Impressive Dartmouth primed to give Royal Ascot's super fan another victory
Sometimes you just have to abandon all hope to the fates and blindly back the best story, writes James Toney.
Which is why Yorkshire Cup winner Dartmouth is primed to deliver a famous victory, with multiple plot lines, in Saturday's Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Nothing gets the stands shouting like a winner for The Queen, plus it could chalk up a 76th success for trainer Sir Michael Stoute, moving him clear of great rival, the late Sir Henry Cecil, in the list of the royal meeting's most successful handlers.
Dartmouth, who would be Her Majesty's 23rd Royal Ascot winner, won the race 12 months ago, beating Highland Reel, who has bagged two group one wins in the last fortnight with victories in the Coronation Cup at Epsom and Prince of Wales's Stakes at Ascot.
Mooted as a potential Melbourne Cup contender Dartmouth has plenty of stamina, as his battling victory over a mile and three-quarters at York underlined.
And he'll surely appreciate the drop back in trip on a course he clearly loves and ground he'll relish.
Sir Michael has been waiting all week for the winner he needs to take him clear in the standings - and it almost seems written in the stars that victory will come, for racing's most famous connection, in the Hardwicke.
He has won the race more than any other at the meeting, ten times and counting, with former charges Rock Hopper and Maraahel both two-time champions.
"We've been able to have a royal winner on a number of occasions but there's no added pressure," said Sir Michael, whose most famous training moment was delivering Ascot's Gold Cup for the Queen's Estimate in 2013.
"He's in good shape and he knows his way around the track. He loves the course and he's a very solid chance."
Across the Stars, who claimed the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot 12 months ago, looks the biggest threat to Dartmouth after reportedly overcoming the injury niggles that have troubled his season to date.
Meanwhile, trainer Henry Candy believes his stable star Limato is back in peak form after a disappointing run during the Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan.
Limato was one of the stars of 2016 with group one victories in the July Cup at Newmarket and Prix de la Foret at Chantilly.
But Candy will be hoping that forecast rain doesn't arrive for the meeting's final group one race, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, part of the Qipco British Champions Series.
"I've never seen him more depressed than when he got home from Dubai, it really affected him," admitted Candy. "We had to force him a lot to get him as near fit as we could for the World Cup and then the ground was atrocious.
"Hopefully it will still be good and fast ground and if we don't get too much rain it should be spot on."
In contrast William Haggas wouldn't mind a bit of give for his charge Tasleet, a once talented juvenile who proved a mud master when he won the Duke of York Stakes on the Knavesmire last month.
"Iâ€™d always tried to avoid soft ground but he looked to relish it at York, so a bit of rain and some cut in the ground would be great," he said.