Dubai: Friday’s penultimate meeting at this year’s Royal Ascot boasts a mouth-watering seven-race card featuring no less than five Group races including the featured Group 1 Commonwealth Cup, the only premier division flat race in Britain open exclusively to three-year-olds.
Since its inauguration in 2015, the six-furlong contest has been won twice by Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, who unfortunately does not have a representative this year.
Muhaarar won the inaugural running and Eqtidaar repeated the feat in 2018 for Sheikh Hamdan and Godolphin’s Royal Crusade has been handed the opportunity to continue the fine record of Dubai-owned sprinters in the event.
The lightly raced son of Shamardal has won one of his three races and goes into the race as a 16/1 chance.
However, his trainer Charlie Appleby believes he is an interesting contender.
“I am looking forward to him dropping back in distance to six furlongs,” he told the Godolphin website. “He is a typical Shamardal in that he has got stronger and quicker as he has got older.
“This could be an ideal target for him as it is a stiff six furlongs at Ascot, and we know he gets seven. He has a big chance.”
The 17-runner field is headed by the unbeaten Pierre Lapin, who is raced by Roger Varian for Epsom Derby-winner Sheikh Mohammad Obaid Al Maktoum.
A winner of both his starts last season including the Group 2 Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes, Pierre Lapin is likely to be sent off as the hot favourite in the showpiece race.
Charlie Appleby is also well represented in the Group 2 Queen’s Vase over a 2,800 metres with the Dubawi-colt, Al Dabaran.
Having won his maiden at Ascot’s July Course last year, Al Dabaran produced some impressive performance in France where he finished third in the Prix des Chenes (G3) at Longchamp and followed it up with a second place effort in the Prix de Conde (G3) at Chantilly at the end of the season.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Hamdan can pick up another Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2), a race that he first won back in 1988 with Almaarad, with the five-year-old son of Frankel, Elarqam.