AUSTRALIA has been leading the way with sprinters at Royal Ascot ever since Choisir blew everyone away with his King’s Stand – Golden Jubilee double in 2003.
Redkirk Warrior is the latest Antipodean runner to head to Royal Ascot with dreams of glory, with connections hoping he can carry the now Diamond Jubilee Stakes back down under.
We spoke to Ben Hayes, assistant trainer to his father David Hayes, about the prospects of Redkirk Warrior landing the sprint prize on the final day of Royal Ascot.
How is Redkirk Warrior settling in after his extended journey across from Australia?
It took 36 hours and we had to land twice on the way but we’ve been really happy with him since he arrived in Britain. He’s settled in well and taken everything in his stride – he’s in good order.
Redkirk Warrior has actually won at Ascot before, in a 1m2f race for William Haggas. Is that a plus for him at all?
We think it’s an advantage that he has raced on the track before as we know he’s handles it. Whilst that was a long time ago, it’s good that he has a past experience of Ascot.
How long has it been the plan to come to Royal Ascot with Redkirk Warrior?
Coming to Royal Ascot with him has always been in the back of our minds, but not necessarily a plan. When he won in the Newmarket [Handicap, Group 1] off top-weight, the Diamond Jubilee became on option for us and one in which we could freshen him up and bring him over, so it appealed to us.
Redkirk Warrior has not raced since March. Is that a concern for you at all?
He is a horse who goes really well fresh and, looking at his record, he seems to relish slight gaps in between his races. He’s coming off two Group 1 wins and he’s excellent on straight courses. He has won four of his races on straight courses and he has great credentials for Ascot.
Redkirk Warrior has won both the Lightning Stakes and the Newmarket Handicap this year. How does that compare with previous Australian sprinters who have come across to Royal Ascot?
Most of the Australian sprinters who have come over here have won at least one of those races, so we know that the form stacks up and we hope he has a great chance in the Diamond Jubilee. Australian sprinters who have come to Ascot in the past have at the very least run competitively, so hopefully he handles everything on the day as he has the ability to win.
Merchant Navy was behind Redkirk Warrior in the Newmarket Handicap last time. How do you rate him as an opponent in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes?
Merchant Navy is a good horse, but we were giving him five and a half kilos when we beat him last time. We led that day and were on inferior ground, so we had factors which were against us too.
Did the fact Merchant Navy won on his first start for Aidan O’Brien give you a confidence boost that coming over to Britain is the right move for Redkirk Warrior?
Merchant Navy winning in Ireland gave us a lot of confidence. He’s a very good horse in Australia and for him to come over here on his first run and win giving weight away was impressive and gave our form a real boost.
Does that victory give you more of a chance to compare the Australian form with the European form?
You don’t usually have a form line to follow when you run in these big European races as it’s hard to compare the Australian and European form usually, but the fact that Merchant Navy has come over to Europe and already won gives the Newmarket win a strong form boost.
And, finally, do you think Redkirk Warrior can emulate the likes of Black Caviar and Choisir in winning the Diamond Jubilee Stakes?
I definitely think he has the credentials to win. If you win both a Newmarket and a Lightning, that is pretty good form which entitles you to have a really good chance at Ascot.