Al Kazeem may have had his doubters before the Prince of Wales’s Stakes but the Roger Charlton-trained five-year-old showed he was a real Group One performer, as under a sparkling James Doyle, he reeled in the front-running Mukhadram to land the Royal Ascot prize and he will bid for his third top class success on the spin on Saturday when he lines up in Sandown Park’s Coral-Eclipse Stakes.
Paul Hanagan’s enterprising tactics aboard William Haggas’s Mukhadram were sublime as he pulled clear of his rivals turning for home at the Berkshire venue a couple of weeks ago but Doyle was aware of the former champion jockey’s plan and gradually bridged the gap and passed him in the final furlong to land the spoils.
Now the pair will clash again on Saturday but the bookmakers fully expect Al Kazeem to frank the form with the Haggas trained runner and the five-year-old is a clear 15/8 favourite with Bet365 to storm to success and continue on an upward curve but there are a plethora of lively challengers taking their chance in what is a small but select field in what promises to be a superb renewal.
Aidan O’Brien has a sensational record in the race having trained the winner on five separate occasions since the turn of the millennium with the likes of Giant’s Causeway and So You Think just a couple of names donning the roll of honour for the Ballydoyle supremo and he will unleash a dual attack on this year’s contest having scratched Camelot from the final declarations.
Declaration Of War flopped when well-backed for the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury but the War Front colt propelled back into the limelight when producing a superb display to land the Queen Anne Stakes and with a step up to ten furlong not looking a problem, the four year old is sure to be a major thorn in Al Kazeem’s side and he is currently available around the 4/1 mark.
Joseph O’Brien gets the leg up on Declaration Of War and on the face of things, looks to be the O’Brien first string but the lofty pilot would not be able to make the weight of 8st 10lbs on Mars, O’Brien’s other runner, so Ryan Moore will get the ride on the son of Galileo, who had a troubled passage for most of the St James’s Palace Stakes, when finishing third to Dawn Approach and Toronado.
Staying on eye-catchingly in the closing stages, Mars is sure to relish the step back up in trip and gaining weight from his older rivals is the most interesting runner and will appeal to plenty of backers at 5/1.
Another who will have entered many a notebook over the Royal meeting is John Gosden’s The Fugue, as she was another doing all her best work in the final stages of the aforementioned Prince of Wales’s Stakes and she is sure to come on for that first start of the season and many will throw their cap in her direction and she is another integral cog to what makes a mouth-watering renewal.
Mario Hofer’s Pastorius adds a European angle to the event and he was a winner of the Prix Ganay Stakes at Longchamp in April but the likely quicker conditions could see him struggle to live with the British & Irish talent that will sparkling bright in the next instalment of the QIPCO British Champions Series, of which Al Kazeem sets a very high standard and is very much the one to beat.