Seven-time champion National Hunt trainer Paul Nicholls is excited about the prospect of saddling his first Royal Ascot runner in today’s Queen Alexandra Stakes – American Trilogy.
The Somerset-based handler has bagged just about every major prize going over jumps, having added the Champion Hurdle and the Grand National to his CV this spring, but his number of previous Flat runners can be counted on one hand.
American Trilogy’s finest hour came in the County Hurdle at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival, but he does have winning form on the level in France and was successful in a charity race at Aintree in April under Mick Kinane.
Joseph O’Brien, son of trainer Aidan and winner of the 2,000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby aboard Camelot this season, has been booked for the ride.
Nicholls said: “I think we’re probably going there with an outside chance, but we’re looking forward to what should be a really good day out.
“He won’t mind the ground. He won a Listed race on the Flat in France on soft ground and he’s run well on heavy ground over hurdles before.
“The hurdles seem to inconvenience him a bit now, so hopefully he’ll go out there and enjoy it and give a good account of himself.
“My nephew Harry Derham is actually going over to Ballydoyle for a month for a bit of experience and he knows Joseph, so he said we should get him to ride.
“It’s obviously my first Royal Ascot runner and I read the other day I’ve had three runners on the Flat before, but I honestly can’t remember. I think I had one in my first year training, but I can’t remember the others.
“We had a nice day out at Ascot on Thursday, so the top hat and tails are ready. I’m really looking forward to seeing Black Caviar, who they tell me is heavier than Denman!”
A National Hunt trainer with more experience of having runners on the Flat is Donald McCain, who saddles the laudable Overturn.
The teak-tough eight-year-old has already landed a Northumberland Plate and a Chester Cup on the Flat, to go with victories in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and the Galway Hurdle. This year’s Champion Hurdle runner-up also occupied the same position when defending his Chester Cup crown last month.
Overturn is the highest-rated horse in this two-mile-five-furlong test, but his trainer is concerned about the prospect of testing conditions.
McCain said: “We’re looking forward to it, but it’s a shame about the ground – ideally it will dry up a bit.
“He’s in great nick and it will be interesting to see whether he gets the trip. We did think about running in the Gold Cup, but decided against it as we looked at the forecast and thought the ground would be better on the Saturday.”