Flemington trainer Danny O’Brien agrees with market framers that South African gallop Shea Shea is the hardest for Shamexpress to beat in the Group 1 £350,000 The King’s Stand Stakes (5 furlongs) at Royal Ascot tomorrow.
Shamexpress with Craig Newitt to ride again, has drawn barrier three in the nineteen horse field while Shea Shea to be ridden by Christophe Soumillion will jump from five for the five furlong scamper down the Royal Ascot straight course.
O’Brien points to Shea Shea’s Dubai win at Meydan in the Group 1 US$1m Al Quoz Sprint (1000m) on March 30 and says that the six year old deserves to be the $3.20 favourite.
Shamexpress’ Newmarket Handicap win with Newitt has him at $8 with local sprinter Reckless Abandon splitting the pair at $6.50.
“I don’t know a lot about the European form, I’ve got a bit of a handle on the South African obviously, winning in Dubai,” O’Brien said.
“He’s the ruling favourite and probably deservedly so.”
O’Brien is returning to Royal Ascot and is hoping to go one better after finishing second to Prohibit in the 2011 King’s Stand with his smart sprinter Star Witness.
Star Witness then went on to run third to Society Rock in the Group 1 £400,000 Golden Jubilee Stakes (6 furlongs) at Royal Ascot four days later but O’Brien said that he would not be backing up Shamexpress on the weekend.
O’Brien is hoping Shamexpress can live up Australia’s recent successes at Royal Ascot following the wins of Choisir (2003), Takeover Target (2006), Miss Andretti (2007) and Scenic Blast (2009) in the King’s Stand Stakes.
Choisir also went on the win the Golden Jubilee Stakes the same year while Starspangledbanner won the same race after being transferred to champion Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien.
And Black Caviar kept the Australian flag flying last year with her dramatic win in the Group 1 £500,000 The Diamond Jubilee Stakes (6 furlongs) down the testing Royal Ascot straight.
South African trainer Mike de Kock is very happy with the progress of Shea Shea since arriving at his English base in Newmarket.
“Shea Shea is a very strong and tough horse,” de Kock said.
“He knows what he wants and needs a strong rider to restrain him on the gallops and getting to the start can be problematic.
“He needs a pony with him to go to the start and he’ll have that at Royal Ascot.”
De Kock is confident that Shea Shea will handle the tough undulating straight course at Royal Ascot and has given him plenty of conditioning on the hilly Newmarket course.
“He’s been here for five weeks and seems to be coping with going uphill – it is completely different from going fast, flat and round,” de Kock said.
“Ascot will be different to what he’s used to but he has been to the July Course to work and up the Long Hill gallop so he has had a good go at undulations.
“Horses cope with most of things we throw at them. I think the uphill finish at Ascot might suit him because he likes to get going late.”