, her first day with runners following the Warren Place icon's death.
Tiger Cliff is a 5/1 favourite to add to the late Cecil's 75 Royal Ascot winners for the stable in tomorrow's Ascot Stakes.
Tweet of the week
Would love to be racing today but cannot ride what isn't there!! But as usual I'm up @ the crack of dawn #canneverliein!!
– In-form 2011 joint-champion apprentice Ben Curtis rues not being able to fully take advantage of a rare day off.