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Salouen full of vim and vigour for Investec Coronation Cup

29 May 2019

Sylvester Kirk's stable star will bid to go one better than last year - when beaten a neck by Cracksman

Salouen fights out the finish with Cracksman

Salouen, right, fights out the finish of last year’s Investec Coronation Cup with Cracksman. Picture:

Sylvester Kirk says Salouen is in rude health ahead of his stable flagbearer attempting to go one better than last year in the £444,750 Investec Coronation Cup at Epsom on Friday.

The five-year-old, who will be partnered by in-form Oisin Murphy, was collared in the final strides by Cracksman in a pulsating renewal 12 months ago. As if that agonising defeat was not bad enough, he had been moving sweetly in the 2017 Investec Derby when losing all chance two furlongs out after clipping heels with a rival and almost coming down.

Placed in four Group 1 contests without quite managing to land one, he warmed up for his latest QIPCO British Champions Series assignment with a seven-length success in a Listed contest at Ascot this month.

Kirk said: “That win can only have helped. It shows he’s retained all his vim and vigour. He’s a five-year-old colt and sometimes their minds can stray but, on the other hand, they can also continue to improve and hopefully he’s in the second category.

“He’s come out of Ascot in great form and could not be better. Physically, we are very happy with him and he’s bouncing at home. He’s amazingly well.

“Last year, up against Cracksman, we went to Epsom more in hope than expectation, whereas this year, while being sensible about it, we have a bit more expectation. That’s the nature of the game, isn’t it?

“He got an easy lead last year and that helped his chances, but he’s also run well in some other top-class races and it would be great for him to win a big one. He’s always been consistent and with a slight improvement he will again go very close.”

Kirk added: “Ideally, he’d like good going and some rain would be a bonus, but I don’t think it’s going to materialise. He handles most ground and I’m sure Andrew Cooper [clerk of the course] will provide a lovely surface.

“We’ll run him in the Coronation Cup and then take stock before planning the rest of his programme, but I’d imagine it will be similar to last year. He’ll have entries in all those top mile and a half races around Europe.”

Aidan O’Brien is the most successful trainer in the Investec Coronation Cup and is seeking a ninth success. His principal hope this year in the ten-runner field is Kew Gardens, who won the William Hill St Leger at Doncaster last season. He is also represented by Cypress Creek.

Kew Gardens suffered an eight-length defeat on his reappearance this month at the hands of Morando in the Group 3 Boodles Diamond Ormonde Stakes at Chester. The winner, a confirmed soft-ground specialist trained by Andrew Balding, was well served by the testing conditions but there were also other factors.

Alastair Donald, racing manager for owners King Power Racing said: “He’s improved with stepping up in trip and he’s training better this year than in the past. He used to be quite lazy at home and but now seems to be more enthusiastic.

“When he gets really soft ground, like at Chester, he revels in it. He copes with it when other horses sometimes don’t and he’s got a Group 1 in him under those conditions. On good to firm, he’s just not as good.

“He’s run well on good ground and you’d have thought he has a place chance under those conditions but if rain arrived, which now seems unlikely, his chance would improve. He’s an exciting horse for later in the season, and the future, when it does rain.”

John Gosden, trainer of last year’s winner Cracksman, relies on girl power this time in the shape of Lah Ti Dar, owned by Lord and Lady Lloyd-Webber.

She chased home Kew Gardens in the St Leger before finishing third behind Magical and Coronet in the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes. She began this campaign with victory in the  Group 2 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Middleton Fillies’ Stakes at York.

Old Persian did not stay when fifth in the St Leger in September but has since shone back over shorter, winning the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic on his latest start. He was supplemented last weekend at a cost of £25,000.

No trainer has saddled more winners in Britain than Mark Johnston but the Coronation Cup, in which he has had had eight previous runners, has eluded him. He relies on Communique, winner of the Group 2 Roaring Lion Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket this month. Franny Norton, 48, will ride Communique and be belatedly having his first ride in a Group 1 contest at the track.

Defoe, trained by Roger Varian, chased home Communique in the Jockey Club Stakes and renews rivalry.

Marmelo was runner-up in the Melbourne Cup last year and got his year off to a flying start with victory in the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes at Newbury in April, when Defoe (fourth) and Communique (seventh) were among the support cast. The six-year-old is trained by Hughie Morrison and began the week with a five-furlong spin in the company of Telecaster, the stable’s leading Investec Derby hope.