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Charlton upbeat on King’s Gambit’s Hampton hopes

Charlton upbeat on King’s Gambit’s Hampton hopes
Charlton upbeat on King’s Gambit’s Hampton hopes

Fledgling trainer Harry Charlton is excited to have major shot at claiming Royal Ascot glory with King’s Gambit in Thursday’s Hampton Court Stakes.

The 37-year-old is in his first season since taking over the licence at the historic Beckhampton Stables from his father Roger, who famously saddled Quest For Fame and Sanglamore to win the Epsom Derby and French Derby respectively in 1990 and enjoyed several victories at the royal meeting.

After two seasons with a joint licence, during which time Harry and Roger enjoyed a Royal Ascot success with Thesis in the 2022 Britannia Handicap, Charlton junior took over the reins fully at the start of this year and already appears to have unearthed a potential gem.

Having shown a good level of ability in three juvenile starts, King’s Gambit turned the traditionally competitive London Gold Cup into a procession on his three-year-old debut at Newbury last month.

Roger Charlton won the valuable handicap with a couple of subsequent Group One performers in Al Kazeem and Time Test and just as the latter did nine years ago, King’s Gambit will look to follow up his London Gold Cup triumph with victory at Group Three level in the Hampton Court.

“We’re very happy with him, we’ve had some lovely weather for him to do some nice work on our grass gallops, he’s in great shape and spot on for Thursday,” said the trainer.

“I was pretty hopeful he was going to win at Newbury, but as to the manner that he did it in, he was very impressive. I think what we saw was a much more professional horse than we knew of last year on the track and he’s mentally growing up all the time. You’re getting a more complete package every time he races now, so it’s exciting and I think he’ll improve again.

“It would be lovely to have a winner at Royal Ascot. Thesis did for us in our first year with a joint-licence and obviously it would be nice to try to do it on my own as well.”

One of the biggest threats to King’s Gambit is Andre Fabre’s First Look, who has been snapped up by the Wathnan Racing team since finishing second in the French Derby.

“We’ve been very impressed with First Look all season and very impressed with his run in the French Derby,” said Wathnan’s racing adviser Richard Brown.

“Andre Fabre is obviously a master of bringing these horses along and we are delighted and excited to have added him to the team.

“It’s quite a quick turnaround from Chantilly and we’re leaving it down to Andre – he is the master. He feels he has come out of the race quite well.

“Like a lot of the horses we have bought, they will go to Ascot and take their chance, but they haven’t just been bought for Ascot. They are horses for the future and beyond and a horse like him, there’s no reason he won’t be running with Andre as a five-year-old.”

Day three gets under way with the Group Two Norfolk Stakes, for which Aidan O’Brien’s Whistlejacket is all the rage following his runaway Listed win at the Curragh last month.

“He’s not small and has plenty of size. He’s a brother to Little Big Bear,” O’Brien told Racing TV.

“We thought he couldn’t get beat first time and he did by one of Joseph’s (Cowardofthecounty) who beat him very nicely.

“He went back to five next time in a good winners’ race and won very well. That is what we thought he would do the first day, but he looks a fast horse and is uncomplicated too. He’s had his two runs which would be a help for him and we think that is very important.

“The Norfolk looks a nice race for him and we’re very happy with him.”

Shareholder belied his inexperience to make a winning debut for Karl Burke at Beverley less than two weeks ago. The €460,000 Wathnan purchase lines up as one of two leading contenders for the Qatari-based Wathnan operation along with Archie Watson’s Bath scorer Aesterius.

Of Shareholder, Brown said: “It’s a very quick turnaround this and he was bought in the Arqana sale. I said to Karl when we bought him, we won’t tell anyone this, but I think the horse is very quick and ready to go and let’s see if we can give him a chance to get to Ascot, even though it’s a very quick turnaround.

“Karl and his team have done a tremendous job with this horse and he has bounced out of Beverley and done very well since. He’s eating up and drinking and had a very easy breeze and looks full of himself.

“Everything went wrong at Beverley and he still managed to win and it’s the Norfolk, there will be plenty there with a similar profile, but I think he goes there with a realistic chance of running a good race for us.”

Wesley Ward’s American challenger Saturday Flirt and Adrian Murray’s Group Three winner Arizona Blaze also feature.

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