Dunaden poised to sit Hardwicke test at Ascot

Dunaden is raring to go ahead of the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot before a potential return to the Berkshire track and a clash with Camelot.

Both the Melbourne Cup winner and Aidan O’Brien’s dual Classic hero Camelot feature among the 37 initial entries released for the King George And Queen Elizabeth Stakes on July 21.

But first the Mikel Delzangles-trained Dunaden is booked for the Hardwicke later this month, with David Redvers, racing manager for owners Pearl Bloodstock, anticipating “something pretty special”.

Also the winner of the Hong Kong Vase last year, Dunaden has been campaigned over a mile and a half for the first part of this season, but connections have not yet gained a definitive answer as to whether he is up to tackling the best at that distance.

The six-year-old ran a satisfactory third on his seasonal reappearance in the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket, but his third place finish in Sunday’s Grand Prix de Chantilly was less pleasing.

Christophe Lemaire settled the odds-on favourite last off a slow pace and while he was flying at the finish, it was all too late as John Gosden’s Aiken and William Buick made every yard of the running.

Redvers said: “He ran the last three furlongs faster than any other horse at the meeting and the whole thing was a bit of a farce.

“Going into the race we thought there was a strong chance there would be no pace, with John Gosden’s horse the one most likely to make the running.

“His jockey rode the others to sleep, including ours unfortunately, and even Frankel couldn’t have won from that far back.

“We’ve decided that he won’t run in France over a mile and a half again unless he has a pacemaker. The race was a joke, to be honest.

“Anyway, we’re aiming him towards the Hardwicke Stakes and as he’ll get the pace he wants there, we should find out for sure whether he is good enough to take on the best mile and a half horses in Europe.

“I see he is still quoted in the betting for the Gold Cup, but I can tell you he is 99.9% certain not to run in that.

“If all goes well in the Hardwicke, the ideal targets are obviously races like the King George and the Arc.

“If things don’t go to plan, then he’ll step back up in trip to a mile and three-quarters or two miles.

“But he looks fantastic at the moment and I think the track at Ascot with a big long straight will be absolutely ideal.

“He’ll be going there absolutely match fit and I have a feeling we might see something pretty special.”

Qipco 2000 Guineas winner Camelot completed the Classic double at Epsom last weekend and is odds-on to become the first Triple Crown winner since Nijinsky in 1970, should connections give the green light to a Ladbrokes St Leger bid.

The Irish Derby has been mooted as a possible next port of call, but Nijinsky won the King George en route to Doncaster, and Nick Smith, head of communications and international racing at Ascot, would love to see the Montjeu colt clash with his elders in the mid-summer showpiece.

Smith said: “We would hope that the King George will be seriously considered for Camelot. Given the distance, there would appear to be some logic in taking in the Ascot race if the Triple Crown route is to be pursued, which we wholeheartedly hope will be the case.

“But with or without Camelot it looks sure to be a tremendous race and if he isn’t there, you’d imagine the impressive Coronation Cup winner, St Nicholas Abbey, will be.”

Camelot is one of a host of entries for O’Brien, with other potential challengers including Coronation Cup winner St Nicholas Abbey and Oaks heroine Was.

Dubai World Cup star Monterosso has been given the option by the Godolphin team, while last year’s Arc scorer Danedream is a potential raider for German trainer Peter Schiergen.

Nathaniel won the mile-and-a-half Group One last year and could defend his crown for John Gosden.

The Newmarket trainer could also be represented by Sunday’s Grand Prix de Chantilly winner Aiken and 2011 Leger hero Masked Marvel.

Other interesting candidates include the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Sea Moon, talented filly Dancing Rain, Jim Bolger’s pair of Light Heavy and Parish Hall and potential Japanese raider Deep Brillante.

French trainer Corine Barande-Barbe has confirmed her stable star Cirrus Des Aigles as a likely participant in the Betfair-sponsored event.

The six-year-old is a course winner having landed last year’s Champion Stakes and he has enjoyed a fine start to 2012, landing the Dubai Sheema Classic and the Prix Ganay.

“We plan to run Cirrus Des Aigles in the King George and he will either run in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes or the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud beforehand,” said Barande-Barbe.

“I want to see what is entered in both races before making a decision, but there will be good horses in both races.

“He has been in very good form since the Prix d’Ispahan. I wasn’t disappointed he got beaten at Longchamp (over nine furlongs) because we had to make the running.

“In hindsight, we probably should have gone a faster pace.”

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