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Martyn Meade has Aclaim in peak shape for Lockinge

19 May 2017

Trainer believes progressive colt has improved again since he ended last season with three successive wins

Ribchester Lockinge

Ribchester is favourite to win the Lockinge at Newbury on Saturday. Picture:

Martyn Meade believes Aclaim has what it takes to upstage Group 1 winners Galileo Gold and Ribchester in the £350,000 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

The four-year-old was a revelation when tried beyond six furlongs towards the end of last season and reeled off a hat-trick of wins at Ascot, Newbury and Newmarket. He saved the best for the last when landing the seven-furlong Group 2 Dubai 100 Challenge Stakes in fine style on the Rowley Mile.

Aclaim will be stepping into Group 1 company for the first time in the QIPCO British Champions Series contest, for which a final field of nine has been declared, but Meade believes his charge is more than ready to compete at the highest level.

The Newmarket-based trainer said on Thursday morning: “He’s a little professional who has done everything well. All his work at home has been good, he’s not put a foot wrong.

“Jamie Spencer [his jockey] has sat on him once this year and was very pleased with the way he has progressed. His first comment was that he’s a much stronger horse than last season which was interesting because when you see and live with them every day they grow in front of you.”

Aclaim has an official rating of 114, which suggests he has to improve again to beat the likes of Ribchester (122) and Galileo Gold (121).

“You have to take the ratings into account but they are not the be-all and end-all because a horse like this can improve and, on the work I’ve seen at home, I’d say he has. I’ll be very surprised if he cannot improve another 5lb or 6lb.

“Ground wise he is very versatile. He’s such a well-put together, strong horse and I cannot believe it will be softer than when he had that really good win at Newbury [in September].”

Aclaim is owned by Canning Downs, a stud based in Queensland who bred him. In the past they have watched from afar but not this time.

“It’s a double excitement because they are coming all the way over from Australia to see the race, so they are obviously optimistic,” Meade said. “They’ve not been over before, so let’s hope he runs well for them.”

Explaining the link, he added: “I’ve had broodmares with them here for a long time and it’s only now they are starting to race some of the progeny.”

The betting suggests the pair most likely to spoil the party for the Australian visitors are Galileo Gold, winner of the QIPCO 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes last year, and Ribchester, who took the Jacques Le Marois at Deauville. They met four times in Group 1 races last term and the score between the old adversaries is 2-2.

Galileo Gold, who will represent the sponsors and provide Frankie Dettori with a 16th ride in the race, had Ribchester behind when scooping the QIPCO 2000 Guineas and when runner-up in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

However, it was Ribchester, trained by Richard Fahey, who came out on top between the pair in the second half of the season when landing the Jacques Le Marois at Deauville and when runner-up in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot in October.

Ribchester will seek to provide Godolphin with an eighth success in the race after their previous victories with Cape Cross (1998), Fly To The Stars (1999), Aljabr (2000), Creachadoir (2008), Farhh (2013), Night Of Thunder (2015) and Belardo (2016).

Dutch Connection will also carry the famous blue colours of Sheikh Mohammed’s operation and so will Toscanini, transferred to Fahey from Michael Halford during the winter specifically to take up pacemaking duties for Ribchester.

Toscanini is a smart performer in his own right and was not beaten far in a Group 2 race in France last time out after forcing the pace.

Hawk Wing memorably surged home by a record 11 lengths in the 2003 Lockinge and Aidan O’Brien will be hoping Somehow can produce something similar. The only filly in the line-up was an easy winner of the Group 2 Charm Spirit Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket 12 days ago.

The David Simcock-trained Lightning Spear, third in the Queen Anne Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes last year, would not be winning a big prize out of turn and he will be joined by stablemate Breton Rock. At seven, the latter would become the oldest winner since the Lockinge became a Group 1 contest in 1995.

Mitchum Swagger is likely to start the outsider of the field but David Lanigan, his trainer, says his soft-ground specialist should not be underestimated.

Lanigan said: “He’s a soft ground horse and provided he gets his conditions he won’t disgrace himself.

“There’s some top-class opposition but I’d like to think my record shows I don’t throw my horses in Group 1s for the day out. I would not be at all surprised if he ran into a place.”

“He’s only run two disappointing races in his career – once at Leicester when it was quickish ground and the other was on QIPCO British Champions Day in October when it was again on the fast side.”

“His reappearance run at Sandown [when fifth in the bet365 Mile at Sandown] has brought him on and his work has been a lot better than it was this time last year.”