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Australia may have lost its biggest possible contender for the Royal Ascot 2013 Carnival in England mid-year with turf darling Black Caviar retired last week, but there is still expected to be a number of top-notch Aussie sprinters nominated for the festival’s features including recent Newmarket Handicap winner Shamexpress.
Nominations for the major Royal Ascot showdowns close this Tuesday and Flemington trainer Danny O’Brien has confirmed his smart three-year-old O’Reilly colt Shamexpress will feature among those entries.
The progressive youngster put in a career best performance last start at their home track on March 9 when improving on a distant sixth behind the superlative Black Caviar in the Lightning Stakes to win the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) narrowly over Moment Of Change.
That effort prompted connections to seriously consider an international campaign this coming Northern Hemisphere summer, the first step towards that to occur on Tuesday when they are dually nominated for June’s Royal meeting.
Their key target will be the Group 1 King Stand Stakes (1000m) on June 18 after which a decision on whether to press onto the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes (1200m), won last year by the mighty Black Caviar in her first and subsequently last overseas appearance, four days later will be made.
“He definitely runs in the King’s Stand but we’ll evaluate once we’re over there whether he also runs in the Golden Jubilee Stakes as well,” O’Brien said.
“He leaves in the first week of June and he’ll arrive in England two weeks before the King’s Stand.
“We’ll give him a jumpout at Flemington the week before he gets on the plane, he’ll leave for England really fit and once he gets to the Newmarket training complex he’ll probably only have one, maybe two gallops.
“He only had the three runs early in the autumn culminating in the Newmarket at Flemington. He’s been a very happy horse down at Barwon Heads since then and he’s going to get on the plane with plenty left in the tank.”
O’Brien has had two previous trips to Royal Ascot firstly with Glamour Puss (2006) who was unplaced in her final two career runs there, and more recently with Star Witness two years ago.
The dedicated horseman had much better luck with his Starcraft stallion Star Witness over in England as they ran a first-up second in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m) before their brave third to Society Rock in the Golden Jubliee.
They also stayed on for a shot at the Group 1 Darley July Cup (1207m) the following month in Newmarket but could only manage to finish 10th; all experience O’Brien will draw on when he takes Shamexpress over this year.
“Star Witness ran in the Newmarket and then spent the rest of the autumn resting and he came out and performed super finishing second in the King’s Stand and third in the Golden Jubilee,” O’Brien said.
“I believe it certainly helps if you give them a bit of a rest before you go.”
The other notable Australian-trained horse to feature in the Royal Ascot nominations is Black Caviar’s star half-brother All Too Hard who could be given an international start in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes (1600m) before retiring to serve as a stallion for Vinery Stud.
The Hawkes-trained Casino Prince colt has already won three Group 1 races down under including the CF Orr Stakes – Futurity Stakes double this time in which they will look to add to this weekend at Royal Randwick running in the $400,000 Group 1 All Aged Stakes (1400m).
Stay tuned to Races.com.au for more updates on the Australian contingent nominated for Royal Ascot this year.
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