Mustashry 2018 Joel Stakes winner returning

Sir Michael Stoute believes Mustashry is “as good as ever” ahead of the Group 1 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on Saturday when the trainer will be seeking his eighth success.

The most successful trainer in the history of the race has not saddled a runner in the £350,000 contest since 2015 and victory with Mustashry over a 14-strong field would be his first for 13 years.

The Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned Mustashry warmed up for his Newbury assignment by finishing third in the Earl of Sefton Stakes behind Zabeel Prince and Forest Ranger, to whom he was conceding 5lb.

Stoute said: “He gave the 5lb away at Newmarket and he is really a model of consistency. It’s a very tight race but I think he’s in great shape. Newmarket intimated that he is as good as ever this year, so we go there hopeful.

“It’s a tough race, a little bit of luck in running here or there will make all the difference. A lot of them are rated very similarly.”

The Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes, part of the Qipco British Champions Series, will only be the second time Mustashry, winner of the Group 2 Park and Joel Stakes last year, has tackled a Group 1 race. In the first he finished 11th, but only four lengths behind stablemate Expert Eye, in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

“That was a non-event because he just missed the beat and then it was a crazy affair,” said Stoute.

It will be a big day at Newbury for the Stoute stable which will also saddle leading middle distance performer Crystal Ocean in the Group 3 Al Rayyan Stakes, Solid Stone in the Al Zubarah London Gold Cup and Queen Power in the Listed Haras de Bouquetot Fillies’ Trial.

The Sir Evelyn de Rothschild-owned Crystal Ocean comes to Newbury instead of next weekend’s Tattersalls Gold Cup seeking to follow up last year’s win in the race.

“I thought long and hard about the Tattersalls Gold Cup but I just wonder what the ground could be at the Curragh and Aidan [O’Brien] will be running that top filly of his [Magical] as well,” said Stoute.

“Sir Evelyn has been away for ages. He is just back in England. I think he’d prefer to see him at Newbury.”

Investec Oaks entry Queen Power, owned by King Power Racing and new to the Stoute stable this year, was beaten a short head on her debut for the yard at Ascot at the start of the month.

“We are learning about her,” the trainer said. “I didn’t have her last year. I thought she ran a very satisfactory race at Ascot and she’s progressed pleasingly since so I thought let’s go and have a dart and see where we stand.”

Sir Michael Stoute’s seven Al Shaqab Lockinge winners

Scottish Reel (1986), Safawan (1990), Soviet Line (1995), Soviet Line (1996), Medicean (2001), Russian Rhythm (2004), Peeress (2006)