Royal Ascot: Hopes high for Grey Gatsby’s Prince of Wales bid

Jockey Maxime Guyon celebrates winning the Queen Anne Stakes on Solow. Picture: David Davies/PA.
Jockey Maxime Guyon celebrates winning the Queen Anne Stakes on Solow. Picture: David Davies/PA.
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NORTH Yorkshire trainer Kevin Ryan will be hoping that Solow’s success in the opening race of Royal Ascot bodes well for his stable star’s eagerly-anticipated challenge in the feature Prince of Wales’s Stakes today.

The Grey Gatsby, the reigning Yorkshire horse of the year, was beaten by the Freddie Head-trained Solow at the Dubai World Cup meeting before finishing a close fourth in the in the Tattersalls Gold Cup in Ireland.

However, Hambleton-based Ryan has never lost faith in The Grey Gatsby who won York’s Dante Stakes last season before landing both the French Derby and Irish Champion Stakes.

Yet, while The Grey Gatsby is battle-hardened ahead of today’s 10-furlong test, his principle rival Free Eagle will be having just his fifth start for the legendary Irish-based trainer Dermot Weld whose patience is renowned.

“It was a good run in Dubai, coming back in trip on a sharp track and Solow is a very good horse. He’d had a prep run as well,” said Ryan. “If we hadn’t gone there and the ground had come up very soft in Ireland, there was a chance his first run would have been at Royal Ascot, so we had nothing to lose by going out there.

“He loves a stronger pace and probably wants a bit more cover than he got at the Curragh, but it was a messy sort of race and I didn’t hide the fact he would improve an awful lot for the run. He was quite heavy.

“The favourite’s a very good horse, but we just concentrate on our own horse and turn up on the day in the best shape we can get him. Hopefully, he runs his race.” One factor could be the ground. Fast conditions have led to Malton trainer Peter Niven opting not to run the ever popular Clever Cookie in tomorrow’s blue riband Ascot Gold Cup while in-form Darlington trainer Michael Dods pulled Mecca’s Angel out of the five furlong King’s Stand Stakes won by the outsider Goldream.

However Dods, and Boroughbridge-based rider Paul Mulrennan, will hope Easton Angel can extend her unbeaten record to three in a competitive Queen Mary Stakes. The horse was such an impressive winner of Beverley’s Hilary Needler Trophy that Sheikh Joaan Al Thani bought a half-share in the filly.

“My grandmother has never flown before, but she’s coming down to Ascot by helicopter along with Michael’s twin daughters who have their last exam,” said co-owner Ritchie Fiddes.

“She doesn’t even own a passport so this is a big thing for her, but she was desperate to be there and I wanted her to be there. When all the offers started coming in after her win in the Hilary Needler I was keen to keep an involvement.”

For Mulrennan, who will pull on the Al Shaqab silks for the first time, it could be a landmark day.

“She was very impressive at Beverley, nothing went right that day but she picked up really well.

“She’s come out of that well and I wouldn’t swap her for anything,” he said.

As for yesterday’s action, racing connoisseurs will be hoping that the aforementioned Solow – the convincing winner of the Queen Mary Stakes – returns to these shores for Goodwood’s historic Sussex Stakes where horses of rival generations go up against each other for bragging rights over one mile.

The five-year-old is now one of Europe’s best milers and a potential clash with Aidan O’Brien’s dual 2000 Guineas winner Gleneagles would be a race to savour after the three-year-old champion won the St James’s Palace Stakes.

“He’s a proper horse, you want to ride the best horses and he’s about the best of his generation,” said winning rider Ryan Moore, who then went on to record a treble courtesy of Clondaw Warrior and Washington DC.