Ken Condon is hoping Romanised can upset the odds again and deliver victory in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes with his first runner after following a similar path to 12 months ago with last year’s surprise Irish 2,000 Guineas winner.
Romanised sprang a shock in the Curragh Classic last year three weeks after finishing down the field in a Listed race at Naas.
He returned to Naas again this year, taking fifth place in the Group 3 Gladness Stakes behind the same winner as 12 months earlier Imaging, two places behind Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes favourite Le Brivido, to whom he was conceding 5lb.
Romanised is one of five Group 1 winners, which include three Classic winners, declared among a strong 14-runner field for the first Group 1 race for older horses run in Britain in 2019.
Le Brivido and I Can Fly make up a twin assault by Aidan O’Brien, five time Group 1 winner Laurens heads the fillies’ challenge and Beat The Bank will try to gain a first win for Andrew Balding, whose father Ian won it twice. Accidental Agent, Without Parole and Billesdon Brook are the other Group 1 winners in the field.
Romanised, owned by Hong Kong-based property developer Robert Ng, was beaten less than two lengths on his first start since finishing well beaten in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in October.
Condon said: “It was a nice comeback run, he didn’t have a hard race, he didn’t get the clearest of runs and he needed it, but he went to the line strongly. As he was attempting to give away 5lb we had to be very pleased.
“He’s come out of the race very well. He is in good shape and that race would have brought him forward again. He’s a big price but I think the conditions should allow him to maximise his abilities – a straight track, a good strong pace and decent ground.”
Romanised did not reach the frame in his other races last year but Condon said: “In the Jacques Le Marois he followed Success Days up the middle of the track and everything happened on the stands side. He looked like he was booked for third and got tired late on having had to use himself up early.
“The last run at Ascot was literally a ground issue, it was very soft, and he is a horse that can’t really handle that.
“He was good this time of the year last year, and had a similar prep run at Naas. There was nothing magical or smart about it, but he came back three weeks later and won the Irish 2,000 Guineas.
“There are a lot of similarities and I’d be hopeful he’d outrun his odds. If you go strictly on ratings he is right up there and entitled to be fighting it out.”
Ostilio, a first runner in the race for Simon Crisford, is one of two representatives for Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum, who also runs Sharja Bridge.
“He ended last year’s campaign on a very high note winning the Daniel Wildenstein and his reappearance race [last in the Group 2 Prix de Muguet] was disappointing,” said Crisford. “For whatever reason he didn’t put it together. He’s worked nicely since and is in very good heart at home. Hopefully he can run a very nice race.”
The Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes is the feature race of Newbury’s richest Flat raceday which has a strong supporting card.
Crystal Ocean, who earned the highest Racing Post Rating in Britain and Ireland of the year so far of 123 when making a winning comeback in the Gordon Richards Stakes, has an outstanding chance of winning the Group 3 Al Rayyan Stakes for the second year running.
There are competitive fields for the Listed Shalaa Carnarvon Stakes and Al Zubarah London Gold Cup while the Olympic Glory Conditions Stakes features two from the Aidan O’Brien stable and a first runner at the track for American Wesley Ward, Joker On Jack, who will be ridden by Frankie Dettori.
The Listed Haras de Bouquetot Fillies’ Trial, a recognised trial for the Investec Oaks has attracted a field of nine, notably of Sea Of Faith who races for the same connections as last year’s winner Sea Of Class, one of the outstanding fillies of 2018.
Like Sea Of Class was 12 months ago, Sea Of Faith is a maiden and ran an encouraging debut fourth at Sandown last month.
Trainer William Haggas said: “It’s a big step up for her. She is useful and we need to know short term targets. She is not as quick as Sea Of Class at all and more a galloping type.”
Two days of racing at Newbury kick off on Friday with an eight race card on Starlight Charity Raceday, including the Class 2 Coolmore Handicap in which Ice Age will bid to repeat last year’s success in the same race.