Buick sweet on Jack Hobbs
William Buick does not believe the drop back to 10 furlongs will prove problematic for Jack Hobbs in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot on Wednesday.
Trained by John Gosden, the five-year-old was runner-up to stablemate Golden Horn in the 2015 Derby before making no mistake in the Irish equivalent.
Injuries have limited him to just a handful of starts since his Classic year, but he impressed on his seasonal bow in Dubai back in March when he was barely off the bridle in the 12-furlong Sheema Classic, beating the classy Seventh Heaven by two and a quarter lengths.
Third in the last two renewals of the Champion Stakes over course and distance, Buick does not see the change in trip as an issue.
“Obviously he’s dropping back a couple of furlongs, but he showed a lot of pace in Dubai when he wore the blinkers first time,” said Buick.
“He was very good there, he travelled very well and he’s run well in two Champion Stakes there so he’ll be comfortable enough at the trip.”
Gosden does not feel the quicker ground will be an issue, either, telling www.godolphin.com: “It was always the plan to go to Royal Ascot after he won in Dubai, we had the choice of this race and the Hardwicke over a mile and a half later in the week.
“He will be running on ground quicker than he won on in Dubai, but he has gone well on a fast surface before.”
Aidan O’Brien’s globetrotter Highland Reel was last behind Jack Hobbs in Dubai, but he was unsuited by the heavy rain which fell on the day.
He subsequently bounced back to win the Coronation Cup at Epsom, another race which is part of the Qipco British Champion Series.
“He’s an incredibly versatile horse and, while it’s not been long since Epsom, we’ve been happy with what he has done since then,” said O’Brien.
“He’s a typical Galileo – he’s very sound mentally and physically, and very consistent.
“He has a lot of natural ability, a lot of natural tactical pace and obviously he stays very well too.”
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Ulysses has always been highly regarded by Sir Michael Stoute given he is by Galileo and out of an Oaks winner in Light Shift.
He failed to show his best in last year’s Derby, but he reappeared with a stylish win at Sandown in the Gordon Richards Stakes.
Champion jockey Jim Crowley replaces the injured Frankie Dettori.
Alan Cooper, racing manager for owners the Niarchos Family, said: “We managed to get Jim which was nice, but this is always a red-hot race.
“The horse wouldn’t be running if he hadn’t been giving Sir Michael all the right signals.
“This was always his early season objective and now we’ll see if he’s up to it.”
Decorated Knight has been a revelation since joining Roger Charlton and claimed a second success at the highest level in the Tattersalls Gold Cup last time.
“We’re there to give it a shot. He’s done well since joining us, but it’s another step up. The race in Ireland was a fair race, but this is a step up,” said Charlton.
“He’s come out of his victory in the Tattersalls Gold Cup in very good form and he will appreciate the fast ground and likely fast pace.
“He has now won five of his last seven races and I think it is fair to say on each occasion he has improved.
“When he won at the Curragh, he was pricking his ears and only doing what was required. He is progressing all the time into a thoroughly good horse.
“There’s probably not a lot between the front three in the betting.
“Two of them excel at a mile and a half and would want to go forwards; I expect Highland Reel will probably make it a strong gallop. I’d say Ulysses is the most progressive mile-and-a-quarter horse amongst the opposition.”
Al Shaqab’s Mekhtaal is another Group One winner in the field having landed the Prix d’Ispahan last time out for trainer Jean-Claude Rouget.
“Mekhtaal has to go on improving and find a bit more, but it was a very solid performance last time out when he won the Prix d’Ispahan,” said racing manager Harry Herbert.
“It is a big step up again, but his trainer thought the world of him last year and he was a very impressive Group Two winner before he lost his way a bit.
“Seeing him develop through the winter was fascinating because he is much stronger and mentally seems to have grown up a lot. The ground should be fine.”
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