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Henry Dwyer savouring Royal Ascot experience with Asfoora

Henry Dwyer savouring Royal Ascot experience with Asfoora
Henry Dwyer savouring Royal Ascot experience with Asfoora

Australian trainer Henry Dwyer admitted having sprinting sensation Asfoora running at Royal Ascot is a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.

The five-year-old mare has had a stellar career in her homeland, winning a number of Group Two and Three contests, but a victory at the top tier remains elusive for the stable star.

She made the trip across the globe just over two months ago and produced a creditable fourth in the Temple Stakes at Haydock, finishing two and a three-quarter lengths behind Kerdos.

Asfoora, far left
Asfoora, far left, came fourth on her maiden UK appearance in the Temple Stakes (Nigel French/PA)

That was the start of a busy summer for the daughter of Australian Group One winner Flying Artie, with appointments at Goodwood, York and the Curragh all lined up.

However, it is the King Charles III Stakes on the opening day of the Royal meeting which piqued Dwyer’s interest in a stint of UK success, where he hopes Asfoora can become an eighth Australian-trained winner.

Speaking at Asfoora’s temporary home of Newmarket, Dwyer said: “We had the initial idea 14-16 months ago when she won a couple of 1,000m races at Caulfield.

“What’s the saying? If you are going to be a bear, you might as well be a grizzly bear!

“We thought we would come over and give it a good shot. There’s nothing in Australia, so she would’ve been sat in the paddock there.

“So, we thought, with the series of races as it is – she’s won a number of Group Twos and Threes in Australia but never been able to win a Group One – I thought it would be a better opportunity over here over five furlongs to win a Group One than at home, which is what it’s all about.

“A few of the people I spoke to over here said that there wasn’t heaps of depth in the five-furlong horses this year, so if you were going to come over, this is the year to do it – so here we are.

“We have about 40 friends, owners and family coming over for the day, and the week. It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime thing, touch wood it’s not, but for me, it’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing when you have 40 horses in work.”

Regular rider Mitchell Aitken was on board for her maiden British run last month, but Dwyer confirmed three-time champion jockey Oisin Murphy is his Royal booking.

“Oisin Murphy is booked to ride at Ascot,” he added. “He came out and galloped her on Tuesday here. He was happy with what he felt and saw, and he’s looking forward to riding her and we are looking forward to having him on.

“Mitch, who rode her at Haydock, has been her regular rider throughout her career right from when she won her maiden and I thought it would be good to get a bit of feedback about how he feels she’s going leading up to it and that was very helpful, but we were always going to look for a European jockey post that first run.

“I think each sprint this season so far, if you take Big Evs out of the equation, because he has different form lines and is clearly the one to beat, the rest of the horses, including Asfoora, are pretty evenly matched.

“In the Temple the other day, there wasn’t much between them, we were fourth and got beaten two and a half lengths. I think the Greenland Stakes and Duke of York Stakes were all bunched finishes and all won by different horses, there’s no standout. It gonna be the horse that enjoys Ascot and gets the right run.

Oisin Murphy
Oisin Murphy will be the jockey for Asfoora at Royal Ascot (John Walton/PA)

“She was always going to improve, but because of the circumstances of the day, it was very hard for her. Giving her a normal good to soft track would be beautiful for her and she’s got significant improvement to come – how much? I don’t know. I think there’s a bit to come.”

Dwyer also spoke of his fascination with Royal Ascot and admitted his previous experience of attending the event was a factor in his decision to travel halfway across the world.

The Australian handler said: “I’ve spoken to a number of trainers that have come over, and owners, both about the horse side and the social side of it, so I’ve got a few tips there!

“I’ve been a couple of times (to Royal Ascot) and thinking how fun it is, really. Just thinking ‘if it is this fun without a horse, imagine how good it will be to actually be involved in it?’. Never thought I would have the opportunity, but here we are.

“Outside of the Melbourne Cup, which is a big thing for us, Royal Ascot is always the global thing that people get out of bed in the middle of the night to watch.

“I always watched it growing up. You don’t follow the form over here, it’s more about the pageantry and the pomp and the ceremony – the event. That’s what we are looking forward to.”

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