By Jon Lees
USA: Even if Royal Ascot goes ahead it will probably take place without Breeders’ Cup winner Sharing after Graham Motion conceded a trip to Britain is looking increasingly problematic due to the restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Motion had earmarked the G1 Coronation Stakes, in which he saddled Miss Temple City to finish fourth in 2015, for last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf winner, via a prep race at Pimlico in mid-May.
But with racing suspended in both Maryland and Britain, where Royal Ascot is scheduled to be staged behind closed doors if it can take place at all, Motion said the logistics of such an enterprise were looking “more and more complicated”.
The COVID-19 challenges have not put off perennial US campaigner Wesley Ward, whose first two-year-old runner of 2020 Lime was beaten at odds of 1-5 at Gulfstream Park on Thursday night, from considering the trip.
Lime, owned by Jim and Fitri Hay, blasted off in front but was caught close home by the Juan Alvarado-trained Quinoa Tifah. Ward is set to saddle another potential Royal meeting candidate Golden Pal in Florida on Friday’s card.
A trip to Royal Ascot was suggested for Sharing after she beat the Roger Varian-trained Daahyeh at Santa Anita last November, her third victory from four starts for owners Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gainesway Stable.
She was set to start her season in Florida but the plan was aborted and she has spent the past few weeks at Motion’s base in Fair Hill, Maryland.
“Royal Ascot is becoming increasingly more and more complicated,” said Motion. “There is so much uncertainty I couldn’t even imagine putting it together at this point.
“Sharing is doing well,” he went on. “It’s becoming slightly more optimistic that we might have a chance to run somewhere in May, but trying to put together a trip to Ascot after that seems like it is going to be difficult, from a staff point of view and everything else.”
Royal Ascot announced last week that prospects of going ahead in June would depend on Government policy and BHA approval – and if it took place there would be no spectators, robbing the fixture of the fashion and pageantry which make it such an appealing destination for international visitors.
Motion said: “For the owners Royal Ascot is obviously a tremendous experience and to do all that not to have the experience probably takes away a lot of the lustre. I haven’t openly discussed it with anyone, apart from one of the partners, but I just think it is looking more and more complicated. I don’t even know logistically how feasible it would be.”
In the meantime Motion hopes to have Sharing ready to return to action next month, if restrictions are lifted.
“Everybody is waiting to hear when we might have a shot to run,” he said. “I’ve heard optimistic dates of middle to the end of May possibly for Maryland and New York but it remains to be seen what those programmes look like.
“Usually there is a race around the Preakness in Pimlico in May, the Hilltop Stakes, and that is the race I had circled for Sharing as a prep to get her to Ascot. It’s actually the race we ran Miss Temple City in. If they do run in the middle of May and the race still exists that would definitely be the race I would have her ready for.
“I gave her some time off, we took her to Florida,” Motion added. “I breezed her once in Florida when I was kind of rushing to get her to a race in Tampa, which I decided not to do. I backed off her a bit, got her out of Florida and since she came back to Fair Hill I think she has now had four or five bits of work and I’ve been very pleased with how she’s done.
“I wouldn’t want to come over there without a prep race. I tried that with Miss Temple City and it’s too difficult. With a filly turning from two to three you want to make sure they are still at that level. She gives me every indication to think that she is.”
The US appears the only likely source of intercontinental challengers at Royal Ascot with no horses expected to travel from Australia, where the country’s top sprinter Nature Strip has finished for the season.
Trained by Chris Waller, the four-time G1 winner had been the number one target of Ascot director of racing’s Nick Smith, who conceded that the meeting may be reliant on runners from Europe for its international content.
“It is too early to say what the regulations will be, come June,” Smith said. “Clearly, we would hope that European horses will be able to run, whilst being realistic about practicalities. The relevant national racing authorities will decide on this nearer the time.
“In terms of intercontinental runners, we are in contact with interested parties. It is highly unlikely travel of this nature will be possible and understandably, the nature of the revised event will make travelling less appealing.”