Keen form students will no doubt take a close interest in Born With Pride when she takes her chance in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot.
The William Haggas-trained filly went into the winter as a leading fancy for the Investec Oaks on the back of a taking debut success in a Listed event at Newmarket in November, her only start as a juvenile.
She made her eagerly-awaited reappearance in the Classic Trial at Sandown earlier this month, where she was on the face of it disappointing, but there remains real optimism that she can prove herself a smart performer.
Looking back to her Newmarket effort, the Born To Sea filly had Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Peaceful immediately behind her – while runaway Pretty Polly Stakes victor Run Wild was third.
In addition to that, even the Kempton race has turned out well, with runner-up Pyledriver winning the King Edward VII Stakes this week to put himself in the Derby picture.
Haggas had hoped to run in the Ribblesdale Stakes, but relatively quick ground on the opening day and the prospect of softer conditions later in the week led him to re-route to Friday.
The Newmarket trainer said: “We just felt the ground might not be soft enough in the Ribblesdale and we thought we’d wait until later in the week with some rain forecast.
“Her debut form looks very good now, obviously, but that was a long time ago.
“I think she’ll get the trip all right – she might even want it.”
Born With Pride faces eight rivals, with Aidan O’Brien running Santiago (Ryan Moore) and Nobel Prize (Frankie Dettori).
American trainer Wesley Ward is always to be feared on his trans-Atlantic raids – and his thoughts on Norfolk Stakes contender Golden Pal make fascinating reading.
A staunch ally of Dettori, Ward has booked Andrea Atzeni for the mount, with the former committed to the Mark Johnston-trained Eye Of Heaven.
Ward said: “We tried our best to persuade Frankie to ride. I know he really likes Mark Johnston’s colt, but in my opinion Golden Pal gives us our best chance of a winner at Royal Ascot this year.
“If all my horses running at Royal Ascot this year were to run against each other over five eighths of a mile, this guy would beat them all – he’s unbelievably fast.
“We had to run him on the dirt first time, because there were no turf races to run in. The jockey gave him a slap down the shoulder early in the race, and he just took off and ended up eight or 10 lengths clear. He was game when the other horse came to him- but the pace he went early on, no horse in America would have been able to keep that up, let alone a two-year-old.
“Ever since then I’ve been preparing him for the Norfolk – and here we are. I really think he is one of the best horses I’ve ever brought to Royal Ascot – believe me, this horse is the real deal.”
Ward is also represented in the Albany Stakes by Flying Aletha, who will be ridden by William Buick.
He said: “I see she’s favourite on the book,s and she is a filly with true quality – she’s not just a fast filly, which is why we think she can stretch out a little further.
“She did some eye-opening breezes prior to her first run. She ended up running on the dirt because the turf races were cancelled and still won really well, even though she’s a turf horse rather than a dirt horse.
“She isn’t a big, robust filly. She’s quite light and frail, which is keeping me a little grounded about her chances, but I’m still hopeful she’ll run a big race. If the race was in the States, I’d be a lot more confident.”
Haggas runs the once-raced Golden Melody, a winner at Haydock this month.
He said: “We’re all in the dark with the two-year-olds really, because we don’t really know how good they are.
“We think she’s a nice filly, and a bit of cut in the ground will suit her.”
Also unbeaten is Karl Burke’s Dandalla.
Burke said: “She looks fantastic. It was a toss up between five and six (furlongs). On pedigree she’ll stay a mile – so with Aidan (O’Brien) having what looks a speedball (More Beautiful) in the Queen Mary, we decided to duck that one.
“She goes to the Albany with some sort of chance. It was a good run at Newcastle.
“I declared her for the Queen Mary as well just in case the ground went very heavy and we might switch, but as long as it’s no worse than good to soft we”ll stick to six for the Albany.”