Masar heads 14 in the mix for Hardwicke heat

Derby hero set for Royal Ascot return

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Last year’s Investec Derby hero Masar will face a maximum of 13 rivals in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot on Saturday.

Charlie Appleby’s colt has not been seen in competitive action since landing the premier Classic at Epsom last June, but has had the Royal meeting as his comeback target for some time.

Connections also considered Wednesday’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes, but confirmed on Saturday he would remain at a mile and a half for this weekend’s Group Two event.

Appleby has a second major contender in Ghaiyyath, while Aidan O’Brien has four remaining entries in Capri, Flag Of Honour, Hunting Horn and Southern France.

Sir Michael Stoute has saddled a record 11 previous winners of the Hardwicke – including eight of the last 13 – and is this year set to rely on Mirage Dancer.

Roger Varian’s Defoe could bid to follow up his victory in the Coronation Cup at Epsom, and could be reopposed by the third Salouen (Sylvester Kirk), the fourth Communique (Mark Johnston), the sixth Lah Ti Dar (John Gosden) and the eighth Morando (Andrew Balding).

Gosden’s Coronet and a potential raider from the Czech Republic in Nagano Gold complete the confirmations.

The final day of the Royal meeting gets under way with the Chesham Stakes, for which 23 juveniles have been entered.

Appleby’s Pinatubo is set to put his unbeaten record on the line following wins at Wolverhampton and Epsom, with O’Brien’s Lope Y Fernandez and Fozzy Stack’s Mohican Heights among his potential rivals.

Appleby also has a major contender for the Jersey Stakes in the hat-trick seeking Space Blues. He looks set to face the likes of Bye Bye Hong Kong from Andrew Balding’s yard and the Richard Hannon-trained Urban Icon.

Bacchus tops 74 still in contention for the Wokingham Stakes, with Danzeno currently heading the ante-post market after winning at Nottingham earlier this month. Frankie Dettori has been booked for the ride.

The closing Queen Alexandra Stakes over a marathon two miles and five furlongs had drawn 28 entries with Paul Nicholls’ Grade One-winning chaser Black Corton an eyecatching name.

Masar heads 14 in the mix for Hardwicke heat
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