KARL Burke is hopeful that Laurens – the reigning Yorkshire horse of the year – can end her career with a magnificent seventh victory in an elite Group One race.
The frontrunning four-year-old, winner of last year’s French Oaks, will line up in the Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket – one of the races that she won last year in the colours of owner John Dance.
And Leyburn-based Burke is also confident the horse’s regular rider PJ McDonald will be fit for this final assignment after suffering a fall earlier this week.
Victorious in the Group One Prix Rothschild at Deauville in late July, Laurens was narrowly defeated by Shine So Bright in the Sky Bet City of York Stakes at the Ebor festival after conceding weight to the winner.
Though only fourth in last month’s Matron Stakes at Leopardstown, Burke is hopeful that the filly – the best horse that he has trained – can defeat her eight high-class rivals before beginning a career as a broodmare.
“I have been delighted with Laurens since her run in the Matron Stakes. She’s in great form and my daughter, Lucy, who does a lot of the work with her, couldn’t be happier with her,” he said last night.
“She was beaten fair and square last time so it will be interesting to see if she can turn the tables on Iridessa and Hermosa. She did come back from Ireland with a little bruise on a corn on her foot, and PJ did mention after the race that she was changing her legs more often than usual, so that could have been a factor.
“We have chosen the Sun Chariot Stakes rather than Sunday’s seven furlong Prix de la Foret at Longchamp because in my opinion she is a miler and PJ is on the same lines. John Dance is not so sure and was keener to go to France but has kindly let me have my way and hopefully it is the right decision.
“John points out that it took a course record time and a Group One penalty for her to be beaten over seven furlongs at York but I feel that, despite her high cruising speed, she just lacks a turn of foot over the shorter trip. She was always flat to the mat at York and the rhythm of races over a mile suits her better.”
Laurens will renew rivalry with the first and second from the Matron Stakes in trainer Joseph O’Brien’s Iridessa and his father Aidan’s dual 1000 Guineas heroine Hermosa. O’Brien senior has also declared Matron fifth I Can Fly.
Lavender’s Blue represents Amanda Perrett following an impressive Group Three success on her latest appearance in the Atalanta Stakes at Sandown in late August. There are two challengers from France after Alex Pantall supplemented Madeleine Must to join stablemate Crown Walk.
The field is completed by Sir Michael Stoute’s Falmouth Stakes winner Veracious, the mount of champion jockey-elect Oisin Murphy, and last year’s 1000 Guineas heroine Billesdon Brook for Richard Hannon.
The Sun Chariot forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series and the aforementioned McDonald is due to ride on the gallops this morning for Burke to confirm his fitness.
“PJ has not race-ridden since he had a fall at Wolverhampton on Monday evening but he’s coming to ride out for me and is confident that everything will be okay to ride her on Saturday,” added the trainer. “He’s a very professional guy, so I’m sure he will let us know if he doesn’t feel quite right.
“As far as I know the Sun Chariot will be her last run, though there is no physical reason why she can’t go on. I joked with John the other day that if he kept her in training next year he could prove us wrong about what is her best trip! She has been a privilege to have in the yard and a privilege to train, we’ve been very, very lucky to have her. I don’t think I will really appreciate what she has done for us for a while.
“One thing that struck me was when I found out that, before Frankel came along, the most prolific Group One winner in Sir Henry Cecil’s incredible training career was Midday with six wins – that’s the same total as Laurens.”
Crystal Ocean has been bought by Coolmore and will stand under its National Hunt banner at The Beeches Stud in 2020.
The five-year-old suffered a career-ending injury on the gallops last month, after a succession of fine performances.
He won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot for Sir Michael Stoute back in June, before pushing Enable all the way in an epic battle for the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes and finishing just a short head behind Japan in the Juddmonte International at York on what proved to be his final start.
The son of Sea The Stars bowed out with seven Group race victories to his name, never finishing out of the first three in his 17 career starts in the colours of Sir Evelyn de Rothschild.