Hot favourite Frankly Darling leads a three-strong team for John Gosden into battle in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The Clarehaven handler claimed Tuesday’s Group Two prize for the third time when Star Catcher struck gold 12 months ago, and the same colours of owner-breeder Anthony Oppenheimer will this year be carried by an exciting daughter of Frankel.
Despite facing a big rise in class, Frankly Darling is a warm order off the back of a deeply impressive maiden success at Newcastle just over a fortnight ago.
She is joined by Lingfield Oaks Trial-winning stablemate Miss Yoda, as well as the yard’s apparent third string Anastarsia, who was sixth in the same Listed event.
Gosden said: “Frankly Darling is a maiden winner from Newcastle, and you have to remember that is all she is. Miss Yoda won the Lingfield Oaks Trial and had a pretty rough trip, while Anastarsia didn’t handle Lingfield.
“They are all there because it is a fillies only three-year-old Group Two – and quite frankly, if you can get a piece of it it’s important to these fillies. You do what is right for the owners – that is why all three are running against each other.
“Rab (Havlin) didn’t think Miss Yoda handled Lingfield and that she wouldn’t handle Epsom, so it makes sense to run her.
“Frankly Darling came out of her race well, but she does lack the experience of Miss Yoda, because she was Group-placed last year. That lack of experience Frankly Darling has is a disadvantage to fillies like her that have missed racing in April and May.”
Another filly with just two runs under her belt is the Ralph Beckett-trained Trefoil, who made a winning debut at Newmarket last October before returning to Headquarters to finish third behind Gosden’s Run Wild in the Pretty Polly Fillies’ Stakes a week and a half ago.
Beckett told Sky Sports Racing: “We’re running her because of the way she finished at Newmarket. She came out of the race very well, and it will be a really good fit for her – stepping up a quarter of a mile.
“We’re delighted that she has come back well enough to run back quickly.”
Other hopefuls include Aidan O’Brien’s pair of Passion and Ennistymon. Born With Pride is a significant non-runner.
The second Group Two prize on offer on the opening afternoon of the showpiece meeting is the King Edward VII Stakes, in which O’Brien saddles odds-on favourite Mogul and Arthur’s Kingdom.
The six-strong field is completed by David Simcock’s unbeaten colt Mohican Heights, Andrew Balding’s dual winner Papa Power, Sound Of Cannons from Brian Meehan’s yard and the William Muir-trained Pyledriver.
The latter won twice from four starts as a juvenile and made a most encouraging three-year-old debut when runner-up at 40-1 in the Classic Trial at Kempton.
Muir said: “I was delighted with him at Kempton. He was drawn 11 of 11 – and while there were a couple of non-runners, which brought us in a bit, we were still on the wide outside.
“At Kempton you have a tight turn and a short sprint up the straight, and he did well to finish as close as he did. With a better draw, I think we’d have shaken up Berlin Tango.
“Mogul could be anything – he could be favourite for the Derby after this. I can read the form of the rest like anyone else, and I don’t see why he should be a 20-1 shot. But it doesn’t matter – he’s a big price every time he runs.
“He’s in great shape, and I’m looking forward to running him.”
The narrow favourite for the Group Two Duke of Cambridge Stakes is Gosden’s Nazeef, who bids for a fifth win from six starts.
Gosden said: “She is back on grass (after winning the Snowdrop Fillies’ Stakes at Kempton), but she is a lovely, game filly that is improving all the time.
“I thought she was very impressive the other day. If she can transfer that level of form to the Duke of Cambridge, I expect her to run another big race.
“She is a very relaxed, laid-back filly to deal with at home – which is always a big help.”
The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Jubiloso was third in the Coronation Stakes at last year’s Royal meeting, and connections are expecting another bold showing.
Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for owner-breeder Khalid Abdullah, told Sky Sports Racing: “She ran a super third in the Coronation, and we thought we were set up for a real bumper year with her. She had a few niggling little feet problems.
“She was desperately unlucky at Goodwood in the Oak Tree, so Michael (Stoute) gave her some time off. She’s come back, wintered well. She’s a very strong-bodied filly by Shamardal, and we’re hopeful. Prince Khalid kept her in training in the hope of targeting these type of races.
“Michael has been pleased with her progression through the winter, definitely, and she’s worked nicely the few times I’ve seen her. Ryan Moore rides, which is a plus. I think she will be competitive.”