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Clash of three-year-old stars one of Royal Ascot��s Tuesday excitements


Royal Ascot’s six-race simulcast programme on Tuesday includes three G1s with such a plethora of equine stars involved that is hard to isolate the main attraction.

However, the St James’s Palace Stakes (1600m) clash between The Gurkha, Awtaad and Galileo Gold - winners of the French, Irish and English 2000 Guineas’ respectively - must be close to the top of the list.

Ryan Moore’s mount The Gurkha is expected to start favourite, mainly because of the manner the Aidan O’Brien-trained Galileo colt demolished the cream of the French three-year-olds in Deauville’s French 2000 Guineas and also because of O’Brien’s remarkable tally of seven St James’s Palace victories.

Kevin Prendergast and Hugo Palmer - the trainers of the other pair - hail from starkly contrasting generations, Prendergast having held a licence since 1963 whilst Palmer only kicked off what has been a swiftly upward career almost half a century later in 2011.

Prendergast’s Awtaad upset Newmarket’s 2000 Guineas winner and hot favourite Galileo Gold in the Irish version at The Curragh and, though many experts believe that the winner had all the in-race luck and will be left behind by Galileo Gold at Royal Ascot, Prendergast begs to differ: “Maybe we had the best of things at The Curragh but provided the ground doesn’t get fast I wouldn’t be worried about Galileo Gold turning things round. I’d be much more afraid of The Gurkha,” says the 83-year-old veteran.

Perhaps this year’s St James’s Palace is not just a three-horse war, however, judging from the upbeat comments of John Ferguson, chief executive of the Godolphin. Ferguson says of the gifted Emotionless, who will have Cymric as a pacemaker: “We delayed his seasonal comeback but feel he is now in a position to show his true value.”

The St James’s Palace Stakes is for three-year-old colts over the round 1600m, but the opening Queen Anne Stakes is for older horses over Ascot’s straight mile.

Hong Kong’s Able Friend was not the first overseas challenger to have struggled to show their true merit in this event but that is unlikely to prevent Tepin, who has won nine of her fourteen starts on turf and gone close in the other two, starting favourite to give the USA an early winning strike at Royal Ascot.

Competing in a straight line will be an alien scenario for Tepin who is used to the tight bends of North American turf circuits but possible soft conditions are not concerning those closest to this supersonic mare:

“In the race she won at Keeneland before the Breeders’ Cup Mile, it had rained three days straight beforehand. Ideally she’d want a fast turf course but she’ll handle softer don’t you worry,” so says Norman Casse who is supervising Tepin's daring Ascot challenge.

Casse, assistant trainer to his father Mark, adds: “In the US, Tepin usually runs in one of the last races so we spend the day pacing around waiting for her. It’s great to be the first race here, so win, lose or draw we can spend the rest of the day enjoying Royal Ascot.”


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