SOFT Falling Rain (headline photo) and Shea Shea will represent South Africa on Tuesday, 17 June, the opening day of this year’s Royal Ascot, UK. Mike De Kock will be hoping for a Gr1 double from his stable stars.
Soft Falling Rain runs in The Queen Anne Stakes over the straight mile in the first race of the meeting and is looking to banish memories of his last visit to Ascot back in 2013. On that occasion, on QIPCO British Champions Day, he was only able to finish 11th out of 12 in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes behind Olympic Glory.
That was his third run in Britain last season and it followed victory in the Gr2 Nayef Joel Stakes at Newmarket. He was also victorious three times in a row at the 2013 Dubai World Cup Carnival, including in the Gr2 Godolphin Mile on World Cup Night.
Since defeat on British Champions Day though, Sheikh Hamdan’s charge hasn’t quite matched his form of 2013, with his two runs at the 2014 Dubai Carnival both resulting in defeat. However his run last time out, when runner-up in the Godolphin Mile on the World Cup card, has worked out well, with the winner Variety Club going onto Group One glory at Sha Tin in the Gr1 Champions Mile.
If able to build upon that, and if the ground at Ascot remains on the quick side, then Soft Falling Rain (Paul Hanagan) is sure to have a chance of winning his second Group 1 and reversing last season’s form with Olympic Glory.
Shea Shea is a familiar name to punters around the world and has become a regular in all the major international sprint races. With 11 wins from 24 starts, including three Gr1’s, he is a genuinely world-class sprinter and will be looking for a change of fortune on British soil in The King’s Stand, part of the Global Sprint Challenge.
Shea Shea was just shaded into second in this 1000m race last year by his old rival Sole Power, before excellent runs in the Gr1 July Cup (fourth) at Newmarket and the Gr1 Nunthorpe (second) at York.
He made his regular visit to the Dubai Carnival at the beginning of the year and won another Group race, the Gr3 Meydan Sprint, before being beaten only a ¼ length into third in the Gr1 Al Quoz Sprint on World Cup night.
He is sure to run another big race at Royal Ascot and with leading French rider Christophe Soumillion likely to take the ride, expect him to be bang there in the closing stages. –Editorial extracts from GBI Racing. Photo by Andrew Watkins.