Thursday 18 January 2018

O'Brien speedster returns to the fray

Former top-class sprinter Starspangledbanner has been entered in the Minstrel Stakes at The Curragh on July 21.

Trained in Australia originally, he was bought by Coolmore to join Aidan O'Brien for the 2010 season. After a pipe-opener at York, he won the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot and the July Cup before finishing second in the Nunthorpe. Even though he was only fifth in the Haydock Sprint Cup, he was crowned champion sprinter for the year.

He was then retired to stud but reported fertility problems have seen him return to Ballydoyle. Still only a six-year-old, he may make his return over seven furlongs. Stablemate Wading, off since winning the Rockfel, is another interesting entry in the Group Three.

Meanwhile, Tim Pitt is hoping Dark Ranger can bring back the Royal Ascot glory days when he turns out at the feature meeting next week. Pitt saddled Les Arcs to a surprise 33/1 victory in the Golden Jubilee Stakes back in 2006, but the Newmarket-based trainer has only had a handful of runners at the showpiece fixture since.

However, he believes Dark Ranger has an excellent chance of enhancing the yard's record in Tuesday's Ascot Stakes over two and a half miles. The six-year-old has not won May 2011 but has finished second on each of his last four starts. "I think he goes there with a very realistic each-way chance," said Pitt.

Last year's Cheveley Park Stakes winner Lightening Pearl has been retired. The filly gave trainer Ger Lyons and owner Sheikh Fahad their first Group One success but after disappointing at Leopardstown on Thursday, the decision has been taken to retire her.

"She hasn't been giving us the vibes this year, which I was afraid of as her mum and her sister didn't train on," said Lyons.

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