Royal Ascot 2016 was a good one for Al Shaqab Racing, with Galileo Gold winning the St James’s Palace Stakes on Tuesday and Qemah landing the Coronation Stakes on Friday.
“It was terrific last year,” says Al Shaqab’s racing manager Harry Herbert. “They are fantastic races. It’s so difficult to win any race at Royal Ascot. So to win the St James’s Palace Stakes and the Coronation Stakes in the same year was very special.”
Royal Ascot is one of the highlights of the year for Herbert, and he is looking forward to next week with lots of optimism.
“Sadly, we don’t have Galileo Gold this year,” he says, “but we do have Qemah, and we have a few others to look forward to.”
Here, Harry reveals the runners that will carry the colours of Al Shaqab Racing along with those in the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, The Royal Ascot Racing Club, Bermuda Thoroughbred Racing and 5 Hertford Street Racing Club silks respectively at Royal Ascot in 2017.
DENAAR has done nothing wrong in two starts. He was impressive in winning over five furlongs at Chelmsford on his racecourse debut in early May, and he battled on well to win a conditions race on his last start over six furlongs on Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes day at Newbury.
He proved that day that he was a real battler, and that will stand to him.
We also have HEADWAY in the Coventry Stakes for the Royal Ascot Racing Club. He is a grand horse, he was second at Newbury first time up, and he was impressive in winning at Chester last time.
He needs to improve again to win the Coventry Stakes, but he is progressive physically. He is a horse that I really like, and I think that he can run well. I think he is a horse who could be a lot of fun for the Royal Ascot Racing Club.
Duke of Cambridge Stakes
QEMAH does have the option of running in the Queen Anne Stakes on Tuesday, but I think that she will run in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes on Wednesday instead.
She was great last year in winning the Coronation Stakes, and she followed up by winning the Group 1 Prix Rothschild at Deauville.
She was beaten on her debut this season at Lingfield, but the cards fell all wrong for her that day. She was too free and fresh, she couldn’t get cover and she was out in the centre of the track while the filly that beat her was close to the stands rail.
It might have been better if we had stayed closer to home with her for her debut, but the conditions of the Lingfield race suited her well, and Jean-Claude was very happy to travel.
She is in great form now though. It’s great that Jean-Claude’s horses are back in top form now, and we’re hopeful that Qemah can run a big race.
Prince of Wales’s Stakes
MEKHTAAL is a nice horse, he is an improving horse, a son of Sea The Stars.
He lost his way a little last year after winning the Prix Hocquart at Deauville in May impressively, but we have always thought that he was good, and he is back on track this year. He battled on well to win the Prix d’Ispahan at Chantilly last time.
The Prince of Wales’s Stakes is obviously a hot race, but Mekhtaal deserves his place in it. He does have the option of the running in the Hardwicke Stakes instead, but at the moment we are favouring the Prince of Wales’s. He is a really nice horse, and he is an uncomplicated horse who has found his form again this year.
Royal Hunt Cup
EL VIP should have a chance in the Royal Hunt Cup if he gets into the race. He likes to be held up in his races, which can be a positive or a negative on the straight track at Ascot. If you get too far back it can be difficult to make up the ground. But he won well at Newcastle last time, he goes on any ground, and he continues to progress.
We also have CASTLE HARBOUR in the Royal Hunt Cup for Bermuda Thoroughbred Racing. He is another really nice horse who has been running solid races when conditions have suited him.
ALJEZEERA could run in the Ribblesdale Stakes. She won her maiden over a mile at Doncaster on her only run last year, and she finished third in the listed Oaks trial at Newbury on Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes day on her only run so far this year. She is a nice filly and she is going the right way.
HERTFORD DANCER is also set to take her chance in the Ribblesdale. Owned by the 5 Hertford Street Racing Club, she won the Lingfield Oaks Trial last month, and we’re going to supplement her for the Ribblesdale. She has earned her place in the race.
She is going to have to improve again to win the Ribblesdale, but she was raised by 23lb by the handicapper after she won the Lingfield Oaks Trial, so there is every chance that she will improve again. She loves her racing, she has a big will to win.
This is the owners’ first venture into racehorse ownership, Robin Birley thought that a few of the members might want to get involved. They have just two fillies, Hertford Dancer and Struck By The Moon, who has been injured but who is back in training now. So to have one of their fillies win a listed race and take her chance in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot is fantastic. I hope that she can run a big race for them.
We have MEDAHIM for the Britannia Handicap. He was a little unlucky last time in a seven-furlong handicap at Goodwood. He didn’t have a clear run and he was only beaten a half a length into second place in the end.
That was just his fourth run, so he should be able to progress from it. The Britannia is a wide open handicap, but he should be competitive.
King George V Stakes
DAAWY really needs a mile and a half and a strongly-run race, so he is exactly the sort of horse that you want for the King George V Stakes.
He won his maiden at Ripon over a mile and a quarter at the end of April, and he didn’t run a bad race last time to finish second over the same distance at Doncaster on soft ground last time. Back on better ground and stepped up to a mile and a half, he should improve again.
Duke of Edinburgh Stakes
They are both similar types, improving four-year-olds, exactly the right types for the Duke of Edinburgh.
Both horses have run just once this season so far. Al Neksh finished second in a good 10-furlong handicap at York, and Shraaoh finished fourth over a mile and a half at Epsom on Derby day. That was his first run since last August, he should improve for it, and either or both horses could run well in a Duke of Edinburgh.
BUSTAM could run in the Chesham Stakes. He ran a highly encouraging race on his racecourse debut at Ayr at the end of May, so it was disappointing that he couldn’t build on that next time at Newcastle.
He was just too free that day, and John is keen to go again so, all being well with the horse, we might allow him take his chance.
Diamond Jubilee Stakes
AL JAZI is a really nice filly, she’s very fast and she is on track for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
She was impressive in winning the Group 3 Oak Tree Stakes at Goodwood over seven furlongs last year on her only run so far in Britain, and she started off this season well by winning a listed race over six at Maisons-Laffitte. That was back in April, and she hasn’t run since, but we have had the Diamond Jubilee in mind for her for a little while, and she has been trained for the race since.
She is an improving sprinter, and she could surprise a few people.
Projection had a minor setback after his seasonal debut at Newmarket, he might have a rushed preparation in order to get him to the Wokingham, but he deserves his place in it. He was only just beaten in a good race at Newmarket on his final run last season, and he is a relatively lightly-raced sprinter who has the potential to progress.
Raucous loves the rough and tumble of these big handicaps. He was third in the Group 3 Bengough Stakes at Ascot last October and, gelded at the end of last season, he is a proper horse now, he is a stronger horse. He won at Chelmsford on his debut this term, and he ran well in a listed race at Windsor last time. The Wokingham is a bit of a lottery, you need everything to fall right for you, but we go there with chances.