American trainer Wesley Ward is bullish about his star sprinter Lady Aurelia heading into Tuesday’s King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The three-year-old filly showed her prowess at last year’s meeting, crushing her rivals in the Group Two Queen Mary Stakes and this time she steps up to open Group One company over the same 1,000m trip.
She’s already saluted at the top level, having won the Prix Morny in France in August, but her campaign ended on a sour note when finishing third in the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket the following month.
After having a break, she bounced back to form when resuming in the United States, taking her record to fours wins from five starts, and Ward thinks she’s ready to fire at Royal Ascot.
“We gave her plenty of time to recover after her one bad run when she bled at Newmarket,” he said.
“She was really explosive on her comeback at Keeneland and since then her work has got better and better. I’m really, really excited. Really, really confident.”
Lady Aurelia is the favourite in local markets, ahead of the Sir Mark Prescott-trained Marsha and French sprinter Signs Of Blessings.
Godolphin miler Ribchester is the one to beat in the opening race of the meeting, the Group One Queen Anne Stakes.
He established himself as one of the world’s top milers when taking out the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury and trainer Richard Fahey believes he can keep his terrific form going.
“He’s the top-rated horse in the race and there will be no excuses,” he said.
While Ribchester is the one to beat, Lightning Spear and Mutakayyef are also given chances.
The other drawcard on the opening day is the Aidan O’Brien-prepared Churchill, who is going for eight straight wins in the St James’s Palace Stakes.
The three-year-old colt has taken all before him recently, winning Group Ones in his past four races – including the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas – and is a standout again.
“We were delighted with Churchill at Newmarket and again when he won at the Curragh,” said O’Brien, who has won the St James’s Palace Stakes seven times already.
“Everything has gone fine since then. He’s very straightforward and he should be happy on the ground.”
Churchill is rated an odds-on hope, with the Godolphin duo of Barney Roy and Thunder Snow the main dangers.
The Jockey Club is simulcasting all six races from the opening day at Royal Ascot with the first event getting underway at 9.30pm.