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Lightning Spear seeks overdue reward in Queen Anne

17 Jun 2018

A final field of 15 has been declared for the first race at Royal Ascot on Tuesday

Lightning Spear has been placed in five Group One races without winning one (Racingfotos.com)

Oisin Murphy believes Lightning Spear’s senior status will not prevent him making another bold bid for Group 1 glory in the £600,000 Queen Anne Stakes (2.30pm) at Royal Ascot on Tuesday.

The most valuable race on day one of the Royal Meeting, which has attracted a final field of 15, is one of three contests that fall under the QIPCO British Champions Series in the afternoon. The King’s Stand Stakes and St James’s Palace Stakes are also QIPCO British Champions Series races and, in total, there will be eight before the five-day meeting concludes on Saturday.

Lightning Spear, trained by David Simcock in Newmarket, has been placed in five Group 1 races without quite managing to win at the highest level.

The sequence began when he finished third to Tepin in the Queen Anne two years ago and was extended when he suffered a short-head defeat at the hands of Rhododendron, who he meets again, in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury last month when Deauville (fifth), Accidental Agent (sixth), Suedois (seventh), Limato (tenth), Zonderland (eleventh) and Beat The Bank (twelfth) were among the supporting cast.

The seven-year-old entire would become the oldest Queen Anne winner since Welsh Rake, who was eight when winning in 1963, but Murphy, who has ridden him on 18 occasions, believes all his powers remain intact.

“He ran right up to the figure he ran up to in last year’s Lockinge, if not better, and so his age doesn’t bother me,” he said. “The fact that he’s officially rated as high now as he’s ever been is testament to David Simcock and his team. I’m told the horse has been freshened up and is in great form. Hopefully he will run a massive race.

“I know him like the back of my hand, which can only be an advantage in races like this. He’s been so unlucky not to win a Group 1 – meeting such as Ribchester and Minding at their peak – and hopefully he will have his day in the sun soon.

“We were delighted with his run in the Lockinge but to get beaten in a tight photo finish is never ideal. You always have an instinct and mine was that we had got beat, although I was hoping beyond hope I was wrong.”

Despite millimetres separating the pair, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Rhododendron has been trading as the 3/1 favourite in the build-up to the race with Lightning Spear available at 8/1. “I imagine the sex allowance is a contributory factor and also the trainer and jockey combinations,” Murphy said. “Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore would possibly entice more people than Oisin Murphy and David Simcock.”

Murphy is also full of respect for Benbatl, who will attempt to provide Saeed Bin Suroor with an eighth win in the race after the previous triumphs of Charnwood Forest (1996), Allied Forces (1997), Intikhab (1998), Cape Cross (1999), Dubai Destination (2003), Refuse to Bend (2004) and Ramonti (2007).

Benbatl provided Murphy with his first Royal Ascot success last year when successful in the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes. He has also partnered the Dubawi colt to three victories at Meydan this year – including in the Group 1 Dubai Turf on World Cup night in March.

“I saw him on Wednesday and he looks great,” Murphy said. “I think the Queen Anne [rather than Prince of Wales’s Stakes] is the right race for him. The straight mile at Ascot will be fine for him and this is possibly his year. He’s a four-year-old now and he is certainly one of the main protagonists.”

Other intriguing contenders in an international renewal include American challenger Yoshida, winner of the Grade 1 Old Forester Turf Classic Stakes at Churchill Downs last month, and Recoletos, from France, who landed the Churchill Coolmore Prix D’Ispahan at ParisLongchamp on his latest start. Lord Glitters, winner of the Balmoral Handicap on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot in October, steps up in class.