Could the Land of the Rising Sun be on the verge of celebrating a first ever winner at Royal Ascot? If the betting markets are anything to go by then Japanese star A Shin Hikari could be one of the best bets of the meeting when he bids for Group 1 success in the day two showpiece event, the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes over 10 furlongs.
A Shin Hikari (6/4), Favorite to Win
On the face of it the 6/4 being offered about A Shin Hikari beating the likes of top European middle-distance performers Time Test, The Grey Gatsby, Found, and many more, might not appear the most attractive proposition, especially since none of the (admittedly few) previous Japanese runners in Britain have managed to get their head in front.
But if you happened to see what veteran jockey Yutaka Take’s mount did to smart rivals in France last month in the Group 1 Prix d’Ispahan at Chantilly, you might very quickly change your tune and look to snap up the price currently on offer.
In heavy ground – very different to the fast conditions under which he has established a big reputation back home – the five-year-old son of super-sire Deep Impact positively blasted his opponents apart, storming to a stunning 10-length win and leaving French racegoers scratching their heads in amazement.
Was it a fluke, or is he the real deal? Most observers believe this was a genuinely top-class performance and if he can do more of the same at Royal Ascot he will take some stopping over a trip that suits, and under what will probably be ideal underfoot conditions. Connections have already said they think it’s already in the bag.
Another japanese horse will be racing in the Queen Ann Stakes, it would be historical for a horse from these lands to score a win in Royal Ascot.
A Shin Hikari Weakness
There is one possible flaw though to A Shin Hikari, and that is his temperament. He has been hot-headed in the past and pulled hard, and even on a cool day in France he showed signs of getting worked up. Might the unique atmosphere of the royal meeting get to the Japanese star causing him to lose his race before it has even started?
Time Test (3/1), Top Contender
Roger Charlton’s Time Test was very impressive when landing the Tercentenary Stakes at last year’s big meeting and has already proved himself in good shape this term with a last to first victory over Western Hymn at Sandown in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes. That piece of form in itself is not up to A Shin Hikari’s Chantilly effort, but Time Test didn’t look fully fit, he will be now, he loves Ascot, and his yard is in fine form. He is rated the main danger to the favourite and is offered in the ante-post market at up to 3/1.
The Grey Gatsby (7/1)
The Grey Gatsby was beaten just a short-head in a pulsating renewal of this race last year, just losing out to the fine Free Eagle.
If he returns to that sort of form he could have a chance but hasn’t been seen since finishing only sixth behind Golden Horn in the Irish Champion Stakes last September.
A 7/1 shot, it’s possible that a paddock inspection of the grey will be needed before deciding on whether or not to support him.
Aidan O’Brien Horses
It will be a surprise if Aidan O’Brien’s high-class Found (8/1) runs in this race so soon after being comprehensively outpointed by Postponed in the Coronation Cup at Epsom. She surely will need time to return to her peak after that hard race. O’Brien might have better prospects with the globe-trotting Highland Reel (16/1), a truly international racehorse who last year won at Goodwood, Arlington in Chicago, USA, and at Sha Tin in Hong King. He was well beaten in Hong Kong in April, but got no sort of a run and was repeatedly hampered.
Don’t be put off backing him, by the way, if you see Highland Reel sweating badly before the race. He invariably does this and it doesn’t stop him showing high-class form more often than not. The Galileo colt might well prove the best each-way value in what looks sure to be a tremendous race.
In the News
 drf.com, A Shin Hikari can give Japan first Royal Ascot win, 2016