Aidan O’Brien is to rely on Air Chief Marshal in tomorrow’s Coventry Stakes after he pulled Steinbeck, 7/2 in places, out of the Group 2 two-year-old test on the opening day of Royal Ascot.
O’Brien had described Steinbeck as no more than ‘50-50’ to run at in the six-furlong contest and his defection leaves favourite Canford Cliffs to face 13 rivals including No Hubris and Red Jazz.
Mastercraftsman, O’Brien’s brilliant winner of the Irish 2000 Guineas, heads a field of 10 declared for the St James’s Palace Stakes. The Danehill Dancer colt, the mount of Johnny Murtagh, spearheads a three-pronged attack by O’Brien on the Group 1 contest.
Set Sail, to be ridden by Seamus Heffernan, and Born To Be King, partnered by Colm O’Donoghue, complete the Ballydoyle team as Ireland’s champion trainer seeks his sixth success in the race in 10 years.
There is a fourth Irish-trained runner in the shape of Jim Bolger’s Intense Focus, winner of the Dewhurst Stakes last autumn. Heading the home team is Brian Meehan’s Delegator, second to Sea The Stars in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket only to flop on soft ground in the Irish equivalent. Godolphin are double-handed with Gladiatorus and Alexandros as they bid for an eighth victory in the Queen Anne Stakes.
Gladiatorus, winner of the Dubai Duty Free at Nad Al Sheba in March, will be making his British debut for Sheikh Mohammed’s operation following his move from the stable of Mubarak bin Shafya. A field of nine was declared for the curtain-raiser.
Henry Candy’s exciting sprinter Amour Propre will attempt to withstand a powerful worldwide challenge in the King’s Stand Stakes. The Palace House Stakes winner will be hoping to get a flying start from stall six to help him overcome 14 other speedsters chasing Group 1 glory.
Leading the overseas charge is Scenic Blast, trained in Australia by Daniel Morton. Wesley Ward’s Cannonball is a raider from the USA while Mythical Flight represents Sean Tarry from South Africa.
Equiano became the first Spanish winner at Royal Ascot when taking this prize 12 months ago for Mauricio Delcher Sanchez. This time he is part of the home brigade having moved to the Barry Hills stable in Lambourn.
Borderlescott, trained by Robin Bastiman, goes for his second Group 1 after taking the Nunthorpe Stakes while Dandy Nicholls’ Tax Free, and Jeremy Noseda’s Fleeting Spirit, third 12 months ago, are other proven classy performers.
Meanwhile, 12 months on from Zarkava maintaining her unbeaten record with a stunning performance in the French Oaks at Chantilly, Jean-Claude Rouget’s Stacelita did likewise yesterday. Stablemate and French 1000 Guineas runner-up Tamazirte made it another big-race one-two for Rouget.
Tom Costello, best known as the man who sold on six winners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup including three-time winner Best Mate, has died aged 77.