This could well be the biggest weekend of trainer Ed Walker’s career.
On Saturday, the impressive Listed winner Royal Intervention contests the Keeneland Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot with a leading chance, while on Sunday stable flagbearer Stormy Antarctic bids for a breakthrough at Group 1 level in Germany.
We spoke to Walker about his weekend runners and also got his thoughts on the King George.
Royal Intervention broke her maiden in a Listed race last time. Has she always been a filly you have had high hopes for?
We hoped she would win on debut and we could go to Royal Ascot with her. I think it was actually a blessing she didn’t do that and we were able to miss the meeting, as we felt Newmarket would actually be a better stepping stone for her. She couldn’t have been more impressive. We hold her in pretty high regard at home.
Royal Intervention steps up in grade again on Saturday and is likely to be favourite. How do you think she will get on?
I’d have been surprised if she wasn’t favourite, to be fair. She won a Listed race by four-and-a-half lengths going away. People have knocked the strength of her two performances and I think she could have been very competitive if she’d have run in the Albany [at Royal Ascot]. If she runs to the level of her Newmarket performance again it’ll take a very good one to beat her. We’re pretty hopeful about her chances.
You run two in the Gigaset International Handicap. Starting with Sabador, how are things with him?
Sabador has a great chance. I rushed him back after a really good run in the Victoria Cup as I wanted to try and get him high enough in the handicap to run in the Royal Hunt Cup. In hindsight that was a mistake and ever since then we’ve freshened him up and had this race as his aim. He’s a big price and I fancy him to run a big race.
And how about your other runner Ultimate Avenue. Can he step up on his recent form?
He’s an exceptionally talented horse and I’ve always fancied him to run and big race, and he’s always let me down! He’s seriously talented and one day he’ll put it all together and win one of these big races.
Glorious Lover contests the Pat Eddery Stakes at Ascot. How do you rate his prospects?
It was a red-hot race he ran in first time and the form of that has worked out extremely well. I brought him back in trip at Windsor last time and he was nearly caught out. Stepping up to seven furlongs on a stiff track in a better race will really suit him. It’s a big ask and I’d be absolutely delighted if he was in the first three. He’s potentially a smart horse.
You have a link with a number of leading owners based in Hong Kong and the Far East. Is it fair to say their influence is growing in Britain and Ireland?
Big time. The Hong Kong interest in British racing has grown significantly over the past few years and I think it’s going to continue to do so. In a way it’s a little worrying because if China legalises gambling and racecourses open there then we won’t be able to compete with their spending power and ambition. I’ve got a couple of clients from the Far East who I’ve trained for for a while and they’re great to deal with. They want horses that are able to qualify for Hong Kong and Glorious Lover could be a horse like that if he steps up like we feel he can.
On Sunday, Stormy Antarctic contests the Group 1 Grosser Dallmayr Preis at Munich. What has it been like to be associated with such a talented horse?
He’s a proper legend in our stable. He’s such a character and such a lovely horse to have around. You always look at trainers who have these flagbearers that come back year after year with a touch of envy, so we’ve been fortunate that he’s done that for us.
And do you think he can finally make the breakthrough at the top level this weekend?
He’s just shy of top class but he is very good – and he deserves to win a Group 1. He’s won Listed races, Group 3s, Group 2s and been placed in Group 1s. He can do it and hopefully he can do that on Sunday. It looks a really good opportunity for him and we know he’ll be giving his all as he always does.
We cannot let you go without getting your opinion on the Qipco King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Who do you think will win?
One of Sir Michael Stoute’s horses!
And, finally, how are things with your impressive Royal Ascot winner Agrotera?
She was due to run in the Valiant Stakes at Sandown on Friday and I was a little gutted she didn’t run as it wasn’t the strongest Listed race in the world. We gave her a break after Royal Ascot and probably backed off her a little too much as her last couple of pieces of work weren’t as good as they can be. We’re going to wait for a Listed race at Haydock in the middle of August, and think she’s going to be better next year anyway.