Balding chasing double Group One glory at Royal Ascot

It has been a wonderful start to the 2023 season for the Andrew Balding team and the star trainer is confident going into a dual Group One bid at Royal Ascot.

The horses in question are Chaldean, a leading hope for the St James’s Palace Stakes, and Coltrane, a star stayer who heads into the Gold Cup with a favourite’s chance of glory in the feature race.

Interestingly, back in late April when Chaldean unshipped Frankie Dettori in the Greenham Stakes, a key trial for the 2000 Guineas, it is doubtful Balding would have believed how the next two months would unfold for his Kingsclere stars.

Frankie Dettori celebrates as Chaldean crosses the line to win the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket
Image: Frankie Dettori celebrates as Chaldean crosses the line to win the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket

The aforementioned Chaldean didn’t do any damage in the Newbury trial and subsequently provided Balding with a second success in the Newmarket Classic in four years under Dettori, after the victory of Kameko in 2020.

And while he’s likely to be sent off the favourite for the Royal Ascot Day One co-feature, Dettori and Chaldean face a whole host of new rivals next Tuesday, including Irish 2000 Guineas winner Paddington, impressive Goodwood scorer Cicero’s Gift and runaway York victor Mostabshir.

“He’s had a quiet time since the Guineas because I thought he had a hard race, but we’re pretty happy with him,” Balding told Sky Sports Racing.

“All roads lead to Royal Ascot and hopefully we can get him there in the same shape as Newmarket.

“The Classics are a big deal, particularly the Guineas that early in the season, so to get the win is a huge effort.

“It was more a feeling of relief than ecstasy because having won the Dewhurst you spend the whole winter with high expectations.

“He kept improving with each race last year and was impressive in the Acomb – the form of that is pretty strong. He’s just a lovely horse to have around as he’s so professional and talented.

“It’s a long season and he has a lot of hard fights ahead of him. All we can do is get him in the best shape we can and then it’s up to him to do the rest.

“The St James’s Palace is the intended target and the chances are he’s going to have to encounter some faster ground but that’s not a concern. Ascot’s round track should play to his strengths, so we’re looking forward to it.”

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Sky Sports Racing’s Gina Bryce speaks to Coltrane’s owner Mick Mariscotti as their star horse heads to the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot as favourite.

If Chaldean gets the job done on Tuesday, eyes will turn to the likeable Coltrane, who never seems to run a bad race and rates around a 3/1 shot for the stamina-sapping Gold Cup, the feature event of the week.

It was arguably a career-best effort last time out at the venue, taking the Sagaro Stakes despite indications that the six-year-old would improve for the run.

“He’s a bit of a star. He wasn’t an expensive yearling but was a pleasant surprise from day one,” Balding added.

Coltrane and Oisin Murphy win the Sagaro Stakes
Image: Coltrane and Oisin Murphy win the Sagaro Stakes

“He looked stone-cold useless as a two-year-old and could hardly get up to the top of the gallop, but has just improved and improved.

“He had a setback at the beginning of his four-year-old season, but the way he’s come back is a tribute to his steel.

“I thought he was very impressive in the Sagaro and if he can produce that on Gold Cup day, then he’s got to be a player.

“We’re pretty relaxed about it. If we can just get him there in his best health then he’s got to have a chance.

“The last run suggests he is better than ever, he was very impressive.”

Watch every race at Royal Ascot on Sky Sports Racing from Tuesday 20 June.

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