FIRST-season trainer David Loughnane is striving for a dream result in his first season as a trainer when Earth Drummer runs in the Royal Hunt Cup today.
The most competitive mile-long handicap in the calendar, the North Yorkshire handler is cautiously optimistic about his chances of a memorable Royal Ascot success after his six-year-old was a huge eyecatcher at the Berkshire track last month.
Earth Drummer enjoyed no fortune in the Victoria Cup over seven furlongs, yet still finished strongly to take fifth place behind Flash Fire.
Loughnane, who trains at David O’Meara’s old yard in Helmsley, said: “Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong in the Victoria Cup, but he still ran a smashing race. Course form is the best form, so hopefully we can get him there and he can run his race. It will be a hell of an experience to have a Royal runner in my first season training.”
However, Hambleton trainer Kevin Ryan will leave it until the last minute before deciding whether The Grey Gatsby lines up in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, today’s feature.
Second last year, just six horses are declared for the 10-furlong race. The downside is that the going might be too soft for Ryan’s stable star, who is a former French Derby winner.
Either way, all eyes will be on race favourite A Shin Hikari who will be attempting to become the first Japanese-trained Royal Ascot winner.
A son of Deep Impact, the five-year-old has racked up a string of wins in his homeland, but it was his tremendous all-the-way victory in last December’s Hong Kong Cup that really propelled him to a wider audience.
The market rival is Aidan O’Brien’s globetrotting filly Found, who won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf in America.