Bobby Zen

Saturday sees the return of the sensational G1 Queen Elizabeth II S. winner Big Rock (Fr) (Rock Of Gibraltar {Ire}) in Newbury’s G1 Al Shaqab Lockinge S., where it is a case of in at the deep end for the trainer if not for the colt in question. While Yeguada Centurion’s 4-year-old has obviously been there and has the t-shirt, new handler Maurizio Guarnieri is in maiden territory with the powerhouse who so memorably destroyed the subsequent G1 Dubai Turf winner Facteur Cheval (Ire) (Ribchester {Ire}) by six lengths on British Champions Day at Ascot.

“I received the horse three weeks ago, so I am just starting to get to know him and he is just starting to get know me,” Guarnieri explained. “He is a nice horse, like a nice man, he is quiet all the time and causes no problems, he is very easy. I did a canter with him on the racetrack at Chantilly with a lead horse and his rider Aurelien Lemaitre and he did the minimum, so I’m not sure if he is ready to run and what percent of his potential he is at or not. But his jockey said he is always this way and the horse is always quiet in the morning. A lot of good horses are this way.”

Big Rock’s biggest issue will be that the ground is going to ride a fair bit livelier than at Ascot, perhaps more in line with that he encountered when coming off second best in the G1 Prix Jacques le Marois and G1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp. His next biggest issue is the fact that the mare who beat him so convincingly in the former contest at last year’s Deauville August festival is in the line-up.

It is fair to say that Cheveley Park Stud’s Breeders’ Cup heroine Inspiral (GB) (Frankel {GB}) takes some knowing, so the absence of Frankie Dettori could be her main problem regardless of the undisputed talent of Kieran Shoemark. Scintillating on her seasonal bow in 2022 but overturned on her first run of last term, it is hard to know what to expect from the queen of Clarehaven as she bids to become her owner-breeders’ third female to beat the colts in this after Russian Rhythm (Kingmambo) in 2004 and Peeress (GB) (Pivotal {GB}) in 2006.

Whereas Big Rock’s connections would welcome rain, Cheveley Park Stud’s Chris Richardson has fingers crossed it stays away. “We hope to run, we’ve declared, we’ll just have to watch the forecast and see what happens,” he said. “She didn’t enjoy soft ground when she ran in the Sussex and it’s still early in the year. We think she’s in good form, but we don’t want to risk her on ground which doesn’t suit as she is unlikely to put her best foot forward.”

“She seems to come good in June and maybe that is the way it will work out again. We’d like to get her out earlier if we can, but we’ll see what happens between now and Saturday and see what John decides,” he added, before pointing out that the G3 Criterion S. winner Audience (GB) (Iffraaj {GB}), a grandson of the aforementioned Peeress, is there to serve his illustrious stablemate. “The two of them have been working together for the last few weeks and he is in there to make sure there’s pace in the race,” he said.

Should the big two miss a beat, Nurlan Bizakov’s Charyn (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) will be poised to take advantage having cut an admirably professional figure on his two starts so far in 2024. A strong finisher at the trip, he holds Poker Face (Ire) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}) on the form of last month’s G2 Sandown Mile and the Gosdens will know what how Inspiral compares having saddled the third in that contest, Lord North (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}).

“The rain won’t harm Charyn, but he’s a versatile horse in terms of ground and we won’t mind conditions on Saturday,” trainer Roger Varian said. “It’s a nice position to be in when you are not sweating on the weather and he is in good form. I was very impressed with him at Sandown and he was very powerful through the line. He will have to do more to win the Lockinge, but he goes there as one of the frontrunners in the market and deservedly so, and it is exciting.”

Poker Face is one of the “darker” horses in the line-up alongside Clipper Logistics’ G2 Dullingham Park S. winner Flight Plan (GB) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}), who always gave the impression he would be a better 4-year-old last term. Also at Newbury, The King and The Queen’s G1 St Leger third Desert Hero (GB) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) returns in the G3 Sky Sports Racing Aston Park S., while the Listed Haras de Bouquetot Fillies’ Trial S. sees some Oaks prospects line up headed by Juddmonte’s Sandown novice winner Siyola (Ire) (Siyouni {Fr}). The form of that win was boosted this week by the third Secret Satire (GB) (Advertise {GB})

The post Back In The Big Time appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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