‘Perfect starting point for Olympic Glory’

Frankie Dettori believes Saturday’s JLT Lockinge Stakes at Newbury is the perfect starting point for Olympic Glory.

‘Perfect starting point for Olympic Glory’

Richard Hannon’s colt impressed hugely in first-time blinkers when winning the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes but was last seen trailing home behind American superstar Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup Mile on firm ground at Santa Anita.

Dettori has ridden the four-year-old several times at home but has yet to win on him in two track outings – a statistic he will be hoping to change after the first Group One of the season for the older horses.

“I’ve ridden him work three times and he only does enough, that’s why he wears the head gear,” Dettori said.

“He seems in tremendous shape, is best on a straight track and a mile is ideal for him. It looks the perfect starting point.

“Every Group One is hard to win so we certainly won’t be taking anything for granted.

“We’ll just do our own thing and hope it is good enough.

“One thing is he has won first time out at two and first time out at three, so I hope it’s the same again at four.”

Hannon also runs Montiridge, the mount of Richard Hughes, but believes Olympic Glory is a worthy favourite.

“We know he has the class – he won the QEII Stakes at Ascot last year – and, though that was in a mudbath, people seem to forget that on good ground he finished second to Dawn Approach in a Coventry and ran Moonlight Cloud to a short head in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville,” said he told his website www.richardhannonracing.co.uk.

“We have no qualms about the going and he has a favourite’s chance.”

Arguably the most interesting runner in the race is Aidan O’Brien’s Verrazano.

A dual Grade One winner in America, he will be racing on grass for the first time and the straight mile presents a new challenge for him.

“He’s a very exciting horse. For us to get a horse like him is incredible,” said O’Brien.

“He’s been very natural and very relaxed. He’s a big powerhouse of a horse.

“I’d say his trip is around a mile and he could end up at the Breeders’ Cup again.”

Brian Ellison’s Top Notch Tonto was one of the big success stories of last season, progressing from handicaps to chase home Olympic Glory at Ascot.

However, all his best form is on ground with plenty of cut and the drying surface will be against him.

“He came in 50 kilos heavy so he was badly in need of it (at Sandown) – like all of our horses,” said Ellison.

“He’s in really good form. We worked him the other day and he annihilated two horses.”

Winner of that Sandown race was Andrew Balding’s Tullius, who had already finished second in the Lincoln under a welter burden.

Balding said: “He’s a very progressive horse and was very impressive last time.

“He’s got a chance, but we are probably looking at getting a place more than anything.”

Adding to the overseas interest is the German raider Chopin.

Long gone are the days when horses from Germany are underrated and Andreas Wohler’s Chopin was not disgraced in the Derby last year, but he is another who will find the drying ground against him.

“We were hoping the ground remained on the soft side as he prefers conditions like that,” said Wohler.

“He has strengthened up from last year and we hope he will improve for Dusseldorf, when he needed the run.

“We are very happy with him and he has done everything right.”

Paul Deegan’s Sruthan is a second Irish contender and is on the up having won his last two races at Group Three level, but the trainer is well aware this will require another step forward.

“He won’t be out of place,” said Deegan.

“It’s a bit of a shot in the dark, although it looks a better race now than it might have done a week or so ago. Originally it looked a penalty kick for Olympic Glory but now with Verrazano and Chopin, it’s a good race.

“He’s done little wrong, he’s won four of his seven races and the last two were Group Threes. There are not many Group Twos he can go for.

“I thought he always wanted good ground to be seen at his best but his last two races have been on soft and they’ve been his best so he’s versatile. There’s a couple in there (that) might want it soft.

“We’ll know more after this. We went to the Gladness thinking he needed the run, but he won it well. I felt before that he’d improve for the race and he certainly has at home.

“Whether he’s a Group One horse or not we’ll find out.”

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