‘A Dream And A Real Honor’: Japanese, Australian Contenders Readying For Royal Ascot Meet

Japanese raider Shahryar headlined the overseas stars on show at the International Challengers Media Morning in Newmarket on Thursday, June 9. Shahryar ranks as one of the world’s top middle-distance performers following his victory in March’s G1 Dubai Sheema Classic. Last year’s Japanese Derby winner aims to provide his nation with a first Royal Ascot success in the G1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes.

Shahryar’s owners Sunday Racing Co Ltd will also be represented later in the week by Grenadier Guards in the six-furlong G1 Platinum Jubilee Stakes. The Frankel colt, who was a G1-winning miler as a 2-year-old, captured the seven-furlong G2 Hanshin Cup on his penultimate start in December.

The pair have been preparing for Royal Ascot from Roger Varian’s Carlburg Stables in Newmarket and have been there for just over a week now.

Yasuhiro Matsumoto, Manager of Northern Farm who bred the pair, said this morning: “The transportation went well, especially as Shahryar had experience transporting to Dubai and had Grenadier Guards with him in the same stall.

“We had plans to bring Shahryar for international races. As a result, Dubai was the first and that experience should be very much a benefit to the horse coming to Royal Ascot.

“As a horseman, I want to win races in the UK with Japanese horses. It is a dream and a real honor for us to have runners at Royal Ascot. Many people think the Arc is the pinnacle, but I think many of the best sire-making races are in the UK.

“Shahryar’s optimum distance is 2000m to 2400m. He would prefer firmer ground but I think he can handle softer ground as well.

“Bay Bridge is going to be a strong competitor. In general, when we see high-level international sport, people are fascinated, and I think this will apply to Royal Ascot.

“Because it was Grenadier Guards’ first flight and the fact mentally he is not as good compared to other horses, connections were concerned. But thankfully the horse has transported well and we are happy with his condition.

“Grenadier Guards has won over a mile and seven furlongs, and I think his optimum is seven furlongs. However, Royal Ascot is six furlongs with a hill and potentially tougher ground, which could be equal to seven furlongs in Japan.”

Meanwhile, Grade 1 victor Artorius is one of three Australian sprinters on course for the Royal Meeting, alongside Nature Strip and Home Affairs, and will pitch in against the latter in the G1 Platinum Jubilee Stakes.

Artorius won the G1 Blue Diamond Stakes as a juvenile and was twice placed at G1 level in October, including in the Caulfield Guineas. He was a staying-on sixth last time out in the G1 Newmarket Handicap.

Sam Freedman, who trains in partnership with his father Anthony, said: “Artorius is a well-credentialed horse and was a very good 2-year-old. He has not won for a little while but has performed well between six and eight furlongs, including in a Caulfield Guineas.

“He presents himself as the right type of horse to bring here for the stiff six furlongs because he probably wants a touch further and a strong pace. He is a drop-out horse and hopefully will be able to grab them late, that’s the plan.

“We were ahead of Home Affairs in the Newmarket Handicap, although we beat him about a length and he gets a good weight swing on us. Home Affairs is more tactical than us and puts himself up on the speed whereas our fella is a bit quirky from the gates and doesn’t have early speed. That is probably to his detriment in Australia, as you have to be up on the pace generally with races around tight bends.

“In the back of our minds throughout his career, we have really wanted to get him to a track like Ascot or the July Course at Newmarket. Straight line speed is his real asset as he has a real good finish on him, but he has to be in touch a little more than he has been in his last few races.

“We went for Jamie Spencer for a reason because he has such a good record on backmarkers at Ascot. Jamie is going to have a sit on him tomorrow at Ascot. The horse lost 9kg on the flight over but has put on 14kg since he arrived, so he needs a good gallop tomorrow.

“It is a dream to come over here with a horse. I worked with Roger Varian for a couple of seasons and saw first hand how difficult it is to win a race at Royal Ascot. To have a runner and be representing the country feels very special.”

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