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Varian to wait on ground at Ascot

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Roger Varian could have a two-pronged attack during Saturday’s Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, though that is very much ground dependent.

Newmarket Guineas Festival 2018.Newmarket 5 May 2018.Dunaden Jockey Club Stakes (Group 2).Roger Varian Andrea Atzeni.Picture Mark Westley. (2601623)
Newmarket Guineas Festival 2018.Newmarket 5 May 2018.Dunaden Jockey Club Stakes (Group 2).Roger Varian Andrea Atzeni.Picture Mark Westley. (2601623)

Barsanti – second in the Group 2 contest last year – and May’s Dunaden Jockey Club Stakes winner Defoe both hold entries for the one-mile three-furlong contest.

However, the duo, who are two of Varian’s leading lights at his Carlburg Stables base on Bury Road, has conceded that track conditions will play a major factor on whether or not they both run.

“Barsanti finished second in the race from a difficult draw last season and the course and distance suits him very well given he won the Listed Buckhounds Stakes here on his reappearance in May,” said Varian, who has saddled two previous winners at the festival.

“He loves fast ground and has been trained for the contest again, so I hope he can run another big race.

“Defoe has yet to race at Ascot and I suspect the course would play to his strengths, although he would not be certain to line up if the ground remains fast.

“He acquitted himself well on a firm surface in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, but he is definitely at his best with some juice underfoot and we might look to alternative options with him unless some rain materialises.”

Meanwhile, on Friday, Varian will be represented in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup by Laugh A Minute.

The three-year-old ended 2017 in fine style when winning the £300,000 Two-Year-Old Stakes at Doncaster, before Varian took the decision to drop him down to six furlongs this year.

Fourth and third-placed finishes have followed at Ascot and Hamilton respectively, but Varian believes the son of July Cup winner Mayson will cope well with the step up in quality.

“Laugh A Minute ran some good races in defeat over seven furlongs early in his career, the form of which has been handsomely franked on a number of occasions since, but he was not seeing out his races quite as strongly as I would have liked,” he added.

“However, he proved well suited by being ridden patiently off a generous gallop back over six and a half furlongs when winning the valuable sales race at Doncaster.

“That suggested, his primary asset was his cruising speed, so it made sense to test the waters sprinting as the early gallop is usually stronger over six than it is over seven furlongs.

“It is hard to be confident going into any race at Royal Ascot, but I think we will see a different horse when he gets a strong pace to chase and, given a number of the likely line-up are set to go forward, I do not think we will have any worries on that front.

“His homework has always been good and I rate him in high regard, so I hope he can translate this to the track when he gets his ideal conditions.”

There is likely to be plenty of other HQ-based horses in the race, including Invincible Army (James Tate), Raid (David Simcock), Emblazoned (John Gosden), Eqtidaar (Sir Michael Stoute) and Main Desire (Michael Bell).