While world travel has ground to something of a halt following the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, American filly Sharing is bucking the trend by making an audacious bid for Royal Ascot glory in the Coronation Stakes.
Trained by Cambridge-born Graham Motion in Maryland, Sharing is a familiar name to followers of the international scene after her Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf victory over Daahyeh and Albigna and is aiming to once again beat the European team – but on their home soil this time.
Royal Ascot has managed to navigate the coronavirus crisis and remain in its usual slot, but Motion admits Sharing’s trip to Britain was far from a given at one point.
He said: “If you’d asked me a couple of months ago if we’d even attempt to do this, I would have said no way – it just didn’t seem practical.
“In that respect it is much more complicated, but having had the benefit of doing it a few times, I guess it kind of fell into place quite easily and Aron (Wellman of co-owners Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners) and I always said we would only do this if things fell into place, and so far, so good.”
With 14 days’ quarantine required on arrival in Britain, Motion is not making the trans-Atlantic journey, but his assistant trainer Alice Clapham, who has travelled the yard’s previous Ascot runners, is ready to welcome Sharing when she jets out on Tuesday.
Motion explained: “Alice has been over there for a week or so already. We’re going to Newmarket this time which is new to us as we’ve always gone to Lambourn before, but we just thought this made more sense this year.
“She’s only going to be there for a very short time, so Alice is there and she knows all the ins and outs of it probably better than I do, so she’ll be way better off not having me around I think!”
British racing is in just its third week of action since resumption, so opportunities for a Royal Ascot trial have been few and far between and in contrast to the home team Sharing – who will be ridden by Oisin Murphy – has the benefit of a prep run under her belt.
The daughter of Speightstown was a cosy winner over a mile at Churchill Downs last month and Motion believes his charge may have a marginal advantage on that front, ahead of a race that forms part of the Fillies & Mares category in the 2020 Qipco British Champions Series.
He said: “I would like to think it does play in our favour a little bit. We, by complete accident, had the ideal prep race exactly a month out from the Coronation, which was moved to the Saturday, so everything has kind of fallen into place.
“I do think that puts us at a little bit of an advantage because you’ve not had the opportunity to have a well-placed prep race (in Britain).”
Regardless of that positive, Motion is under no illusions about the task ahead having sent the likes of 2011 Kentucky Derby hero Animal Kingdom and Miss Temple City to race at Ascot before.
He said: “I still have so much respect for how difficult it is to do this and I think even when Tepin won the Queen Anne, I don’t think some people on the American side realised quite how difficult it is, having tried to do it myself several times.
“It’s amazing what Wesley (Ward, multiple Ascot winner) has been able to accomplish. It’s not easy and I realise it’s also difficult coming to us, handling the tight turns and the very fast tracks, but perhaps even more so to go over there on the undulating turf courses, when you don’t know what kind of ground you’re going to get.
“We consistently get firm ground in this country and we know what we’re running around.
“I remember the first time I walked around Ascot before we brought Animal Kingdom and I was horrified how tough a track it is. When you walk up the hill on the back side, it’s pretty daunting so I realise what a task it’s going to be for her.
“Obviously we would prefer to have firm ground, but we’re prepared to take that as it comes and take on all challenges.
“We won’t be able to travel, which is bittersweet, but I think this shows just how firm a commitment it is for us to do this. We’re not doing it because we want to go to the parties, we’re doing it for the challenge for Sharing.”
Of the booking of champion jockey Murphy, Motion said: “He rode a horse for me this winter in Qatar and I was really impressed with how he rode the horse and his communication, which I think is so important in international racing and domestic racing, especially now when we can’t go to the racecourses.
“I felt very comfortable with having him ride my horse in Qatar and at the time I mentioned there was a possibility we might do this and just to keep it in the back of his mind. It’s kind of fallen into place and he’s on a hot streak, which is great.”
Wellman, too, is relishing the challenge and believes it is important to Eclipse and fellow owners Gainesway, as well as the trainer, to allow Sharing the chance to shine in Europe.
He said: “At the end of the day, this is about the filly and the opportunity she has earned to prove that she is capable of performing well and making us proud in respect of this ambitious endeavour.
“It would be lovely to go over, have the experience, go to the parties, get dressed up in top hats and tails and really do it up.
“But this is about prestige and trying to make history, sportsmanship and also something we have talked about a lot – this is a tough time in world history, no matter where you are.
“It’s tough times and to be able to do something like this that could potentially bring the world together, be a good positive story, show that it’s not just about ourselves, but about the filly and sportsmanship – it’s something we take very seriously.
“Graham is always intrigued by a challenge, and this is the ultimate challenge when it comes to our sport. We feel the same way – we’re never shy about endeavouring on an ambitious challenge like this and Anthony (Beck of Gainesway) feels the same way.
“We will certainly be on the edge our seats. We will probably gather in the living room, which is where we’ve watched racing for the last three months.
“It’s a little peculiar to be watching from afar like that with such importance on the line, but nevertheless, it’s better than nothing and still a humongous honour.”