Hardwicke Stakes – Telescope To Zoom To Victory

Royal Ascot 2014 goes out with a bang on Saturday where the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes over 1m4f boasts a tasty line-up, among them Sir Michael Stoute’s Telescope.

A winner of the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes at York last summer (1m4f, good to firm), Telescope had to play second fiddle on two occasions this season, on both occasions behind Noble Mission in the mud over 1m2f. Saturday’s return to 1m4f on better ground will be more to Telescope’s liking, and he looks primed to make it a fifth victory in the race for Stoute since 1997.

Stoute also has Hillstar (9/2), who won the King Edward VII Stakes at this meeting 12 months ago (1m4f, good to firm), prior to a third in the King George back over C&D. He has all the form in the book and warmed up for this with a 2l second to Brown Panther at Chester on his seasonal return (1m5f, soft).

Aidan O’Brien has won the Hardwicke twice and has an interesting contender in Eye Of The Storm (7/1), who won a couple of Listed events last term (including over 1m4f and on fast ground), but flopped when favourite in a Listed race a few weeks ago when headgear failed to do the trick.

Another with a few questions to answer is Roger Varian’s, Ektihaam (8/1), who was an impressive Listed winner of this C&D 13 months ago, before slipping on the bend in this very race a few weeks later. That incident may have affected him, as he has finished last and second from last since.

Dandino (8/1) also ran in this race 12 months ago when beaten just 1l and is one of two 7yo’s in the race, though he may need the outing having been last seen finishing fifth in November’s Melbourne Cup. The other 7yo is Joshua Tree – winner of the Grade 1 Canadian International in October, but out of the top four in five outings since.

One with fewer doubts surrounding him on the form front at present is Godolphin’s, Sharestan (8/1), a dual Listed winner last season, before winning a Group 3 on his return at Sandown three weeks ago (1m2f, soft). He’ll need more here than in that three-runner race, but could improve over this two-furlong further trip, though he wouldn’t want the ground getting too firm.

Nicky Henderson’s 9yo, Forgotten Voice (7/1), is also in decent form following a Listed second on his return at Newbury last month (1m5f, good to firm), and isn’t fully exposed on the Flat having graduated from a handicap success at this meeting 12 months ago (1m2f, good to firm) to Group 3 glory at Goodwood (1m4f, good).

There are plenty of ‘ifs and buts’ surrounding Saturday’s Hardwicke Stakes, but Sir Michael Stoute looks to be holding the aces, and could win it once more with Telescope, who is long due a Group 1 success.

Here are the full trends covering the last 18 years…

All 18 winners ran over 1m2f-1m5f last time.
All 18 were 4-6yo’s.
17 ran during the past two months – seven arrived via the Coronation Cup at Epsom.
17 made the top three earlier that season.
17 won a Group race.
15 ran in Group class last time.
15 won over 1m4f-1m5f.
14 of the last 15 were officially rated 111 or higher.
Fillies were winless since 1996.
Mark Johnston and Sir Michael Stoute trained four winners, and Aidan O’Brien & Godolphin two.