Windsor And Wembley – And Even A Few Winners

Thank goodness for the Newbury Gr1!

At Windsor and Wembley today the focus of the world’s attention is on events containing two-runner fields.

Prince Harry and his bride-to-be Meghan Markle

The royal wedding and FA Cup Final will grab the greatest global attention – but at Newbury the prime attraction is far from a match. The Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes is chock full of runners and interest.

As spring moves towards summer, there is no single heavyweight among the older milers. There are many fine horses but none could yet be called fantastic.

That may change when the stalls crash open for the £350,000 Gr1 highlight of Newbury’s Flat calendar.

Here’s the racecard

A four-strong challenge is being sent from Ballydoyle, headed by Ryan Moore’s mount Rhododendron.

Ryan Moore – rides Rhododendron

The Prix de l’Opera heroine drops down in trip. Moving up in trip are Librissa Breeze, winner of last season’s British Champions Sprint, and seven-furlong specialist Limato, having another go at a distance and race that has hitherto foiled him.

A mile, however, is nothing new to Addeybb, who followed up his Lincoln triumph with a Group 2 success at Sandown, or Beat The Bank, such a progressive force last year. Add in the likes of Zabeel Prince, Suedois and Dutch Connection – whose Godolphin owners have won the last three runnings – and you have a Lockinge that is deep, difficult and enthralling.

Sir Michael Stoute saddles Crystal Ocean in the Group 3 Al Rayyan Stakes, better known as the Aston Park, before close relative Crystal Hope sports the same Sir Evelyn de Rothschild silks, again under Ryan Moore, in the Haras de Bouquetot Fillies’ Stakes.

Sir Michael Stoute (far right) with two other legends in William Haggas and Joey Ramsden

Both horses are set to start favourite, but last season’s St Leger second Crystal Ocean will be a particularly warm order, given he won Sandown’s Gordon Richards Stakes on his reappearance and has the look of a textbook Stoute-trained older-horse star.

“I was pleased with the Sandown performance,” said Stoute. “We’re going up to a mile and a half this time and he seems in really good shape.

“He had a nice year in 2017, when he was very consistent, so let’s hope he progresses again this year.”

Crystal Ocean boasts a plethora of Group 1 entries, unlike Crystal Hope, currently engaged in only the Ribblesdale Stakes. However, when scoring on the same Sandown card as Crystal Ocean she defeated this week’s Musidora Stakes winner Give And Take, which means another success might have people talking about a possible Investec Oaks supplementary entry.

Stoute, however, prefers to take one race at a time, and on Friday was saying nothing about possible targets for either horse.

“Why don’t we get Saturday over first – that’s the way we play it,” he said, before talking about Crystal Hope.

“She’s a filly who doesn’t excite us at home, but we don’t mind that,” he said.

“She’s going to have very different conditions this time and we’ll just have to see how she handles the fast ground. That was a good performance at Sandown, though. It pleased me a lot.”

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