Cecil prescribes speed for Dr Fong
Trainer Henry Cecil is hoping today's Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot is run at a hectic pace so Dr Fong can capitalise on stamina reserves that suggest he can quite comfortably get beyond a mile in distance.
Reporting the colt to be 'fresh' and 'very well' for the long-awaited Group One mile clash, Cecil conceded the mile is not Dr Fong's optimum trip. The chestnut wore down David Loder's Desert Prince to lift the St James' Palace Stakes by a neck at Royal Ascot back in June, but gave the impression he would prove effective over slightly longer trips.
Desert Prince has already recorded wins in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp - hence the need for both colts to be at their best if they are to clinch the title of Europe's champion miler.
Earlier in the season, Dr Fong, who is owned by Prince Ahmed Salman's Thoroughbred Corporation, had been beaten over a mile and a quarter in the Dante Stakes at York, and appeared to struggle for stamina when landing the Group Two Prix Eugene Adam at Maisons-Laffitte over that trip on his latest start the following month.
But Cecil said: 'This is fast ground, and it will be whoever likes the ground the most. I am not going to predict the outcome, I just hope he runs very well. His best trip is probably a mile and one [furlong], but we don't have and mile and ones, do we? It's the only race he can go for and that's that.' The Thoroughbred Corporation, meanwhile, has become a major shareholder in leading American performer Skip Away. The news was confirmed by Richard Trontz whose Hopewell Stud at Midway, Kentucky, will be Skip Away's base when he commences his stallion career next year.
Skip Away has won his nine last races, including the Grade One Woodward Stakes last Saturday, in which Philip Mitchell's Running Stag finished third. Victory in the Belmont Park feature put Skip Away within US$493,455 ($3.8 million) of the great Cigar's US$9,999,815 North American earnings record.
Skip Away, two races away from retirement, has his next outing in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on October 10. He will then attempt to become the first horse to win back-to-back runnings of the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on November 7.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien is to make up his mind at the last minute whether Second Empire tackles the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. If the colt makes the trip to Ascot, he is to be partnered by Johnny Murtagh, who rode Coliseum into second place for the same connections in last Sunday's National Stakes at The Curragh. The 'with a run' proviso offered by some bookmakers looks sensible security in present circumstances.
Two years to the day that Frankie Dettori went through the card at Ascot, the Italian partners Cape Cross for the Godolphin stable in the Queen Elizabeth. Cape Cross has already won a Group One race this season, the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.
Wizard King, Sir Mark Prescott's ultra-consistent performer, may not race again before his retirement to stud. The seven-year-old, a regular winner of Pattern races for Sir Mark's team in previous seasons, disappointed last time out when third of four in a conditions event at Chepstow on August 31.
The Hong Kong International Bowl, over 1,400 metres in December, had seemed a sensible long-range target for the much-travelled performer.
But Sir Mark admitted: 'It looks as if the party is over. Wizard King has been a marvellous servant - he won more Group races than any other horse in the world last year - but we will probably try to find him a place as a stallion now. If the ground comes up soft in the autumn, we could run him once more, but that would be it.' In his 41-race career, Wizard King netted over GBP320,000 ($4.2 million) in prize money, winning 18 of his races, including four Group Threes in Ireland.