THE smallest field in recent history will tackle the second leg of the Global Sprint Challenge, the $A520,000 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m), at Royal Ascot, UK on Tuesday night (AET).

When final payments were taken overnight only 12 horses remained in contention for the Group 1 sprint, with Nicconi and Gold Trail chasing Australia’s fourth win in five years.

Formerly run on the fourth day of the Royal Ascot meeting, the King’s Stand attracted a record field of 23 when switched to the opening day in 2000. The smallest field since was 13 in 2008.

Trainer David Hayes was particularly pleased with his backmarker Nicconi having fewer rivals to reel in over the concluding stages, while Gary Portelli was just as happy as the smaller field gives Gold Trail a better chance of controlling the tempo up on the speed.

The barrier draw, which was conducted overnight also, carried less importance for connections because of the small field. That said, Nicconi (barrier eight) and Gold Trail (four) were well served, as was the horse they have to beat, Kingsgate Native, who drew seven.

Hayes, who is preparing his first UK starter, has been keeping a close eye on the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Kingsgate Native in his gallops at Newmarket.

“I’ve seen him work a couple of times now and he is a likely type, but I could not be more satisfied with how my horse is going,” he said.

Hayes is adding a visor rather than blinkers, as reported previously, to Nicconi’s gear in the King’s Stand and remains adamant they can prove the difference between winning and losing.

In the updated local betting markets after the draw, Kingsgate Native is now challenging Nicconi for favouritism. While Nicconi remains steady at $4, Kingsgate Native has firmed from $6 to $4.50 with Gold Trail kept safe at $13.


THE Global Sprint Challenge is a collection of the world’s elite sprint races. It takes in eight races across four jurisdictions – Australia, United Kingdom, Japan and Hong Kong.

Australia’s two legs of the 2010 Challenge are held at Flemington – the $500,000 Coolmore Lightning Stakes (1000m) on 30 January (won by Nicconi) and the $500,000 Patinack Farm Classic (1200m) on 6 November.

A bonus of $US1million is on offer for the connections of any horse that can win Group 1 Challenge races in three different countries in 2010.



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