By Jon Lees
France: Coronavirus restrictions have taken Royal Ascot off the agenda for most of France’s leading stables – but rising star Francis Graffard still has high hopes of carrying off another major prize, rating Wooded his best chance.
Graffard, whose Coronation Stakes victory with Watch Me sparked joyous celebrations 12 months ago, is sending three challengers, Plumatic (Queen Anne Stakes), Wasmya (Duke of Cambridge) and Wooded, the horse he describes as his “biggest chance” in the Commonwealth Cup.
Although the trainer won’t be travelling from his Chantilly base and neither will any of his staff, he has overcome the logistical challenge by finding temporary accommodation for the horses in Newmarket where they will be looked after and taken to the races by a trusted friend.
“When I can come with my staff and my jockeys it is easy, but this year has been a challenge to organise,” said Graffard. “Luckily a very good friend of mine Kate Grimwade, who is very experienced, is available to look after my horses when they come to Newmarket on their way to Ascot. So basically I am not stressed about it.”
Unable to use his regular jockeys, Graffard has booked Oisin Murphy for Plumatic and Frankie Dettori for Wasmya; Murphy has also been offered the mount on Wooded.
“We are lucky we managed to get the best available in England,” said Graffard. “It’s not a fun season but Royal Ascot is such a big meeting I always want to come. I’ve been twice already and last year was just wonderful. It was always my idea to bring these three horses if they were in good shape.”
Plumatic, a dual Group winner for Andre Fabre, joined Graffard this year in new ownership and finished second in a G3 on his May debut.
“It’s taken me a while to understand him but he needed the run badly first time out,” said Graffard. “He ran really well and he came on a lot for that. It’s a big challenge for him but he would like the stiff mile and the good ground. I can’t have him in better form and he is ready to give his best but is he good enough? We will find out.”
Wasmya and Wooded both represent Al Shaqab Racing, the latter having run out an impressive G3 winner on his return last month at Chantilly. “Wooded is my biggest chance next week,” said Graffard.
“We dropped him in trip and it has worked because he won a G3 over 6f at Chantilly in a good time. He is a beautiful horse and he worked really well yesterday. All the lights are green for him.
“Wasmya is a lovely filly,” he went on. “She ran a very good comeback in a Listed race and has come on for that. Her work last week was very strong and I am sure she will love the stiff mile at Ascot. I am bringing a filly at the top of the form.”
• Find out more about next week’s meeting at the racecourse’s Royal Ascot Racing Hub