17 - 21 June 2014

Soft Falling Rain (SAF) (National Assembly) and Shea Shea (SAF) (National Emblem) will represent South Africa on Tuesday, 17 June, the opening day of this year’s Royal Ascot, UK. Mike de Kock will be hoping for a Group 1 double from his stable stars in the Queen Anne Stakes and the King’s Stand Stakes.

Soft Falling Rain runs in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes over the straight mile in the first race of the meeting and is looking to banish memories of his last visit to Ascot back in 2013. On that occasion, on QIPCO British Champions Day, he was only able to finish 11th out of 12 in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes behind Olympic Glory (IRE) (Choisir).

That was his third run in Britain last season and it followed victory in the Group 2 Nayef Joel Stakes at Newmarket. He was also victorious three times in a row at the 2013 Dubai World Cup Carnival, including in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile on World Cup Night.

Since defeat on British Champions Day though, Sheikh Hamdan’s charge hasn’t quite matched his form of 2013, with his two runs at the 2014 Dubai Carnival both resulting in defeat. However his run last time out, when runner-up in the Godolphin Mile on the World Cup card, has worked out well, with the winner Variety Club (SAF) (Var) going onto Group 1 glory at Sha Tin in the Group 1 Champions Mile.

If able to build upon that performance, and if the ground at Ascot remains on the quick side, then Soft Falling Rain with Paul Hanagan aboard is sure to have a chance of winning his second Group 1 and reversing last season’s form with Olympic Glory.

Sole Power (Ire) (Kyllachy) and Shea Shea, separated by a neck in that order in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes 12 months ago, will face off once again in that contest next Tuesday.

The 7-year-old Sole Power prepared for this with a win in the Group 3 Palace House Stakes at Newmarket May 3, but he faces a formidable foe in Shea Shea, who has finished ahead of Sole Power six times since last March. The only time Sole Power has bested Shea Shea was in the King’s Stand. Shea Shea won the Group 3 Meydan Sprint March 8, with Sole Power back in fourth, and finished third when last seen in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint March 29. Sole Power was seventh.

Sole Power was ridden to victory by Johnny Murtagh 12 months ago, but with that champion jockey now retired from the saddle to focus on training, Ryan Moore take the reins.

“Johnny was brilliant on him last year as we know and Ryan is a good jockey and gets on well with him too,” trainer Eddie Lynam told PA Sport. “I believe they are starting to water Ascot, which is a worry for Sole Power. The rain hasn’t stopped for 48 hours and they are out with the sprinklers. He’s in good form and takes his chance.”

There were 23 left in the race at yesterday’s declaration stage, including last year’s third place finisher Pearl Secret (GB) (Compton Place), and Godolphin’s Ahtoug (GB) (Byron), who split Shea Shea and the victorious Amber Sky (Aus) (Exceed and Excel) when second in the Al Quoz Sprint.

Extracts from GBI Racing/Thoroughbred Daily News