When it comes to happy hunting grounds, Ascot has been anything but for leading Diamond Jubilee Stakes contender Harry Angel.
In four previous visits to the Berkshire track the dual Group One winner has suffered defeat on every occasion, including in the Commonwealth Cup at the Royal meeting 12 months ago.
Though such a statistic may haunt some, that is not the case for his trainer Clive Cox, who believes the four-year-old has had a plausible excuse for all those defeats.
Cox said: “I don’t particularly lose any sleep that he has not got his head in front there, I think it’s more coincidence rather than a serious problem.
“Adam (Kirby) gave him a nice introduction first time out and in his second to Blue Point he had a penalty and that race was pretty good form. He was just a bit keen in the Commonwealth Cup.
“When he ran in the Champions Sprint the ground was atrocious. I think his defeats have been a matter of circumstances, whether it be the ground or the way the race has panned out.”
While his Ascot reverses may be the only blemish on the record of the Godolphin-owned four-year-old, Cox is of the opinion that his second behind Caravaggio in last year’s Commonwealth Cup was the springboard to the success that was to follow.
He said: “I was pleased with his run in the Commonwealth Cup and I think it was a turning point in his life, as he took another step forward – not in the race, but after that.
“He carried on at the top of his game after that defeat in the Commonwealth Cup and proved that decisively in the July Cup.
“He has proved he has progressed with racing and I’d like to think he is more mature this year.”
Having signed off last season with defeat in the British Champions Sprint the son of Dark Angel made a winning return to action at Group Two level in the Duke Of York Stakes at York, in a performance that left the Lambourn handler excited for his return to the top level.
He said: “There was only a handful of runners at York, but it was one of those days you were pleased to get it done and it was nice to get him back on track.
“I’m very pleased with the way he has come back from York and I could not be more delighted with him, especially as he doesn’t have a penalty at Ascot.
“Physically he has done really well from three to four and I think mentally he has moved forward as well. If we can keep him in a good frame of mind we are hoping for a big run.”
A number of familiar faces will line up in the six-furlong dash, but the most potent threat to Cox’s stable star could come from two new rivals in the form of the Aidan O’Brien-trained Merchant Navy and Australian raider Redkirk Warrior.
Cox said: “He was officially rated the fastest six-furlong horse in the world last year and it will be really exciting taking on the foreign opposition, it makes it more exciting.
“I’ve seen Merchant Navy’s races and he is a seriously impressive horse, but there are some other nice horses in there and I could not single anything out in particular.
“We just hope he produces it on the day and is in the right frame of mind.”
He added: “He is the same horse at home and still has that air of confidence and excitement about him and if anything he is more confident.”
Having enjoyed some of his finest moments at the prestigious meeting, Cox is keeping his fingers crossed that his pride and joy can deliver him yet another winner.
He said: “Royal Ascot is very special. We had a double there a couple of years ago across the two days with My Dream Boat and Profitable, and what with Lethal Force winning the Diamond Jubilee before that, we’ve got some fantastic memories of Ascot.
“It is an absolute joy to have a horse of this calibre on our hands and hopefully he can add to the previous winners we’ve had there and give us another moment to savour.
“Hopefully we can produce him at his best on the day to succeed.”