Friday 16 November 2018

Condon can beat big guns with Romanised

Romanised, with Shane Foley up, second from left, on their way to winning the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas Group 1 race during this year's Curragh Races Irish 2,000 Guineas Day at the Curragh in Kildare. Photo: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
Romanised, with Shane Foley up, second from left, on their way to winning the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas Group 1 race during this year's Curragh Races Irish 2,000 Guineas Day at the Curragh in Kildare. Photo: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

Michael Verney

With 61 Royal Ascot winners and nearly half of his 131 Festival runners winning or placing in the past five years, Aidan O'Brien is the man to follow with the Ballydoyle maestro mob-handed on the opening day.

More than €8.3 million in prize money is up for grabs over the next five days and while it might not be his strongest Ascot team compared to other years, there are plenty with obvious chances.

Things start as they mean to go on with the Group One Queen Anne Stakes (2.30) where O'Brien saddles likely favourite Rhododendron, the mount of Ryan Moore, and Deauville.

Rhododendron got up well to collar the re-opposing Lightning Spear in the shadow of the post when many of these - including Deauville - were well held in behind in the Lockinge last month and there's no reason to suggest that form will be ripped up today.

Carlos Laffon-Parias's Recoletos is an interesting challenger - French raiders have won three of the last eight runnings - but O'Brien's stiffest opposition may come from Benbatl, a Group Three scorer at the Royal meeting 12 months ago.

Saeed bin Suroor's Godolphin runner excelled in Meydan earlier this year taking the lucrative Group One Dubai Turf and Christophe Soumillon's mount sets the standard if running in a similar vein today.

Trainer Ken Condon. Photo: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE
Trainer Ken Condon. Photo: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

O'Brien is triple-handed in the Group One St James's Palace Stakes (4.20) - a race he has won seven times - with leading fancy U S Navy Flag renewing acquaintances with Romanised after their Irish 2,000 Guineas joust.

Amazingly, Romanised is the only winner of the Irish Flat season for trainer Ken Condon, but his two-and-a-quarter-length beating of U S Navy Flag at the Curragh gives the son of Holy Roman Emperor a huge chance to provide him with his first Royal winner in the hands of Shane Foley.

Without Parole - owned by John Gunther (who bred US Triple Crown winner Justify) - is unexposed but this is a steep step up in grade from his Listed win at Sandown last month while Roger Teal's Tip Two Win is hugely respected.

Given how Derby hero Masar and Roaring Lion franked the form at Epsom, his English 2,000 Guineas second marks him out as an obvious danger but Romanised is selected to score.

The Group One King's Stand Stakes (3.40) is one of just nine Royal Ascot contests that has eluded O'Brien and despite sending a quartet into action, he may have to wait to break his duck as this looks like an intriguing duel between Charles Hills' Battaash and Australian superstar Lady Aurelia.

Battaash only scraped home from O'Brien's re-opposing Washington DC in the Temple Stakes, however, and Wesley Ward's filly Lady Aurelia can show her love for Ascot once again to seal her third Royal win with John Velazquez up.

O'Brien has farmed the Group Two Coventry Stakes (3.05) with eight victories and favourite Sergei Prokofiev - named after a Russian composer - looks the most likely winner based on his Listed stroll at Naas last month.

Not content with domination in the jumps sphere, Willie Mullins runs five in the Ascot Stakes Handicap (5.0) over the marathon 2m4f trip having already won this race three times with Moore aboard on each occasion.

His booking on Chelkar would suggest he is the leading Closutton fancy and while Henry de Bromhead sends over Daybreak Boy, Moore's mount is preferred in a competitive affair.

Dali shines for O'Brien

Ahead of a busy week across the water, Aidan O'Brien got a timely boost last night as his Dali claimed the Listed Midsummer Sprint Stakes at Naas.

The 9/4 joint favourite was quick into his stride under Donnacha O'Brien and once grabbing the initiative after a furlong, the son of Scat Daddy was always in control and comfortably held English raider Miza by two lengths.

The success in the feature was the first leg of a double for the O'Briens who took the seven-furlong handicap with Darkness Falls (6/1), which upset the 10/11 favourite Magwadiri.

Jockey Billy Lee went one better with an 829/1 treble. He landed the opening maiden for two-year-old fillies with the Willie McCreery-trained Lethal Promise which easily saw off O'Brien's Fantasy by more than six lengths before claiming a brace for Andrew Oliver.

The Limerick rider first guided Spinning Memories (20/1) to victory in the seven-furlong maiden before steering 28/1 outsider Full Disclosure to a neck success in the finale.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport