Kimari carries high hopes on return mission

Ward filly seeks Commonwealth redemption after last year’s near miss.

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Wesley Ward is confident Kimari can strike Royal Ascot gold at the second attempt, in the Commonwealth Cup.

The popular American trainer was hopeful the speedy filly would provide him with a fourth victory in the Queen Mary at the showpiece meeting a year ago, but she was narrowly denied by the Mark Johnston-trained Raffle Prize – ridden by Ward’s regular ally, Frankie Dettori.

Kimari made a successful start to her three-year-old campaign in a Listed event in early April – and with Dettori onside again on Friday rather than in opposition, Ward is anticipating a bold showing.

He said: “She might have won at Royal Ascot last year but for Frankie – if you can’t beat ’em join ’em!

“Not all my horses do well from two to three, but she really has, which is why we’re bringing her back.

“My team tell me she is in really good form. Kieren Fallon has been riding my horses in Newmarket, and out of them all she is his pick for the week.

“It would be fantastic if she can go one better than last year.”

Roger Varian is keeping his fingers crossed the unbeaten Pierre Lapin’s raw ability can negate his lack of experience.

The son of Cappella Sansevero justified market confidence with a runaway success on his Haydock debut in May last year, and was equally impressive when stepped up to Group Two level for the Mill Reef at Newbury four months later.

With the coronavirus pandemic delaying the start of the season, Varian decided against a prep run for his charge, but is nevertheless confident he can make his presence felt in a race which forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series.

“We felt it was a bit tight running in the Pavilion at Newcastle (on June 4) beforehand and liked the idea of getting him to Ascot as a fresh horse,” said the Newmarket trainer.

“We’d have loved to have got a prep run into him in May, but he’s not a horse I wanted to go ‘bang-bang’ with, and so we took the decision to try and get him cherry-ripe for Ascot.

“He’s probably got to overcome a little bit of inexperience, but he is a very natural horse and he won in Group company after a four-month lay-off on only his second start. Hopefully, his ability will shine through and he will be streetwise enough for the big day.

“He’s got to prove himself at the top level but he’s got the gears, definitely, and I think he now has the strength.”

Pierre Lapin’s biggest rival from Britain is the more hardened Golden Horde, from Clive Cox’s yard.

The chestnut colt won the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood last summer before being placed at the highest level behind Earthlight in both the Prix Morny at Deauville and the Middle Park at Newmarket.

Cox said: “He has done very well over the winter after a terrific two-year-old campaign. He carries a real level of form into the race, and I believe he’s done as well as any horse possibly could from two to three.

“With the sprinting brigade, in particular, it’s all about maturity and strength. Once you’ve got that natural speed and ability, maturity is the curve you hope and pray continues upwards – and for me, he has matured as much as he possibly could since last year.

“I’m hoping we go there with a good chance.”

Last week’s Irish 2,000 Guineas third Lope Y Fernandez turns out just seven days later for Aidan O’Brien, who also saddles Pistoletto, Royal Lytham and Southern Hills.

Other hopefuls include the Jessica Harrington-trained Millisle, Richard Hannon’s Mums Tipple and Pavilion Stakes victor Dubai Station from Karl Burke’s yard.

Burke said: “He would probably cope with a bit of juice in the ground, but I wouldn’t want it deep.

“I think they are underestimating his run at Newcastle. He travels very strongly and has a good turn of foot.

“I’m very happy with his condition. He looks fantastic.”

Wooded had looked to be an interesting contender for French trainer Francis-Henri Graffard, but was declared a non-runner due to the rain-softened ground.

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