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King's Stand Ante-Post Preview: Soldier gets the Call
Posted in: Royal Ascot Tips
The King’s Stand Stakes – a Group 1 over five furlongs for horses aged three and over – features two dual winners on its roll of honour since the turn of the century, namely Equiano and Sole Power. A most impressive winner in 2017, US raider Lady Aurelia was expected to add her name to that list last year, too, going off the 2/1-favourite in a field of 14, but she was ultimately left trailing in the wake of the pair who dominate the market for the 2019 renewal.
Blue Point was the winner on that occasion, reeling in the trailblazing Battaash close home to get the verdict by a length and three quarters. Admittedly, Charlie Appleby’s charge was unable to reproduce that form in two subsequent starts that season, but he appears to have returned at least as good as ever this year, completing a hat-trick in Dubai with a ready success in the Al Quoz Sprint last time. This has been his target ever since and it would be no surprise to see him add his name to the list of dual winners of this race, with Ascot clearly a track that suits him well (three wins from four starts here).
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) June 19, 2018
The dominant sprinter on the five-furlong scene in 2017, Battaash was below that form for the majority of last season, including when running out of steam in the closing stages of this race. He demonstrated that he retained all his ability when winning the King George Stakes at Goodwood (for the second consecutive year), though, and there was plenty of encouragement to be taken from his return in the Temple Stakes at Haydock last month, when showing all his old brilliance to win by two and a half lengths. The stiff uphill climb to the line here remains a concern for one who shows so much early speed, but, put simply, there is not a sprinter alive who can live with an on-song Battaash, and he has to be respected in his bid to go one better than last year.
Mabs Cross was just a neck behind Battaash in third that day and went on to establish herself as the year’s top sprinter with a series of consistent displays, notably gaining a deserved success in the Prix de l’Abbaye on her final start that season. She proved better than ever when defying a penalty on her return in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket, but was unable to live with Battaash in the early stages at Haydock last time, before staying on gradually to be beaten over three lengths. The stiffer track here will be in her favour, but she looks likely to prove vulnerable for win purposes once again.
Similar comments apply to Alpha Delphini, who gained a first Group 1 success at the age of seven in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York last August. That was a big shock on the day – he was sent off at 40/1 – but he proved that to be no fluke when splitting Battaash and Mabs Cross on his reappearance at Haydock, running right up to his best to get within two and a half lengths of the winner. More is likely to be required here, though, and he will do well to improve upon his sixth in this race two years ago.
Equilateral and Sergei Prokofiev finished second and fourth, respectively, behind Mabs Cross in the Palace House last time, with the former seemingly suited by the drop back to five furlongs in a strongly-run race. Even then he possibly did too much too soon, and this stablemate of Battaash could have a big one in him if learning to channel his energy correctly, having always been held in high regard by connections. Sergei Prokofiev failed to meet market expectations on the Rowley Mile, always on the back foot after a slow start, and this looks a stiff task for him, in a race that trainer Aidan O’Brien is surprisingly still yet to win. O’Brien is also responsible for the recent Lacken Stakes winner So Perfect, though the six-furlong Commonwealth Cup is perhaps a more suitable target for her.
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) May 4, 2019
Other three-year-olds to mention include Garrus and Soldier’s Call, who filled two of the first three places in a listed race at York last month. The former got the verdict on that occasion, but Soldier’s Call emerged as the best horse at the weights, conceding 5 lb to the winner and beaten only narrowly. He was a smart juvenile last year, with his wins including the Windsor Castle Stakes over C&D at this meeting, and his third in the Prix de l’Abbaye (beaten just a neck) later that season showed that he has the necessary attributes in mix it in this sort of company. Clearly, he has to step up to compete with the likes of Battaash and Blue Point here, but he receives a handy three-year-old weight allowance and further improvement cannot be ruled out – quotes of around 16/1 make some each-way appeal with his proven C&D form a plus.
Finally, a word must also go to the international raiders, Houtzen and Imprimis, for all that both have plenty to find on bare form. The former is established as smart as in her native Australia, having finished close-up in a pair of Group 1s towards the end of 2018, while Imprimis can boast a fine strike rate in the US with seven wins from nine starts, the latest of which came when beating Royal Ascot regular Bound For Nowhere in a Grade 2 at Keeneland.
Back Soldier’s Call each-way at 16/1 for the King’s Stand Stakes
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