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O'Brien eager to come to the four with Japan



Sights set: Aidan O'Brien eyes more Prince of Wales joy

Sights set: Aidan O'Brien eyes more Prince of Wales joy

�INPHO/James Crombie

Sights set: Aidan O'Brien eyes more Prince of Wales joy

Aidan O'Brien relies on Japan to provide him with a fourth victory in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot today.

It is 12 years since the Ballydoyle handler first claimed the 10-furlong contest with Duke Of Marmalade, since when he has added to his tally with So You Think (2012) and Highland Reel (2017).

Japan enjoyed an excellent three-year-old campaign last season, recording big-race victories in Royal Ascot's King Edward VII Stakes, the Grand Prix de Paris and the Juddmonte International, before rounding off with a fourth-placed finish in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

The son of Galileo is a warm order to dispatch of six rivals in the hands of Ryan Moore.

O'Brien said: "What he did in the Juddmonte, he looked comfortable enough and he's a horse that never does too much anyway. He doesn't overdo himself. He's very comfortable at a mile and a quarter and he does a mile and a half as well. He's versatile."

Disputing second-favouritism for a race that forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series are the Charlie Appleby-trained Barney Roy and Roger Charlton's Headman.

Barney Roy was impressive in winning two lucrative prizes at the Dubai Carnival earlier in the year and already has a Royal Ascot victory to his name, having landed the St James' Palace Stakes for Richard Hannon in 2017 before an unproductive spell at stud.

Appleby said: "His previous two starts this year were over nine furlongs in Dubai, but I've always felt that stepping him up in trip would bring about more improvement.

"I know he's been over the trip before, in the Eclipse and Juddmonte International (in 2017), but for me he's an older and stronger horse than he was then.

"On the back of his runs this year, I think he goes in good shape and we are looking forward to going back to Ascot with him, where we know he's been a past winner."

Headman won a valuable Newbury handicap and a couple of French Group Twos last season, before finishing fifth in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown last September.

Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to owner-breeder Khalid Abdullah, said: "Roger has always thought highly of him. He's a nice, scopey horse now. He's done very well.

"His two best races were both in France last year. He's got a bit of class, slightly like his father, Kingman - he has that good turn of foot to go and win.

"He needs to step up and win at Group One standard this year. He's given us the right signs he'll be better as an older horse, but has to put it on the line."

John Gosden saddles a couple of runners at double-figure odds in Lord North and Mehdaayih.

Lord North won his fifth race from just eight career starts when landing the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Haydock recently, while Mehdaayih has always been held in high regard.

"Lord North is a grand horse and he's taking his chance. It's a good edition of the race," said Gosden. "He did nothing but improve last year. He won a Cambridgeshire doing handstands and two Listed races.

"Mehdaayih is a very talented filly. I didn't want to run her before this. She's not a huge, strong filly, she's very athletic and she'll go there well fresh."

Belfast Telegraph