Chigun major test for Duntle
A compelling Prince Of Wales' Stakes rematch between Camelot and his Tattersalls Gold Cup conqueror Al Kazeem looks set to spearhead Wednesday's Royal Ascot card, but the race formerly known as the Windsor Forest Stakes also promises a treat.
Now trading as the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes, the fillies and mares' one-mile Group Two is likely to throw up a renewed rivalry of a slightly different slant, as David Wachman's Duntle faces a surprise challenge from the late Henry Cecil's Warren Place stable.
Chigun, the exceptional Newmarket handler's recent stylish Curragh winner, has been supplemented for the race by his widow Jane Cecil.
The 11th-hour addition means that the Cecil yard has an entry on each of the first two days of the royal fixture, at which the legendary trainer saddled 75 winners, but it also means that Wachman's smart four-year-old could again face a live threat from the stable that denied Duntle a precious Group One coup at Leopardstown in September.
In the Matron Stakes on that occasion, Cecil's Chachamaidee was awarded the race by the stewards' after Duntle was deemed to have improved her position by hampering Tom Queally's mount en route to passing the post a short-head to the good.
A convincing victor of the Sandringham Handicap on Wednesday's Ascot card 12 months ago, Duntle got back to winning ways in authoritative fashion when quickening late on in the Amethyst Stakes at Leopardstown a month ago.
As such, her Matron reversal is her only defeat in four starts since June of last year, but next week she will likely face by far her biggest test yet in the race that regular rider Wayne Lordan plundered on Tommy Stack's Lolly For Dolly two years ago.
Dermot Weld's Caponata is the only other Irish entry among the 17 remaining candidates, while John Gosden's Elusive Kate is expected to contest the Queen Anne 24 hours earlier instead.
That would still leave Gosden's classy 2012 Nassau Stakes heroine The Fugue as a potential rival, along with Alain de Royer-Dupre's Giofra, also successful in Group One company in England last year in the Falmouth Stakes.
The Fugue has the option of tackling Camelot and Al Kazeem in the day's marquee Group One over 10 furlongs, a race in which the layers are siding with Roger Charlton's surprise Curragh victor.
Al Kazeem is a general 7/4 market leader to reassert his superiority over last year's triple Classic winner, with Aidan O'Brien's colt a top-priced 11/4 to salvage something of a reputation that has long been damned by faint praise owing to the poor standard of last year's three-year-old crop.
Meanwhile, Dessie Hughes has outlined his plans for Our Conor, 5/1 joint favourite for next year's Champion Hurdle with Hurricane Fly, after an unbeaten juvenile campaign culminated in a sensational Triumph Hurdle rout at Cheltenham in March.
"We're looking at running him in the Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary on October 6," the Curragh handler reported of the four-year-old, which he said is still out at grass.
"That should leave him spot on, because after that, if he's a Champion Hurdle horse, the races pick themselves. He'll head for the Morgiana, Leopardstown at Christmas, the Irish Champion Hurdle and then Cheltenham if everything goes to plan."