Fanshawe ‘happy’ with Rock star

James Fanshawe is keeping his fingers crossed race specialist Society Rock gets the breaks as he aims to regain his crown in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot today.

Fanshawe ‘happy’ with Rock star

The dual course and distance winner was something of a surprise victor when triumphing in the mud in the 2011 Jubilee, despite finishing second in the race a year earlier, but has proved that to be no fluke with a number of top-notch efforts at the highest level since.

Far from disgraced when a close-up fifth behind Australian wonder mare Black Caviar in this six-furlong Group One 12 months ago, the six-year-old went on to clinch his second Group One prize in the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock, and appeared better than ever when making a winning return in the Duke of York.

“He seems in good form since winning the Duke of York. I’m very happy with him at home,” said Fanshawe.

“We’ll take each race as it comes, but his form stands up well and we know he likes Ascot.

“There are plenty of runners and we’ll hope for some luck in running.

“Like most horses I think he’d prefer decent ground, rather than extremes either way.”

Australian speedball Choisir paved the way for a host of overseas runners to head for the Royal meeting after winning both the King’s Stand and the Jubilee 10 years ago.

Hong Kong raider Cape Of Good Hope claimed the Jubilee in 2005, with Black Caviar striking another blow for the Australians a year ago.

This year’s international team is headed by the John O’Shea-trained Sea Siren, who carries the silks of Coolmore triumvirate Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and John Magnier.

O’Shea’s assistant trainer, Bryce Heys, said: “It was a long time travelling with Sea Siren. She had to travel a bit in Australia – she flew from Brisbane to Sydney and Sydney to Melbourne before the flight to England.

“There is no doubt that took its toll but we have been very light on her since.

“Royal Ascot’s six furlongs is definitely testing and she is going to have to adapt to that. Hopefully, she will be ridden with some cover to utilise her turn of foot.”

Also part of the international cast is Bahrain runner Krypton Factor, American challenger Havelock and Gammarth from France.

Five horses make the journey across the Irish Sea, headed by Tom Hogan’s Prix de la Foret hero Gordon Lord Byron.

The five-year-old ran a fine race to fill third spot behind Society Rock at York last month and Hogan is hoping his charge can bridge the gap.

He said: “The last two times he’s been beaten (by Society Rock), he’s been drawn on the opposite side of the track so it will be good to be a bit closer this time.

“We’re pretty well drawn this time and there’s only 18 runners, not 28, so it’s not too bad.

“Everything has gone to plan since York. He’s in very good form so we’d be hopeful of a big run.”

David Marnane’s Dandy Boy is an interesting contender, having won the Wokingham Stakes at last year’s Royal meeting over the same course and distance.

He finished well down the field on his latest appearance at the Curragh, but his trainer is not concerned.

Marnane said: “He’s in good form and hopefully the ground stays fast. We wouldn’t want to see any rain at all, to be honest.

“I wasn’t disappointed with his last run. He had no luck in running and didn’t run too bad.

“He loves Ascot, he’s two from three there, and we’re looking forward to it.”

David Nagle turns Maarek out again just six days after he was beaten at long odds-on in a Cork Listed event.

Chippendale chasing royal double in Hardwicke

Thomas Chippendale bids to win at Royal Ascot for the second successive year when he tackles the Hardwicke Stakes on the final afternoon.

The Robert Ogden-owned colt captured the Group Two King Edward VII Stakes over a mile and a half last summer for the late Henry Cecil.

He attempts to repeat the trick over the same course and distance for the Warren Place legend’s widow, Lady Cecil.

Although he has not tasted success since then, the four-year-old has run some good races in defeat, notably when second to subsequent dual Group One victor Al Kazeem in the Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown in April.

He filled the same position behind Ektihaam at Ascot on his latest outing.

Johnny Murtagh was aboard 12 months ago and again takes the ride.

“We’re looking forward to a good run. His form looks pretty good now with Al Kazeem,” said Barry Simpson, racing manager to owner Robert Ogden.

“We were disappointed we got beaten that day, but we were beaten by a very good horse.

“Things didn’t go right for him at Ascot last time. We’ll probably make a bit more use of him in the Hardwicke.”

Thomas Chippendale is one of two runners for Lady Cecil, who also sends out Noble Mission, full-brother to Frankel and the odds-on winner of a Listed race at Goodwood last month.

He seeks to reverse Royal form from last year with his stablemate, as Tom Queally’s mount was second to Thomas Chippendale in the King Edward VII.

Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to owner Khalid Abdullah, said: “He’s in good form and has been threatening to come good this season.

“It was a nice performance at Goodwood last time and hopefully he’s going to the Hardwicke with a live chance.”

The Roger Varian-trained Ektihaam carries a degree of stable confidence, having proven his stamina for a mile and a half at his first try at the trip with his defeat of Thomas Chippendale in the Buckhounds Stakes.

He had previously been behind that horse when third in the race won by Al Kazeem at Sandown, which was his first run after being gelded.

Still lightly-raced for a four-year-old, the son of Invincible Spirit was second to Bonfire in last year’s Dante Stakes at York.

Varian told his website: “Ektihaam is in great form. If he can reproduce his last performance then he will have a big chance. We know he acts at the track and he is versatile regarding the ground conditions.”

Heading the market for the Group Two test is Luca Cumani’s Mount Athos.

So unlucky when flying home to finish fifth in last year’s Melbourne Cup, the six-year-old made the perfect return to British action by running out a nine-length winner of the Ormonde Stakes at Chester.

Cumani said: “It’s a tough race but he’s in good form and we’ll be hoping the rain stays away.

“We were happy with him at Chester and he’s done well since, so we’ll hope for the best.”

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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