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Hopes for Irish raider Maarek at Ascot, despite weight burden

DAVID Nagle hopes Maarek can emulate Baltic King, who carried 9st 10lb to victory in the Wokingham Stakes in 2006, at Ascot tomorrow.

Hughie Morrison`s sprinter was the last horse to carry such a welter burden in the competitive sprint, but the Irish raider has earned his spot at the head of the weights.

Three wins and a second from his last four runs show a sprinter at the top of his game and he had several of his Wokingham rivals behind him when winning a similar handicap under Joseph O`Brien at Newmarket's Guineas meeting.

"He`s in great order with himself, he couldn`t be better," said Nagle.

"Any more rain forecast would be music to his ears, he loves the soft ground, we`d be delighted to see it.

"Obviously it`s a big ask with top weight but he`s earned it.

"We`ve been handed stall nine and there`s nothing we can do about it, I`d have preferred to be higher as that`s where people seem to think you want to be, but if the ground is soft he`ll run his race.

"You need luck in running, that`s the main thing.

"This is likely to be his last handicap, he could go to Ayr I suppose but that`s not until September.

"We`ll have to keep travelling with him as there`s nothing for him in Ireland.

"Joseph rides him again and as he`s naturally 9st, it`s handy that he won`t have so much lead weight to carry."

Hayley Turner`s only ride on the final day of the meeting is King Of Jazz for her boss Michael Bell.

Third in the Victoria Cup over seven furlongs last time, he is just as effective over six furlongs, as he showed at Doncaster when third first time out this season.

Speaking on her www.racinguk.com blog Turner said: "I have one ride on Saturday - King Of Jazz in the Wokingham, who was third in the Victoria Cup on soft at Ascot last time. He's in good form at home. The stiff six furlongs and big field will suit him."

Brian Meehan`s Elusivity will have the assistance of a confident Frankie Dettori after his Gold Cup win and he has not been disgraced in Group company this season.

"Having improved throughout last season, Elusivity deserved his runs in a Listed and then two Group races in the spring," said Meehan on his website.

"In his latest he was sixth of 12 to Bated Breath in the Group Two Temple Stakes at Haydock.

"Always at his best in large fields of high-class handicappers, he will be weaving his way through late and appeals as a sound each-way bet."

Medicean Man turns out again quickly having put up a career-best effort in Tuesday's Group One King's Stand Stakes, in which he finished fourth.

However, Australian-born trainer Jeremy Gask has a slight doubt about whether he will stay six furlongs on soft ground.

"He looks very well-in (at the weights) after Tuesday and it was always the plan to run in both races," said Gask.

"The King's Stand was his main aim and he loves backing up quickly and has recovered beautifully.

"The question is whether he will stay six furlongs on soft ground.

"I'd ideally love a five-and-a-half-furlong race so the trip would be my only doubt.

"He returned to his pre-race weight within 24 hours of his run and seems bright enough.

"That run should also have just taken the edge off him, which should help him settle and enable him to get up the hill.

"It was a career-best effort and confirmed what I thought - that he is still improving.

"It's not gone according to plan this year but he loves Ascot.

"He has won over six before but against inferior opposition."

Robert Cowell`s Lui Rei performed well in this 12 months ago but he is another for whom the rain is a worry.

"He`s in great order and has been a revelation this season having been gelded over the winter," said Cowell.

"He goes there in great form and has won on soft ground over five furlongs, but I`m a bit worried that a stiff six furlongs may find him out in the ground.

"His draw (28) looks fine, it appears you want to be high anyway.

"He ran well in this last year so he likes the track but I`m just a bit worried the ground may stretch him."

Pepper Lane already has one big sprint handicap to her name having won the Great St Wilfrid at Ripon last summer during a purple patch.

She had progressed from a mark of 74 last season to a career-high rating of 103, but has struggled in two runs this campaign at Nottingham and Haydock.

"She won't mind the ground the way it is," said trainer David O'Meara.

"It's a bit of a shot in the dark with the way she's been running, but she's gone well in big fields before so hopefully she'll run well."

Hawkeyethenoo won the Victoria Cup over seven furlongs last season but was forced to miss the Wokingham through injury.

Scottish trainer Jim Goldie has formed a great alliance with Grand National-winning jockey Graham Lee and the pair will have plenty of followers.

"He won`t mind the soft ground but I`d prefer it good, it dries quickly though," said Goldie.

"He`s in good form and has been trained for the race. He`s been drawn in the middle so he can go either way. We`ll watch the earlier races and see where they go. We`ll probably take the same course as Black Caviar as she might make it a bit faster!

"I`m not sure if he`s better over six or seven these days, it depends on his mood. Last time he ran over seven but was probably in the mood for six because he got there too soon. He`s versatile but I think he`s better over six.

"It`s a very stiff six so staying seven has to be an advantage, it`s a unique course is Ascot."

Trainer Tom Hogan bought the last Irish winner of the Wokingham 27 years ago, the Pat Hughes-trained Time Machine, and saddles Gordon Lord Byron on Saturday.

Like Time Machine, the four-year-old gelding will break from stall 29.

Hogan said: "He might have won on soft, but his most impressive performance was at Cork when it was just on the slow side.

"He's in great form - he's improving all the time.

"He's growing, he's thickened out over the winter, and I'm delighted to have him.

"Richard Hughes is happy with the draw.

"The Irish haven't won this for 27 years and I bought Time Machine, who was trained by Pat Hughes.

"He came out of stall 29 as well so it's written in the stars."