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Big day has come for Appleby’s speed star

Big day has come for Appleby’s speed star
Big day has come for Appleby’s speed star

Big Evs provided Mick Appleby with the biggest victory of his career when successful at the Breeders’ Cup and now the speedster attempts to become a two-time winner at Royal Ascot in the King Charles III Stakes.

Victory in the Windsor Castle 12 months was only the beginning of a fairytale season for connections, with further success in the Molecomb at Goodwood and Flying Childers at Doncaster only building towards a Hollywood crescendo in the shadows of the San Gabriel Mountains at Santa Anita.

The team behind the scintillating son of Blue Point are already dreaming of a return to the Breeders’ Cup later in the year, but for now he has the chance to firmly establish himself as the star of the sprinting ranks with back-to-back victories at the summer showpiece.

Big Evs after his Santa Anita victory
Big Evs after his Santa Anita victory (PA)

“I think it’s going to be a tough race for him, but he’s in great form and hopefully he will go well,” said Appleby.

“He’s still got his raw speed and there is not a lot who can live with him in the yard for speed. It’s obviously going to be a bit tougher though against the older horses.

“It would be great if he could go back-to-back at Royal Ascot and then hopefully it can be back-to-back at the Breeders’ Cup.”

Big Evs made a winning return at York in the Listed Westow Stakes, where he advertised all the characteristics that made him a champion as a two-year-old.

Appleby admits to breathing a sigh of relief once Big Evs crossed the line on the Knavesmire, such was the eager anticipation ahead of his return.

And the Rutland handler also feels his professional York comeback in the hands of Tom Marquand proves he is more than a one-trick pony as he erased the memories of his one disappointing performance at two.

Appleby continued: “We don’t think he likes York to be honest and he had a blip in the Nunthorpe last year, I just don’t think the track suits him. I think there was more pressure on his comeback there than at the Breeders’ Cup.

“He is very versatile and at York he was slightly fidgety in the stalls and half missed the break. Tom went to Plan B and it worked. He does not have to make the running and we can do whatever we want now.

“He probably went to York about 90 per cent and that race would have put him spot on so he goes to Ascot fully fit.”

One of the horses Big Evs got the better of at the Breeders’ Cup was last year’s Queen Mary heroine Crimson Advocate, who has recently made the switch from US handler George Weaver to John and Thady Gosden.

A winner of Gulfstream’s Roar Stakes prior to departing the States, she now has the chance to emulate Wesley Ward’s Lady Aurelia who returned a year after Queen Mary success to take home this prize.

“She’s a Queen Mary winner and course form is very important at Ascot,” said Richard Brown, racing adviser for owners Wathnan Racing.

“She did well in her comeback race in America. She got here last Tuesday and we’re looking forward to getting her back to Ascot.”

Wathnan will also be represented by Tom Clover’s Rogue Lightning who cost the Qatar-based operation £1million last autumn following some rapid progression through the sprint ranks.

“He came through the ranks well last year and didn’t get much luck when stepped up to Group One level in the Abbaye,” continued Brown.

“He had a bad draw and didn’t get much luck in running, but he ran a very good race and captured our attention and when he was put in the Champions Day Sale we all thought it was an opportunity we should take.

“We were very happy with his first run back at Haydock and Tom Clover feels he has really sharpened up for that run. Hopefully there isn’t too much rain as we feel the quicker the better for him and we’re looking forward to seeing him back.”

Valiant Force went into Amo Racing folklore when landing the Norfolk Stakes at 150-1 last year and following some time in America is back with Adrian Murray looking for more success at the Royal meeting.

Meanwhile, Regional provided Ed Bethell with the biggest day of his training career when a Group One winner at Haydock last year and following a pleasing return at the Curragh proved he could be about to give his handler another day to remember.

“I’m really really happy with him and he galloped well last week,” said Bethell.

Regional (centre) in action at the Curragh
Regional (centre) in action at the Curragh (Damien Eagers/PA)

“He proved he was a top sprinter last year and he has gone and done it again in the Greenlands (at the Curragh) with a penalty.

“He needed the run that day and I was happy with that and he has taken a good step forwards.

“It is a dream and we have all been dreaming about this day, but we are under no illusions how difficult it might be. We’ll just keep everything crossed and see how we get on.”

Temple Stakes winner Kerdos is one of two for Clive Cox – who also saddles Diligent Harry – while George Boughey’s Believing is another Haydock scorer heading to Berkshire in top form following his Achilles Stakes romp.

Australian raider Asfoora could only finish fourth at Haydock on her UK bow, but Henry Dwyer is confident a much-improved model will be seen at Ascot as she bids to add her name to the antipodean roll of honour at the meeting.

Australian sprinter Asfoora
Australian sprinter Asfoora is aiming for glory at Royal Ascot (Adam Morgan/PA)

Dwyer said: “At Haydock, we knew we needed the run a little bit. It was too wet and a wet 1,000 metres becomes an 1,100 or 1,200-metre race which she wasn’t ready for.

“I think at her peak, which I think will be at Ascot and beyond, she is well and truly up to it.

“I think she will run really well at Ascot, I would love to see her run in the top three or four. If she can do that, she will be really well-placed for the next two runs.

“A win would be amazing. On a personal level, just to be running competitively is a win for us. Bringing a horses halfway across the world, especially with her idiosyncrasies and trying to get her to her peak, which I feel we’ve done. Her peak may not be good enough, but if it is it will be a huge thrill.”

It was Australia’s Nature Strip that was the thorn in the side of Henry Candy’s Twilight Calls when second in this in 2022 and he is back for a third crack having finished a luckless fourth 12 months ago.

“He was bit unlucky we felt last year as Ryan (Moore) got blocked and checked once and we never got the run that he hoped for,” said Chris Richardson, managing director for owners Cheveley Park Stud.

“Ryan is on him again this year, so we’ll roll the dice and see if we can make it third time lucky.

“He ran very respectably in the Palace House, the race didn’t really go to suit him as they ended up sort of single file, but I think it was encouraging and Ryan was very positive when he got off.”

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