Cowell wants rain for Outback
Robert Cowell hopes some of the forecast scattered showers can find their way to Royal Ascot to help Outback Traveller's cause in the Wokingham Handicap on Saturday.
The six-year-old gelding will be seeking back-to-back victories in the six-furlong cavalry charge following his head verdict over Brando in last year's renewal.
Cowell's inmate won off a mark of 100 that day and will be lining up off a 4lb higher perch this time, having dropped 1lb after finishing a five-length 11th in the Victoria Cup on his seasonal bow.
However, the weight on Outback Traveller's back is of less concern to Cowell than the Ascot ground.
He said: "He's coming into the race in good form. He had a good prep in the Victoria Cup and just needed that run to blow the cobwebs away.
"We could do with a drop of rain for him, though. It was good to soft when he won last year so I just think he needs that little bit of rain to really show his best.
"He is off a 4lb higher mark but I don't think that will make too much of a difference.
"He's a very capable horse of this sort of mark, but he does just need that bit of rain."
Outback Traveller will be ridden by Martin Harley, who said: "The Wokingham is one of the hardest handicaps to win throughout the week.
"I rode him in the Victoria Cup and he wasn't beaten all that far. He actually gave me a real good feel.
"He needs everything to go right but I certainly wouldn't be swapping him in the Wokingham for anything else."
Culturati represents Godolphin and Charlie Appleby and is another leading contender, having won three of his five starts to date.
Appleby said: "I was delighted with his performance at Newmarket and he has come out of that race very well.
"We have just scraped into the Wokingham and I couldn't ask for him to be training any better.
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"It is always in the back of your mind whether the bounce factor will be involved.
"He got plenty of work in before Newmarket. I had taken him off for a racecourse gallop before his win. There doesn't seem to be any signs of a bounce, potentially.
"I think he is a real live shot."
Harry Herbert wears a variety of racing manager hats and has two runners to look forward to in the ultra-competitive heat, with Projection representing the Royal Ascot Racing Club and Raucous running for Highclere Thoroughbred Racing.
Projection finished sixth at Newmarket on his seasonal bow and Herbert expects the Roger Charlton-trained runner to thrive in a big field.
He said: "He is a really tough sprinter and loves the hustle and bustle. He had a good season last year without winning, then went wrong.
"He ran a perfectly decent race at Newmarket first time out and then had a minor setback again.
"Hopefully, he will get a clear run now and he is the sort of horse that should run very well in the Wokingham."
Raucous won a conditions event on the all-weather at Chelmsford and was last seen finishing fourth in a Listed event at Windsor.
Herbert added: "He has a similar profile to Projection. He ran a huge race for a three-year-old when third in the Stewards' Cup last season and the rough and tumble of a cavalry charge like the Wokingham should suit him."
Normandy Barriere represents Nigel Tinkler and the Malton handler is thrilled to have a big-race runner with a live chance at Ascot.
The five-year-old has won one of his two starts this term and Tinkler reports preparations to have gone swimmingly.
The North Yorkshire handler said: "The horse had a racecourse gallop last weekend and I couldn't be happier with him.
"Everything has gone to plan so far, touch-wood. In fact, it's gone so well that it's starting to be a little bit of a worry!
"We're pleased with the draw in 26. If you had asked me before where I would like to be, I would have said 20, so I can't grumble too much at that.
"The majority of the fancied horses are drawn high, so I can't see it making too much of a difference.
"He's a very, very nice horse and I'm pleased to see the weather won't be quite as warm on Saturday as it was getting towards a bit too hot for the horses earlier in the week.
"It's marvellous to have an Ascot runner."
Roger Varian's Certificate heads the weights, with David O'Meara fielding three in Intisaab, Edward Lewis and Out Do.
Richard Fahey's Eastern Impact and the Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained Buckstay are also to the fore.
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