Al Shaqab Racing + Highclere Thoroughbred Racing Stable Tours
Royal Ascot is a special week for Highclere Thoroughbred Racing supremo Harry Herbert. History tells you so.
Highclere have had 76 runners at Royal Ascot to date, and 11 have won. And a win and place strike rate of 40% is an impressive strike rate during the most high-class and competitive week of the racing year.
There have been many Royal Ascot highs so far for Herbert. Highclere’s first winner, Heritage in the King George V Handicap in 1997, was one. Telescope’s win in the 2014 Hardwicke Stakes was another high.
And there was 2010, when Highclere had three winners at Royal Ascot, Approve in the Norfolk Stakes, Memory in the Albany Stakes and Harbinger in the Hardwicke Stakes, with Theology beaten a nose in the Queen’s Vase.
The meeting has taken on extra significance for Herbert since he also took on the role of racing advisor to Sheikh Joaan’s Al Shaqab Racing.
“For our owners, there is no meeting that is more important,” he says. “Both Al Shaqab and Highclere, they love to have winners at Royal Ascot so we do target the meeting, we plan for Royal Ascot and we try to get the right horses into the right races.”
Here, Harry Herbert discusses those set to carry the famous colours of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing and Al Shaqab Racing respectively at the Royal Meeting in 2016.
Abdon (Sir Michael Stoute)
“Abdon is on track for the Tercentenary Stakes. He is a very progressive horse and he has been working really well.
“He won his maiden at Newbury on soft ground in August last year, his only run as a juvenile, and he ran well last time on his debut as a three-year-old to finish second behind Hawkbill. You could see at Newmarket that he was only going to get better. That was just the second run of his life and he has improved since then. We’re hoping for a good run.”
Al Johrah (Henri Devin)
“Al Johrah has won both her races impressively, and she is on track for the Queen Mary. She has the make and shape of a fast filly, and the Queen Mary is the race for her. She is a decent size, she is really well put together, and I think that there is more improvement to come.
“She is a home-bred, which is always exciting, she is from the first crop of Bated Breath, and she will be trainer Henri Devin’s first runner at Royal Ascot.”
Castle Harbour (John Gosden)
“Castle Harbour is an impressive horse to look at, and he has grown up a lot mentally this year. He has changed physically, he has grown and strengthened, and Frankie likes him a lot.
“He won his maiden nicely on his racecourse debut at Newmarket in April, and he stepped forward from that to win a hot seven-furlong handicap at York’s Dante meeting. After that, the Jersey was always his target, and John (Gosden) has been very happy with him since.
“He is owned by Bermuda Thoroughbred Racing, which is an off-shoot of Highclere, set up for Simon Scupham and his friends in Bermuda. Simon has had 193 winners with Highclere, and he has had some nice horses for Bermuda already.”
Galileo Gold (Hugo Palmer)
“He is a wonderful horse for Al Shaqab, their first Classic winner in this country. We originally bought him to try and win the Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, which he did, but he always had size and scope. It was a brilliant day when he won the 2000 Guineas, and he continues to do very well physically.
“He was beaten in Ireland and, while you are always disappointed when the Guineas winner gets beaten, he still ran a very good race. Awtaad will be very difficult to beat again, and The Gurkha was very impressive in winning the French Guineas. It’s great that the three Guineas winners are set to clash.
“He worked very well on Tuesday, he came about 12 lengths clear of his work companion, and Hugo is very happy with him. He looks to be in terrific form. It should be some race.”
Garcia (Richard Fahey)
“Garcia won his maiden on his second and final run last year as a juvenile, and he has won his first two races this season. It was a gutsy effort from him to win the Silver Bowl last time at Haydock, when he just beat Chief Whip, who had finished second to Castle Harbour in that handicap at York.
“The handicapper has raised him 6lb for that, but he is progressive. He probably wouldn’t want the ground to be too quick, so the rain that is around is fine for him. We’ll probably look to step him up in trip after Royal Ascot.”
Mehmas (Richard Hannon)
“Mehmas goes in the Coventry Stakes on Tuesday. He won his maiden nicely at Chester in May, and he was very impressive in following up at Newbury nine days later, beating Global Applause by over three lengths.
“We ran him in the National Stakes at Sandown because we thought that he would benefit from the experience, even though we thought that the five furlongs would be a little sharp for him. He was drawn wide as well, so none of it played to his strengths. Global Applause was good on the day, but our horse ran all the way to the line in second place. He has been in good form since, and he will appreciate that step back up to six furlongs.”
Nimr (Richard Fahey)
“Nimr was just touched off in a handicap at Doncaster on his debut this season. A half-brother to Gothic, he should progress from that. Richard Fahey likes him a lot, and he is one to consider each-way in this big handicap.”
Opposition (Ed Dunlop)
“Opposition is the biggest horse we’ve ever owned! It was unbelievable that he was able to run at all last year, given his size, but Ed (Dunlop) just thought that we should start running him.
“That has paid off this year, because he has won his two races, and his work has been impressive since he won at Newmarket last time.
“We are throwing him in at the deep end a bit, going for the Queen’s Vase, but he fits the profile of a Queen’s Vase horse. He will stay every yard of the trip. He could be an exciting stayer..”
Qemah (Jean-Claude Rouget)
“She won her French Guineas trial nicely, and she ran very well to finish third in the French 1000 Guineas.
"She was just a little free in the French Guineas, the French rhythm of racing doesn’t really suit her. She likes to have a proper pace at which to run, and she should get that in the Coronation Stakes.
“Jean-Claude said that the Coronation Stakes was the race for her immediately after the French Guineas. If she can switch off through the early stages of the race, she could run a big race. A mile is her trip, she has a lot of speed.”
Raucous (William Haggas)
“Raucous was well beaten in the Free Handicap on his debut this season, but that was the first bad race that he had ever run. He was much better at Epsom last time. He ran on well despite being hampered a furlong out. He wasn’t really suited by the track either. He is just coming back to himself now, so we’re going to allow him take his chance in the Jersey, see where we are with him.”
Shraaoh (Sir Michael Stoute)
“Shraaoh won his maiden at Newcastle last month by six lengths. He is a typical Sir Michael Stoute improving three-year-old, he is a lovely big, backward horse who is coming forward very nicely.
“We think that he deserves to take his chance in the King George Handicap. He was staying on well at the end of 10 furlongs at Newcastle and, a son of Sea The Stars from the family of Nashwan and Ghanaati, he should improve for stepping up in distance.”