Denis Hogan ponders route to Royal Ascot

Denis Hogan ponders route to Royal Ascot
Make A Challenge enjoys a roll in the shavings after exercising at Boherna Stables, Denis Hogan’s Tipperary base. He could run in the King’s Stand Stakes. Picture: Healy Racing

Make A Challenge could tackle the Woodlands Stakes at Naas on June 8 before a possible trip to Royal Ascot.

The Listed event is scheduled for the first day of racing in Ireland since the coronavirus shutdown and trainer Denis Hogan believes it could be a good European starting point for his stable star, who was last seen finishing sixth in Doha back in February.

The five-year-old made huge strides last term, winning six times and progressing from a mark of 68 to 112 by the end of the campaign.

However, Hogan also has a second string to his bow in Sceptical, who has won three times in four all-weather outings.

The trainer said: "We'll have a look at the Listed race on the first day at Naas for him, but we could also have a look at that for Sceptical too.

"It would be a nice starting point for the two of them, although it is close to Royal Ascot.

"We're thinking we'll definitely run one in Naas, but we'll look at the ground and you might think Make A Challenge might want a bit of rain.

"We will see how that goes though and then think about the King's Stand Stakes."

Royal Ascot is due to kick off on June 16, with the British Horseracing Authority planning for a June 1 resumption, subject to Government approval.

Under Irish rules, anyone who travels out of the country must self isolate for 14 days on their return - a factor which Hogan would have to take into consideration.

He said: "It's not ideal, but we'll have to work around the situation. If he was a 33-1 shot it wouldn't interest me, but we've not had a horse this special before."

Should Sceptical line up at Naas, he would be running on turf for the first time.

The four-year-old boasts a fine pedigree as a son of Exceed And Excel out of 2009 Queen Mary winner Jealous Again and he was bought from Godolphin for just £2,800 at the sales last August.

He did not run until October, with Hogan adding: "We've not been able to run him on the turf yet as the Curragh has been closed, but he might be able to work there next week, we'll see on that.

"He's done all his running on the all weather just because we had no other options at that point."

Meanwhile,  Richard Hannon ranks King Of Change among the best horses he has handled as the four-year-old gears up for a planned return at Royal Ascot.

King Of Change finished second as a 66-1 shot in last year's 2000 Guineas before going on to win a Sandown Listed event on the way to Group One glory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on his final start.

Hannon has set his sights on the Queen Anne Stakes at the Royal meeting with the Farhh colt, who he believes compares favourably with previous Group One-winning milers from the yard.

He told Sky Sports Racing: "He's had a nice break and we're obviously full steam ahead for the Queen Anne.

"I think he could nearly be one of the best horses we've had. I'd definitely have him up there in the same band as Canford Cliffs, Olympic Glory and Toranado.

"He looks amazing and he's still relatively lightly raced. He doesn't need soft ground, he won on it on Champions Day, he goes through it but he doesn't need it."

Hannon also has a live contender for this year's Qipco 2000 Guineas with dual Group Two winner Threat.

The son of Footstepsinthesand won both the Gimcrack at York and Champagne Stakes at Doncaster last term before signing off with fifth place in the Middle Park Stakes.

Hannon reports the Cheveley Park Stud-owned colt to have progressed through the winter and expects him to have "every chance" of staying a mile.

He said: "He's settled down and improved mentally - that was the main thing he had to do. He was a little bit immature.

"In fairness to him, the days he got warm (last year) were very hot days, but he got better as the year went on. Physically he's done extremely well and mentally he's done well "He will give himself every chance of staying because he doesn't pull, he's very sensible that way.

"He was getting seven furlongs no problem in the end and I don't see why it should bother him on fast ground. If he doesn't, we'll come back, it's as simple as that."

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