Co-trainer Sam Freedman believes that Artorius is the one to beat in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes, the highlight on the final day of Royal Ascot.
Artorius came from near last to dead-heat for third in the six-furlong showpiece 12 months ago and arrives on the back of two excellent performances so far this year.
The Australian challenger registered a second G1 success in the Canterbury Stakes at Randwick on 4th March and was only three-quarters of a length behind Anamoe when fourth in the G1 George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill two weeks later.
Speaking from Charlie Fellowes’ yard in Newmarket this morning, Freedman, who trains in partnership with his father Anthony, said:
Artorius travelled over well. He only lost 4kg on the flight, whereas last year he lost 9kg, and he has put on 6 or 7kg since he arrived in Newmarket last Thursday night – he is thriving. He had a little blow on the watered gallop on Tuesday morning, not a lot just quickening up a furlong, and tomorrow morning he will do his main bit of work at Ascot – that is the plan eight days out.
He is definitely stronger than last year and has come back a better horse. He was probably not going as well last year on the back of the carnivals. We stretched him out over seven and a half furlongs when he met Anamoe last time and he was beaten only three quarters of a length. Previous to that, he had won a Group One over six and a half furlongs and what you will see, hopefully, in his run is a little more practical speed. I am not suggesting that he is going to be up near the pace or anything like that but, hopefully, if he can be three or four lengths closer than 12 months ago, it will help. That is what we have been trying to work on for the past 12 months.
We knew we needed to work on his speed from the gate before last year, but we thought it was a real balancing act to get him to relax and in his comfort zone. Since that run, we have done a lot of work with him to see if he could still finish off riding him a lot closer and he did that when winning a Group One two starts back. It is something we have consciously been working on and, at the level we are going to be racing at in this race, being the best sprint race in Europe, you can’t afford to be giving 12 lengths with a couple of furlongs to go – you are probably not going to pick them up.”
Artorius is the ante-post favourite for the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes, with Hong Kong raider Wellington, Highfield Princess and Kinross heading the likely opposition.
If you look at the form, he looks to be the horse with the best credentials. Wellington has good form in Hong Kong and we would consider him a danger, but I think our horse has improved into his four-year-old season.
Artorius is a versatile horse – he is not a five-furlong horse but has placed in a Group One over a mile. I think a stiff six furlongs with a stiff tempo is ideal and, at the end of that as you saw last year, he really comes into his own.
I am not so concerned about the opposition, but more where he will end up and where he will get to in the run. I am confident taking on any of the sprinters in the world, but it is a case of getting the right transit and a bit of luck.”
James McDonald has been booked to ride Artorius, with Jamie Spencer having partnered the colt in all three European starts last year.
James McDonald has done a bit of work with him at home and knows the horse pretty well. He has been keen to get on the horse for a while.
We offered the ride to Zac Purton but he is trying to break the record in Hong Kong and next port of call was always going to be Jay Mac. That is not to say that Jamie Spencer didn’t ride him correctly last year – he rode to instructions and rode him very well.
I think Zac would be pretty confident that Artorius would be the horse to beat over here if you were going to line him up against Wellington. I would not swap him for anything.
I am a bit more relaxed than last year and not under as much pressure. He is a lot shorter in the market and there is a bit more expectation but last year it was the unknown and whether he was going to measure up – this year we know he is good enough.
The trainer probably always wants him to stay another season and I would love to take him home for the Everest if we were given that opportunity. He has just got better and better with a bit of age. He was a Group One winner at two, at three he was excellent, and he is getting even better at four. The decision would be up to the owners.”
A handful of US raiders were also on show at the National Stud this morning, including Classic Causeway (Kenneth McPeek) who is set to run in the G1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes and George Weaver’s two juveniles, No Nay Mets and Crimson Advocate.
G2 Norfolk Stakes contender No Nay Mets is a son of 2013 Norfolk Stakes winner No Nay Never and is entered in the Goffs London Sale on Monday. He made an impressive debut in a Royal Ascot qualifier at Gulfstream Park last month.
Weaver’s assistant Blair Golen said:
Since he has been here, No Nay Mets has settled in nicely. We have just been getting him accustomed to things. Everything we run on in America is pretty much flat, so we have been taking him out on the seven-furlong stretch here to get him used to things.
We have come here to win. In American racing, there is very rarely a big field, so that is a big challenge. Luckily, we have Frankie Dettori riding him and, if anybody knows how to ride the course, it is definitely him. So I think that is to our advantage. It means everything to have him riding and, if that makes Wesley Ward jealous, then even better!”
Feature Image Artorius (credit: John Hoy)