SHEA SHEA (headline photo) and Soft Falling Rain will be leaving Abington Place at Newmarket at 6am on Tuesday morning for a journey of just over two hours to Ascot Racecourse, London, to compete for South Africa on the first day of the Royal Ascot Festival, the heady combination of top-class racing and extravagant fashions.
Soft Falling Rain.
Royal Ascot 2014 starts its five-day run with a programme that includes three £375,000 Gr 1 contests. They are the 1600m Queen Anne Stakes (Soft Falling Rain), the 1600m St James’s Palace Stakes and the 1000m King’s Stand Stakes (Shea Shea).
“We’re getting on the road early, the M25 is the world’s biggest car park,” quipped assistant trainer Steven Jell on Monday night.
Jell and Mike de Kock were relaxing over a game of backgammon on Monday evening and Mike said: “We’re once again privileged to be part of Royal Ascot and flying the flag for South Africa, it is one of racing’s most prestigious events and to have two runners with chances is really exciting. Soft Falling Rain hasn’t had a straight passage coming into the meeting but he’s a quality horse and anything can happen. Shea Shea likes Ascot, I’m pleased with him and we’re going in optimistic. We’ll be out trying our best.”
Backgammon, a stress-buster on the eve of Royal Ascot.
Jell added: “Soft Falling Rain and Shea Shea have been working well, we’re ready to go. Gr1 contests are always as tough as they come, our runners prefer good ground and we’re hoping for that, our chances will be as good as any I’d say.”
A good South African contingent will be attending the meeting in support of the pair, including Brian and Lee Joffe (Shea Shea), Mary and Jessica Slack, Jehan and Noeline Malherbe and Brian Finch. “We have a nice support group and we’ve had a couple of braai’s the last six days, true South African style. We’re all looking forward to the occasion,” Jell told.
The authoritative Racing Post expects a good run from odds-on favourite Toronado in the Queen Anne. He’s at 8-11 on bookmakers’ boards, with Soft Falling Rain quoted at 7-1.
They tip Shea Shea (joing 4-1 favourite along with Sole Power and Hit Streak) to go one better in the King’s Stand Stakes after his short-head defeat by Sole Power last year, commenting: “Given the dominance of foreign runners in this race in recent years, South Africa’s Shea Shea is the obvious starting point. Mike de Kock’s seven-year-old has consistently proven himself top class at this trip in the past couple of seasons and looked unlucky to be reeled in by Sole Power in this race twelve months ago. Bar success at Group 3 level at Meydan in March, he hasn’t quite had the rub of green since last year’s second, but he fits all the criteria required and has every chance of going one better this time round.”
-extracts from Racing Post and GBI Racing.
The Group 1 2000m Prince Of Wales’s Stakes is the centrepiece of Royal Ascot’s card on Wednesday, 18 June, and this £525,000 contest has been nominated as a possible midsummer target for last year’s brilliant Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe heroine Treve. Two Group 2 events – the £135,000 1600m Duke Of Cambridge Stakes and the £100,000 1000m Queen Mary Stakes – also feature in another superb schedule.
Day Three of Royal Ascot, Thursday, 19 June, has the £375,000 Group 1 4000m Gold Cup as its highlight, while the most valuable event on the card for Friday, 20 June, is the £375,000 Group 1 1600m Coronation Stakes.
This unmissable meeting then concludes on Saturday, 21 June, with a programme including the £525,000 Group 1 1200m Golden Jubilee Stakes and the £200,000 Group 2 2400m Hardwicke Stakes.