It is rare for Aidan O’Brien to be heading into a race as an underdog but that is the case in the Hardwicke Stakes, where Idaho takes on Crystal Ocean.
The five-year-old son of Galileo has been a real globetrotter and appears to have taken over the mantle of his brother, Highland Reel, who represented Ballydoyle so admirably for a number of years.
Idaho brought to a halt a run of three straight Hardwicke triumphs for Crystal Ocean’s trainer Sir Michael Stoute when he claimed the race 12 months ago.
Stoute fielded the favourite last year in Dartmouth, who could finish only fourth, but St Leger runner-up Crystal Ocean is even shorter in the betting, having easily won his two starts this term for the Newmarket handler.
Having run in America, France, Canada, Japan and Dubai since winning the Hardwicke last year, Idaho this season claimed the Ormonde Stakes at Chester but was then bogged down in the Coronation Cup at Epsom.
O’Brien said: “He’s in good form and he won well at Chester. He was a little disappointing at Epsom. The ground was a little bit on the slow side and maybe that was the reason.
“Maybe it was the track, we are not sure. He seems to be in good form.
“I think he is a very straightforward horse. He very rarely runs a bad race. He doesn’t always win, but he is consistent enough.”
O’Brien also runs Cliffs Of Moher, fourth in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes earlier in the week.
Roger Varian saddles Barsanti, who won an informative renewal of the Buckhounds Stakes at Ascot on his last start.
The Newmarket handler told www.varianstable.com: “Barsanti was a bit unlucky in this race last year and his training has been better in the build-up to the contest this time around.
“These are his optimum conditions and I am looking forward to running him.”
Mark Johnston’s Natalie’s Joy created such a huge impression on her debut at Goodwood in winning by six lengths that Merriebelle Stables bought into her ahead of the Chesham Stakes.
Part-owner Simon Chappell said: “Mark had said she’d been going very well at home before Goodwood. He’s got a good bunch of juveniles this year but we didn’t expect her to win like that.
“Even still, she looks very short in the betting to me given it looks such a strong race, with Coolmore and Godolphin represented and Mark having two other runners. I couldn’t rule any of them out.
“It’s very exciting going to Royal Ascot with a favourite and she did look special at Goodwood but the Derby winner (Masar) was beaten in this last year.
“She was in the Albany as well but we felt as she’s only run once she might be better over further in a smaller field, rather than taking on the out-and-out sprinters.”
The Godolphin runner is Charlie Appleby’s Beyond Reason, second on debut to Johnston’s New Winds, whom she meets again, and a four-length winner at Kempton last time out.
“She got beat at Newmarket on her first start finishing second before winning impressively last time out at Kempton,” said Appleby.
“Stepping up to seven furlongs will really suit her.”
Varian runs San Donato, who had the misfortune of bumping into the exciting Legends Of War on debut.
“San Donato made a promising start in a warm Yarmouth novice and looks to have stepped forward in his home-work since,” said Varian.
“I think the extra furlong will suit him, he’ll have no issues with the ground and I hope he is a nice colt in the making.”
John Gosden’s unbeaten Dreamfield brings the tag of handicap ‘good thing’ into the Wokingham, but his trainer is not so sure.
“Everyone says that Dreamfield is the handicap certainty of the week, but I have never met one in my life, yet,” Gosden told www.godolphin.com.
“He’s in good form and has worked fine at home. He obviously missed a year and a half and is not very experienced.
“I have been trying to box clever, probably too clever.”