Jenny - Clean

IT'S all systems go for next week’s Royal Ascot meeting in the UK after the final preliminaries for most of the overseas contenders on the famous Newmarket heath.

Royal Ascot hosts the second and third legs of the rich Global Sprint Challenge and Australian hopes Nicconi, Gold Trail and Alverta were among several visiting horses to take advantage of the marvellous training conditions at Newmarket.

As the winner of the opening leg, the Coolmore Lightning Stakes (1000m) at Flemington on 30 January, the David Hayes-trained Nicconi currently leads the GSC points table. He will run in Tuesday’s Group 1 $A520,000 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m).

Gold Trail, trained by Gary Portelli, also runs in the King’s Stand while the Paul Messaratrained Alverta is being reserved for the third leg of the Challenge, the Group 1 $A780,000 Golden Jubilee Stakes (1200m) on Saturday week.

At a media conference overnight, Hayes said he was looking forward to Nicconi racing in blinkers for the first time in the King’s Stand.

“I’ve wanted to put them on for two years (but) he’s usually raced so well that I’ve waited until now,” Hayes said.

“When he wins, he wins well but he can put in a shocker,” he said, referring to Nicconi’s two unplaced runs since his victory in the Lightning Stakes.

At the same time, Hayes said Nicconi’s run in the Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on 6 March should be overlooked because of the storm that was brewing and hit shortly after the completion of the Group 1.

“It’s only a theory, but I think that horses, being herd animals, tend to follow the leader during storms because he wasn’t the only one to run badly in the Newmarket,” he explained.

Hayes said that Nicconi also raced best when he was fresh stating, “he’s unbeaten first-up and also unbeaten at his four starts over 1000 metres.”

Nicconi, ridden by his handler Lizzie Jelfs, had an easy workout over 800 metres in front of the UK media on the Lime Kilns gallops track and Hayes marvelled at the lush turf which looked like it had never had a horse on it for the past 400 years.

“You could hardly even hear him hit the ground when they went by,” he said.

Frankie Dettori, who rides Nicconi in the King’s Stand, “let him go” for 300 metres in trackwork on Tuesday and Hayes said that was all he needed as far as fast work was concerned.

“I’m happy with his condition going into the race. He only lost about 10kg on the trip over and his eating routine is just about back to normal,” he explained

Hayes said, at this stage, there were no plans for Nicconi to go on to the Darley July Cup (1200m) at Newmarket, which is the fourth leg of the Global Sprint Challenge.

“A lot of the Aussie horses have bombed out in the July Cup and he’s going to stand at Widden Stud (in NSW) next season so we’re concentrating on the King’s Stand,” Hayes said.

Hayes said he thought it was a good omen that Nicconi was staying at the Newmarket stables where Jeune, the 1984 Melbourne Cup winner trained by his late father Colin, came from.

Portelli said Gold Trail, who will be ridden by Michael Rodd, may have a couple of more starts in England after the King’s Stand and the Darley July Cup.

“He seems to take on a better class every start and his best runs are when he can sprint off a fast pace which there’s going to be in the King’s Stand,” Portelli said at the conference.

At his last start on 16 May, Gold Trail was not suited by a deluge of rain that fell just before the
Group 1 Krisflyer Sprint (1200m) at Kranji, Singapore in which he finished fourth behind Hong
Kong speedster Green Birdie.

“I know he’s handled the wet but nothing like that,” Portelli said. “It was a good run under the circumstances.”

Messara told the media that Alverta was steadily getting back to normal after losing nearly 40kg in a 45 hour journey to England which started with a 14 hour float trip from his Scone base to Melbourne.

“She’s put back on 15 to 20 kilograms and I expect she’ll be almost back to normal by Saturday week,” Messara said.

As of Thursday (UK time), Ascot track manager Chris Nicholls said the going for the Carnival should be good to firm although there is the prospect of some rain over the next day or two.



Media Contact: Shaun Kelly – RVL Communications Manager M: 0417 145 796 P: (03) 9258 4252 E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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