Champion sprinter Harry Angel will face 11 rivals at Royal Ascot on Saturday in the G1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, a race that has attracted exceptional sprinters from across the globe.
Harry Angel, who was rated the seventh-best horse in the world and the best sprinter in the 2017 World’s Best Racehorse Rankings, will have to see off a field filled with domestic adversaries, horses from Ireland, Australia, France and the U.S., as well as a perceived personal Ascot hoodoo.
Trainer Clive Cox is, of course, unwavering in his belief that the son of Dark Angel is a sprinter sent from above and opined after an authoritative display in the G2 Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes in May that his Godolphin star is “even stronger this year”.
However, the 4-year old’s relatively poor record at Ascot cannot be discounted ahead of Saturday’s six-furlong dash. The dual G1 winner has astonishingly experienced defeat on every one of his four previous visits to the Berkshire track, a record that includes last season’s G1 Commonwealth Cup and G1 Qipco British Champions Sprint.
“I don’t particularly lose any sleep that he has not got his head in front there. I think it’s more coincidence rather than a serious problem,” said the defiant Lambourn trainer. “Adam [Kirby] gave him a nice introduction first time out and, in his second to Blue Point, he had a penalty and that race was pretty good form.
“He was just a bit keen in the 2017 Commonwealth Cup. When he ran in the Champions Sprint, the ground was atrocious. I think his defeats have been a matter of circumstances, whether it be the ground or the way the race has panned out.”
The bay colt was nonetheless one of the stars of 2017, winning the July Cup at Newmarket and 32Red Sprint Cup at Haydock. Make no mistake, Cox is determined to see his stable star in the winner’s enclosure at this year’s iteration of the race, named in honour of The Queen’s 60th year on the throne in 2012.
“We’re incredibly proud to have a horse of his calibre on our hands,” Cox told the Racing Post. “Everything came together last year, and he proved what he’d been showing us was possible. He’s rated the world’s best sprinter over six furlongs, and I’m delighted that, from three to four, there was more progress in his physical development.
“I was pleased with his run in the Commonwealth Cup, and I think it was a turning point in his life as he took another step forward - not in the race, but after that.”
The cosmopolitan line-up for one of the world’s most prestigious 3-year old sprints has surely been helped by its addition to the Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ challenge series. The winner of the Diamond Jubilee Stakes will not only walk away with £340,260 but also receives the added bonus of an automatic berth into $1 million G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in November.
James Fanshaw’s 2017 Diamond Jubilee champion, The Tin Man, returns to the stage of his finest hour with his trainer declaring that he “looks fantastic” and “seems in good form at home so we cannot ask for much more”.
Perhaps the horse in the line-up with a reputation to rival Harry Angel’s is Australian raider Redkirk Warrior. The 7-year old takes to the famous Ascot stalls six years after compatriot Black Caviar triumphed in the same race, in its inaugural staging (it had previously been called the Golden Jubilee Stakes).
The mount of the red-hot Frankie Dettori is trained by father-and-son team Ben and David Hayes and Tom Dabernig, and he posted a career-best win in March when he defied top weight in the G1 Newmarket Handicap at Flemington.
Ben Hayes said: “He’s a lovely, relaxed horse and he’s very easy to deal with. I’ve been training just over two years, and he’s by far the best horse I’ve ever trained.
“He comes here a lovely, fresh horse. When he’s had 100 days-plus off, he’s got a great record, so we’re not bothered about him being fresh. It just depends how he handles the day, but he’s definitely got the ability to win.”
Greenlands Stakes winner Merchant Navy is the race’s second favourite for the inimitable pairing of Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore, although he has lost to Redkirk Warrior in Australia before he joined O’Brien.
American trainer Wesley Ward was victorious in the contest in 2015 with Undrafted and this year saddles Bound For Nowhere, who was fourth in the Commonwealth Cup 12 months ago. City Light is the sole French representative.