“The faster the ground the better” is how Harry Dunlop views Early Morning’s chance in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot.
The five-year-old won on his seasonal reappearance at Lingfield to tee up a bid for the annual cavalry charge.
Given his liking for very fast ground, Dunlop is pleased the sun has started to shine.
“The hope is he runs in the Hunt Cup, but he’ll also have the option of a Listed race at York [on Saturday],” said Dunlop.
“He disappointed twice towards the end of last season and I can see why people might think it could have been because they were both in big fields, but he had valid excuses. We ran him at Kempton as he must have fast ground, but they had just relaid the surface and it rode much slower than usual and then he simply didn’t stay in the Cambridgeshire.
“The faster the ground the better for him and it is usually quick at Ascot, so that should suit.”
Paul Midgley, meanwhile, is struggling to work out why Ninjago is such a big price for the Wokingham at Royal Ascot.
Formerly with the Hannons, the six-year-old shaped with some promise on his first start for new connections at York, racing over five furlongs for the first time.
Midgley, who excels with sprinters, expects him to improve for that run and is greatly looking forward to Ascot.
“Ninjago had a tough winter, but he must have an unbelievable constitution,” said the Yorkshire handler. “He ran an excellent race at York on his first run for us and we found out more by running him than we could ever do at home.
“There weren’t that many opportunities to run him before York, which is why he ran over five, the first time he’d run over the trip. We thought we’d keep local rather than go to Newmarket.
“He hadn’t shown us he was short of speed at home and so it proved. He’s a grand horse, nice to have around and a total gent. I’m also struggling to see why he’s 33-1 for the Wokingham.
“He should step forward from York and I can’t wait to run him, he just wouldn’t want firm ground.
“There are races like the Rockingham at the Curragh, the Chipchase at Newcastle and even races on the all-weather we can aim him at after that.”
A decision as to which race Cannock Chase will contest at Royal Ascot is expected to be made at the last minute.
The five-year-old currently holds entries in both the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, in which he finished seventh last year, and the Hardwicke Stakes.
After signing off last season when finishing down the field in the Hong Kong Vase, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Canadian International hero made a winning return to action last month, when defying a penalty to land the Huxley Stakes at Chester.
Bruce Raymond, racing manager to owner Saeed Suhail, said: “The plan is to go to Ascot with Cannock Chase for either the Prince of Wales’s or the Hardwicke, but it is undecided yet.
“Although he had to give a bit of weight away first time out at Chester, we were very keen on him and hopeful he would run a good race, as he had been working exceptionally well.”
While plans remain fluid as to which race Cannock Chase will contest at the meeting, a tilt at the Coronation Stakes a week on Friday is on the cards for the John Gosden-trained French 1000 Guineas runner-up Nathra.
Raymond also acts for her owner Abdullah Saeed Al Naboodah and said: “I believe that John is aiming her at the Coronation Stakes. Fast ground would be a bit of a worry, as she is better with a bit of cut in the ground.
“She ran a terrific race last time out in France and the team are keen to go to Ascot with her.”
Royal Ascot is also on the cards for Anamba after she returned to action with a win at the end of last month.
Mick Halford’s classy filly beat Coolmore on her debut last season, before going down narrowly against the same filly in Group Three company. She was due to run in the Irish 1000 Guineas, but Halford took her out due to soft ground and she reappeared in a Listed race at Naas, running out a two-length winner.
“Anamba is in really good form, she’s taken her race very well,” said Halford. “I couldn’t have been happier with her and we’ll look to Ascot now, she’s in the Coronation and all things being equal she’ll go.”
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