Entry list remains strong for Sussex, Nassau and Goodwood Cup

With just under three weeks until Glorious Goodwood, world-class racing is on the horizon following the latest acceptors for the feature contests.

Wednesday, 12th July 2017, 10:03 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:22 pm
The Gurkha beats Galileo Gold in last year's Sussex Stakes / Picture by Tommy McMillan

The highlight of the week, the £1-million Qatar Sussex Stakes, staged on Wednesday, August 2, has 24 contenders going forward following yesterday's scratchings' deadline. A real clash of the generations is on the cards in the mile showpiece, with dual 2,000 Guineas winner Churchill (Aidan O'Brien) set to take on Godolphin's star older milerRibchester (Richard Fahey).

Ribchester, who was a close third in the 2016 Qatar Sussex Stakes, has already scooped a pair of G1 prizes in 2017, with impressive victories in both the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot and Newbury's Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes. Churchill, the highest-rated three-year-old miler in the world, needs to bounce back from a below-par fourth behind Godolphin'sBarney Roy (Richard Hannon) in the G1 St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Other leading contenders for the Qatar Sussex Stakes include Sunday's G1 Prix Jean Prat hero Thunder Snow (Saeed bin Suroor), also owned by Godolphin, Queen Anne Stakes runner-up Mutakayyef (William Haggas), French challenger Zelzal (Jean-Claude Rouget), winner of the G1 Prix Jean Prat in 2016 and a promising second on his reappearance in the G3 Prix Bertrand du Breuil at Chantilly on June 18, and Lightning Spear (David Simcock), successful in the G2 Doom Bar Celebration Mile at Goodwood in August last year and runner-up to Ribchester this season in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes.

Aidan O'Brien has also left in triple G1-winning filly Winter, victorious in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas, Irish 1,000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes so far this season, Irish 1,000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes third Hydrangea and St James's Palace Stakes runner-up Lancaster Bomber.

Winter and Hydrangea also feature prominently among the 23 going forward for the £600,000 G1 Qatar Nassau Stakes for fillies and mares over nearly 10 furlongs on Thursday, August 3.

The entries for the Qatar Nassau Stakes also include last year's runner-up and subsequent Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf heroine Queen's Trust (Sir Michael Stoute) and Nezwaah(Roger Varian), who captured the G1 Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh on July 2, when she defeated Rain Goddess (Aidan O'Brien) and Turret Rocks (Jim Bolger).

An intriguing contender is Aim To Please (Karl Burke). The four-year-old daughter of Excellent Art has yet to start for Yorkshire-based Burke, having been sold to her current owner John Dance for £340,000 at the Goffs London Sale on June 19.

A three-time winner in France for her former trainer Francois Doumen, including at G3 level, Aim To Please made her last appearance for Doumen when a staying-on fifth, beaten just under four lengths, behind Qemah in the G2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes over a mile at Royal Ascot on June 21.

Burke said: "We are keeping an eye on the weather, as ideally she needs a bit of cut in the ground, but we are looking at the Qatar Nassau Stakes for Aim To Please.

"She was a bit tired after the long journey and her race in the heat at Royal Ascot, so we haven't done a lot with her since she joined us.

"She is cantering away now and I am very happy with her - she is a lovely filly.

"Without knowing a lot about Aim To Please, I thought it was a very good run at Royal Ascot. I watched the race with interest and I know P J (McDonald, jockey) was very happy,

"The mile and a quarter at Goodwood should suit her and the Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville could be an option after the Nassau.

"If she didn't go to Goodwood, we could look at a Listed race for her next, but we are anticipating that Winter might frighten off some of the opposition in the Nassau and it would be well worth having a crack at a Group One with her."

Newmarket handler John Gosden has a great recent record in the Qatar Nassau Stakes, having sent out three of the last five winners. His two remaining entries are So Mi Dar, winner of four of her five starts, but yet to start in 2017, and Prix de Diane fourth Shutter Speed.

The Qatar Goodwood Cup, upgraded to G1 status with a much increased prize fund of £500,000 this year, takes place over two miles on the opening day of the Qatar Goodwood Festival, Tuesday, August 1, after being switched from its traditional Thursday slot, and has 25 horses still in contention.

A rematch between Big Orange (Michael Bell) and Order Of St George (Aidan O'Brien) is on the cards, with the duo separated by a short-head when Big Orange took the G1 Gold Cup over half a mile further at Royal Ascot on June 22.

Big Orange would become only the second triple winner of the Qatar Goodwood Cup if successful again this year, having taken both the 2015 and 2016 renewals. The only previous three-time winner of Goodwood's top staying race was Double Trigger in 1995, 1997 and 1998.

Other eye-catching acceptors in the Qatar Goodwood Cup include Wicklow Brave (Willie Mullins), successful at G1 level on the Flat in last year's Irish St Leger and in G1 company over hurdles, plus Sheikhzayedroad (David Simcock), a close third to Big Orange at Goodwood in 2016 and subsequently successful in G2 company at Ascot on British Champions Day in October.

The Qatar Goodwood Cup offers three-year-olds the chance to take on older horses. The four remaining three-year-olds this year are headed by Stradivarius (John Gosden), winner of the G2 Queen's Vase over a mile and three quarters at Royal Ascot.

The Qatar Sussex Stakes, Qatar Nassau Stakes and Qatar Goodwood Cup are all part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.

See this week's Chichester Observer (out on July 13) for an in-depth interview with retiring clerk of the course Seamus Buckley