PAUL MULRENNAN only has one booked ride at Royal Ascot this week – and the Boroughbridge jockey hopes to make it count when he is reunited with his York heroine Mecca’s Angel in today’s King’s Stand Stakes.
One of three Group One races on the stellar opening day of Flat racing’s iconic meeting, the lightly-raced Mecca’s Angel missed last year’s Royal meeting because conditions were too quick for the Michael Dods-trained sprinter.
However, rain-softened ground means the filly, who provided Mulrennan with the biggest win of his career when reeling in the American-trained superstar Acapulco in last August’s Nunthorpe Stakes on Knavesmire, should have perfect underfoot conditions.
Runner-up on her seasonal reappearance at Haydock last month, Mecca’s Angel has only been first or second in 11 of her 13 starts – a phenomenal record of consistency – and stablemate Easton Angel could not have been more impressive when winning at Sandown last Saturday.
“She’s in really good form and I can’t wait,” Mulrennan told The Yorkshire Post.
“She has no miles on the clock. Michael has minded her, he didn’t run her at the meeting last year, and just kept her fresh.
“She’s in great form – you just need a bit of luck in these big field sprints. Ground is important. You can tell by their action and their head carriage. She ran on firm ground in Ireland and kept changing her legs. On good ground, she runs gun barrel straight.”
Mulrennan is also fulsome in his praise for his weighing room colleague Connor Beasley who rides Mecca’s Angel most days at the stables of Darlington-based Dods.
This is the jockey who has made a remarkable recovery from life-threatening injuries suffered during a fall at Wolverhampton last summer and Mulrennan praised his colleague’s headline victory at Musselburgh on Saturday aboard Meadway for Bryan Smart.
“It will do his confidence the world of good,” says Mulrennan, who credits retired rider Dale Gibson for persuading him to team up with Dods and ride horses of the calibre of today’s big race favourite and the aforementioned Easton Angel, who was second to Acapulco in the 2015 Queen Mary Stakes.
“Michael has a good eye for a horse, places his horses well and is a cool customer. He’s easy to work with. If he has a problem, he tells you straight away.”
Mulrennan, whose only previous Royal Ascot winner came when Dandino won the King George V Stakes in 2010, is not perturbed that Mecca’s Angel is his only ride this week at the big meeting.
He regards the fixtures in the North as his “bread and butter” and says he is lucky that he is entrusted with a horse like Mecca’s Angel
A strong Yorkshire condition includes David O’Meara’s Group One winner Move In Time, Take Cover, from the Bawtry yard of David Griffiths, and Thirsk trainer David Barron’s Pearl Secret.
However, O’Meara suffered a blow when stable jockey Danny Tudhope, The Yorkshire Post’s Friday columnist, was ruled out of action because of a back problem sustained from a fall at York last month.
The 33-year-old hopes to return to action on Saturday.
Mark Johnston bids to win successive renewals of the Coventry Stakes, a six furlong sprint for two-year-olds, with Yalta.
Unbeaten from two starts, Yalta could not have been more impressive when winning at Pontefract last time out for the Middleham trainer and jockey William Buick.
However, Buratino, Johnston’s 2015 winner of the corresponding contest, is unlikely to take his place in Friday’s Commonwealth Cup unless the ground dries out markedly at the Berkshire track.
Kevin Ryan will assess conditions before deciding whether stable star The Grey Gatsby crosses swords with Japanese superstar A Shin Hikari in tomorrow’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
Second to Free Eagle last year, Hambleton-based Ryan says the grey – a former winner of the French Derby – is “bursting to run”, but would not appreciate soft conditions. “He’s also in the Hardwicke Stakes on Saturday. We will see how much rain materialises,” said the trainer.
Three Classic winners clash in today’s St James’s Palace Stakes after Galileo Gold, Awtaad and The Gurkha were all declared for the Group One heat at Royal Ascot.
Winners of the English, Irish and French 2,000 Guineas respectively, the trio will face off over a mile in what promises to be an epic battle that also features comeback horse Emotionless, who stormed to victory at Doncaster last September before an injury-plagued winter.