Sanders believes Duke can rule again

SEB SANDERS believes St James’s Palace Stakes hopeful Bachelor Duke is in the sort of form that took him to Classic glory on his last start.

The James Toller-trained colt lost his maiden tag in the best possible manner when beating Azamour by a length in the Boylesports Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh.

He has to improve on his seventh in the English Guineas to overturn Haafhd at Royal Ascot today, but his rider is making all the right noises.

“He was still quite babyish going into the English Guineas. The piece of work he did before the Irish Guineas was just out of this world,” Sanders said yesterday.

“He’s working to that still now, so we’re very hopeful.”

John Oxx, though, is quietly confident the Aga Khan-owned Azamour can turn around the Curragh form.

And he is not disconcerted about the fact that Azamour has to overcome an outside post in the Group One contest, as the colt always needs to be held up.

“The key to my horse is that he has a good, fast gallop and manages to get a position from his outside draw,” Oxx said. “I’ve always thought fast ground would suit him and that will be fine, it’s a question of whether our fellow has come on for his race in the Guineas.

“My personal view is that he has, because he’s had a good preparation for this race with no setbacks.

“He’s been working really well and there will be no excuses if he is beaten tomorrow.”

In what looks like being a race to savour, William Haggas runs his rapidly-improving Free Handicap and German 2000 Guineas winner Brunel.

Haggas, who sent out Dupont to finish an unlucky-in-running fourth in the 2002 Royal showpiece on the back of victory in the German race, said: “He’s in great order, but it’s a tough race tomorrow.

“He’s against the English Guineas winner, the Irish Guineas winner and what should have been the French Guineas winner (Antonius Pius). But you can’t win if you don’t run.”

Haggas meanwhile is hoping an apparently unfavourable stalls position does not stop Majestic Missile from blowing his rivals away in the King’s Stand Stakes.

The three-year-old has been drawn towards the outside of the 19 runners for the Group Two contest, but looks sure to be sent off a warm favourite with champion jockey Kieren Fallon in the saddle.

He is running over the same course and distance which saw him land the Cornwallis Stakes in October on his last racecourse appearance.

“We’ve been planning this for a long time, so I hope it pays off. Stall 13 is not ideal, but I can’t do anything about that,” Haggas said yesterday.

“He’s got bags of speed and he had a turn of foot last year We’ll see tomorrow if he’s still got it.”

The prospect of fast ground on day one of the meeting is not expected to inconvenience Queen Anne Stakes favourite Six Perfections.

That was the verdict yesterday afternoon of Alan Cooper, racing manager to the Niarchos family, the French filly’s owners.

Six Perfections was beaten over a slightly longer distance than the mile of the Queen Anne on her seasonal debut, but Cooper believes that outing to have put the edge on her.

He said: “She’s well, will like the ground, and we’re looking forward to running her at Ascot. She will have a select campaign and this race fitted nicely into that programme.”

Last season, Six Perfections avenged two unlucky defeats in the English and Irish 1000 Guineas by winning the Marois and then taking the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita.

And this year she will try to emulate Miesque, who landed back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Miles in the same silks in the late eighties.

Cooper added: “As long as she continues to please us, she will have a little break after this and go for the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville and then be aimed at the Breeders’ Cup Mile at in Texas.”

Connections of Kings Quay were in a bullish mood yesterday afternoon ahead of the colt’s bid to land the Coventry Stakes, the curtain-raiser to five days of spectacular action at Royal Ascot.

The Richard Hannon-trained juvenile made the best possible start to his racing career when obliging in impressive fashion over the stiff five furlongs at Sandown earlier this month. Richard Hannon jnr, assistant to his father, firmly believes the son of 1999 Arc hero Montjeu is the one to beat as he steps up a furlong in trip.

He said: “I don’t see a lot in there to beat him. I certainly don’t think there are any mega-stars in there and if he’s not one himself, he could still win.”

Mark Wallace has opted to run Catwalk Cleric following his recent second in Listed company in Rome.

Graham Skeats, racing manager to owners Favourites Racing, said on the syndicate’s website, www.favourites.co.uk: “We thought the long trip from Rome would have taken it out of him. But I spoke to Mark on Friday and he said that the horse had been bucking and kicking and was full of himself.

“He had come out of his race and the journey extremely well and the decision was made to let him take his chance.”

Dermot Weld’s Evolving Tactics will shoulder top-weight in the Royal Hunt Cup tomorrow.

The Irish raider, ninth but beaten only five lengths in a Group One in Dubai in March, has been drawn in stall 21 with a maximum field of 32 set to go to post.

Mark Tompkins’ Langford (drawn 26) was the last to make the cut for the one-mile cavalry charge, meaning the Mick Channon-trained pair Arry Dash and Jay Gee’s Choice are both reserves.

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