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‘Big and imposing’ Starman set for Diamond Jubilee Stakes

17 Jun 2021

Starman heads the declerations for the Diamond Jubille at Royal Ascot

There is no shortage of strong Group 1 form on offer in a final field of 14 for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, but if the betting is to be believed the key to the race is last month’s Group 2 Duke Of York Stakes, where the finish was dominated by Starman and Nahaarr.

Starman showed a smart change of gear to go clear and then hold on by a neck, the pair pulling more than three lengths clear. It was a stylish performance from the winner, and the runner-up did very well too. 

There was substance to it as well, with Tuesday’s King’s Stand Stakes winner Oxted in third and Diamond Jubilee rivals Summerghand, who had recently gained a career-first Group win in Newmarket’s Abernant Stakes, Ventura Rebel, Art Power, Emaraaty Ana and Final Song further behind.

Starman improved so rapidly last year that Walker gave him his chance in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot barely three months after he had made his racecourse debut, however the colt met his first defeat there, finishing well down the field.

Normal service was resumed despite ground that was officially still on the soft side of good at York, where Starman was ridden by Oisin Murphy, because regular rider Tom Marquand was required for the runner-up. The riding arrangements are set to be replicated on Saturday.

Walker, who trains Starman for his breeder David Ward, who also has Primo Bacio in Friday’s Coronation Stakes, said: “It’s massively exciting. Starman has done nothing wrong and is a big, imposing horse who is very, very straightforward. He’s a magnificent horse to be around as he has that presence about him and is the real head turner in the string. He’s obviously very good as well.

“He missed the boat when it came to running at two, and our patience has done him no harm at all, given the size of him. His last proper bit of work went well, and I couldn’t be happier. He’s got a good turn of foot, especially on fast ground.”

Whereas Walker will be hoping that Ascot misses the worst of the rain, Haggas would be happier with give for Nahaarr, who came from last to first with a devastating late run when landing last year’s Ayr Gold Cup off a mark of 100 on good to soft, having been nowhere near so effective on fast ground when favourite for the Stewards’ Cup.

Haggas said: “I thought Starman looked a very good horse at York and our horse has yet to win a stakes race of any description, although he’s only run in one. He’s got a bit to find with Starman and a few others, but Nahaarr ran a very good race in the Duke Of York.

“It will help him if it rains as I think he might be a little bit better with a bit of cut in the ground. If they go fast and he can wait a bit I think he’ll come home well.”

Of the proven Group 1 sprinters Dream Of Dreams obviously commands the utmost respect, having failed by just a head to reel in the winner in the last two Diamond Jubilees, beaten first by Blue Point and then by Hello Youmzain. Dream Of Dreams finally gained a long-awaited first Group 1 win on soft ground at Haydock later last year and he confirmed his current wellbeing with a conditions win at Windsor last month. 

His trainer Sir Michael Stoute started the week with 81 Royal Ascot winners to his name, but the only time he has won this race, or its equivalent, was in 1985 with Dafayna, when it was a Group 3 open to three-year-olds and known as the Cork & Orrery Stakes. Any ease in the ground would help, and nobody would begrudge Stoute, or Dream Of Dreams, success.

Glen Shiel has obvious prospects too, especially if there is significant rain, having provided both Hollie Doyle and trainer Archie Watson with career-first Group 1 wins with a nose defeat of Brando on soft ground over course and distance in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint, when Starman was down the field. 

Glen Sheil wins the QIPCO British Champions Sprint

Art Power, the impressive winner here of last year’s first running of the five-furlong Palace Of Holyroodhouse Handicap, was fourth there, with Dream Of Dreams, Happy Power and the recent Irish Group 3 winner Sonaiyla further back.

Ventura Rebel is expected to leave his Duke Of York running behind and could be a live outsider on a track that suits him. Richard Fahey said: “He’s been to Ascot three times and he’s won there (at the May meeting), he’s been second (as a two-year-old in the Norfolk Stakes) and he’s been third (to Golden Horde in last year’s Commonwealth Cup). 

“He loves the track and I was delighted with his comeback run at York, which doesn’t really suit him. He’s been training exceptionally well and while I’m not saying he’ll win, I won’t be shocked if he runs a big race.” 

Charlie Hills, out of luck when Tuesday’s King’s Stand Stakes didn’t play out well for Battaash, saddles both Royal Commando and Garrus. He said: “Royal Commando’s win in the Cammidge Trophy (from Emaraaty Ana) has worked out well I think. We would have run in between in Ireland, but the ground wasn’t great so we’ve come straight here. He was fourth in the Commonwealth Cup last year and I’m happy with his training, so I think he should run well at a decent price.

“Garrus has really stepped up this year and I can see him running a huge race.”

The field is completed by Namos, a multiple Group 3 winner for Dominik Moser in his native Germany but well held over here on three previous occasions. William Buick has been booked.