Shahryar makes daring bid for Prince of Wales’s Stakes

Shahryar will bid to become the first Japanese-trained horse to win a race at Royal Ascot when he lines up in Wednesday’s (15 June) G1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes (2003m).

After winning last year’s G1 Tokyo Yushun (2400m) – also known as the Japanese Derby – the four-year-old made his mark on the international scene when beating a strong field in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic (2410m) at Meydan earlier this year in March.

Trainer Hideaki Fujiwara immediately voiced his ambition to compete globally: “We are proud of our Japanese Derby and Sheema Classic winner and will look at races such as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1, 2400m). Shahryar has developed to a higher level and it will be great to compete overseas.”

The winning jockey in Dubai, Cristian Demuro, retains the ride and partnered Shahryar in work shortly after his arrival in Newmarket. “It wasn’t a serious gallop,” he said. “But he seemed to be in the same shape as before the Sheema Classic. They are trying something different in running here but he has been in wonderful form and it would be wrong to ignore him.”

There is no danger of that and Shahryar is second favourite to Bay Bridge . Demuro is confident that his mount will not be inconvenienced by the drop back from 2410m to 2003m but acknowledges the challenge.

“The question will be how he handles the rise and fall of Ascot’s track. If he is in the same sort of form as in Dubai, the form lines will tell you we have a great chance,” Demuro said.

It is a small but select field, with Bay Bridge the expected favourite to make his first appearance in a Group 1 event a winning one. Sir Michael Stoute’s four-year-old has won his last five races, reappearing after a seven month break to deliver with utter ease in the G3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes (1990m) at Sandown.

James Wigan, Bay Bridge’s owner/breeder was impressed, not least by his colt’s turn of foot, but also indicated that Bay Bridge might be kept to 2000m. Stoute, who has won this race twice in the last four years with Poet’s Word (2018) and Crystal Ocean (2019), believes that he will stay the extra distance.

“He is ultra-consistent and has a good attitude. I am very hopeful that the trip will be within his range,” Stoute said.

Ryan Moore expressed high opinion of Bay Bridge: “He picked up very nicely and went through the line well at Sandown. He has beaten some very good horses there, improved with every run and there is plenty to look forward to.”

While Shahryar and Bay Bridge will attract most attention, they face some talented opponents. The Irish-trained State Of Rest is an international Group 1 winner, Grand Glory a much improved French raider and Lord North, last year’s winner, a formidable contender.

The Prince of Wales’s Stakes occupies the centre of the stage but the G2 Queen Mary Stakes (1000m) for two-year-old fillies and, at the other extreme of distance, the G2 Queen’s Vase (2841m) for three-year-olds, are fascinating contests in their own right.

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