Defender primed for Jubilee

Prime Defender will bid to prove his recent York triumph was no fluke when he crosses swords with a number of the same rivals in the Golden Jubilee Stakes.

Prime Defender will bid to prove his recent York triumph was no fluke when he crosses swords with a number of the same rivals in the Golden Jubilee Stakes.

Barry Hills’ six-year-old was 20-1 for the Duke of York Stakes on the Knavesmire but passed the post in front of Showcasing, Main Aim and Starspangledbanner.

All three are shorter in the betting for Saturday’s Royal Ascot feature than Prime Defender, with Showcasing heading the market, but Hills’ son and assistant Charlie is confident of a bold show.

“He was very good at York and we’ve now got to try and show everyone that wasn’t a one-off,” said Hills.

“He won the time before at Haydock and I think that just gave him a bit of confidence, which showed last time.

“He has looked great since then and has come out of the race in really good form.

“His work is very solid and apart from the foreign raiders he has beat them all before.

“I’m very hopeful he’ll run a big race.”

Aidan O’Brien is confident Australian recruit Starspangledbanner is ready to show his true colours following that fifth-place finish at York on his Ballydoyle debut.

“When he ran at York he hadn’t been with us that long and we were just running him to get him started,” said O’Brien.

“We’ve been happy with him since.”

Leading owner Khalid Abdullah is represented by Duke of York runner-up Showcasing and the third home Main Aim, who has gone on to subsequent success at Haydock.

Abdullah’s racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe said: “I think that Showcasing has a bit more zip than Main Aim.

“Main Aim is quite a versatile horse, he can run over anything between six furlongs and a mile and I probably think six and a half to seven furlongs is his best.”

The Jeremy Noseda-trained Fleeting Spirit makes her third visit to the Royal meeting having been placed in the last two renewals of the King’s Stand Stakes.

Part-owner Andy Stewart is in bullish mood.

He said: “She is ever so well and her history of running first time out is pretty impressive.

“I can assure you we’re not worried about fitness and there will be no excuses if she doesn’t run a good race.”

Tom Queally rode Fleeting Spirit to win last year’s July Cup but he takes the mount on Lord Shanakill for boss Henry Cecil.

“He’s coming back in trip to six furlongs but it is a stiff six and I think it will suit him, as will his high draw on what we’ve seen so far this week,” Queally said in his blog on www.racinguk.com.

The Godolphin team are represented by Fravashi, who makes his European debut after showing up well in Group company in Dubai.

Speaking on www.godolphin.com, trainer Saeed bin Suroor said: “It’s going to be a very tough race to win but he’s in good form and I am hoping to see him run a nice race.”

Marchand D’Or was one of the favourites for this race in 2008 but after losing his way somewhat for Freddie Head, he was switched to Mikel Delzangles at the start of this year and has bounced back to form.

Delzangles said: “There are 24 runners so you need a lot of luck in the race and he’s a horse who has to be ridden from the back, so we have to be lucky.”

Joining Marchand D’Or on the trip from France will be the Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained pair of War Artist and Varenar.

“It will be the first time War Artist has run for me and while he looks well, I have no idea how good he could be,” said the trainer.

“Varenar looks better than he did when he last ran in Cologne, but there is still a question about the trip.

“He is a good horse but he has never run over six furlongs and we do not have many sprinters in France, so I do not know what his level is.”

Balthazaar’s Gift is making his seasonal debut in this Group One, but trainer Clive Cox reports the seven-year-old in good spirits.

“He’s been in pretty good form at home and we’re looking forward to getting him back on track,” said Cox.

“He’s got plenty of class and equally six or seven appears to be favourite distance.”

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