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Al Aasy handed Buckhounds assignment on return

Al Aasy will look to rediscover his form in the Listed Carey Group Buckhounds Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

The Shadwell-owned, William Haggas-trained son of Sea The Stars enjoyed a fantastic start to the season last year, winning both the John Porter and the Aston Park at Newbury before being beaten by just a neck in the Coronation Cup and the Princess of Wales’s Stakes.

He was subsequently gelded and then seemed to deteriorate rather than improve, finishing fourth of five in the Legacy Cup and then eighth of nine in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot in October.

This weekend will be Al Aasy’s first outing since the latter run and connections are hoping he can produce the form he has previously shown.

Angus Gold, racing manager to Shadwell, said: “They’ve been happy with him but obviously he lost his way towards the end of last year, so we just need to get him back.

Al Aasy coming home to win the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes at Newbury
Al Aasy coming home to win the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes at Newbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s had a nice break and we need to get him back on track, we gelded him last year and it seemed to knock the stuffing out of him.

“We gave him a long time off and hopefully he’ll come back to what he was, he needs to go and show us now, so we’ll see. We will find out if he’s still in love with the game or not.”

On ratings Al Aasy may comfortably be the most highly-regarded horse in the race, but Gold is mindful he will also need to demonstrate he still retains his will to win.

He said: “He lost his way at the end of last year and this is a recovery mission, he may be best in on ratings but he has to come out and do it.”

Al Aasy in action at Newmarket
Al Aasy in action at Newmarket (George Selwyn/PA)

John and Thady Gosden’s Stowell, last seen finishing third in the John Porter, and the Roger Varian-trained Third Realm, winner of last year’s Lingfield Derby Trial, are other key players.

On the same card is the valuable tote Victoria Cup, a seven-furlong handicap worth over £50,000 to the winner.

The market is headed at present by Charlie Hills’ Dark Shift, a four-year-old Dark Angel colt who has shown a notable aptitude for the Ascot track in the past.

Dark Shift after winning The Racing To School Classified Stakes at Ascot
Dark Shift after winning The Racing To School Classified Stakes at Ascot (Steven Paston/PA)

An Ascot winner on his racecourse debut in 2020, the grey also ended last season with back-to-back successes at the same venue.

“He loves Ascot so it’s always been the plan to bring him here first time out,” Hills said.

“We’re really happy with him, it’s obviously a very competitive race and it’s not going to be easy. We’ll be hoping for a bit of luck and he should go well.”

Dark Shift is one of 28 horses due to line up for the race, with James Fanshawe’s Fresh and the Gosdens’ Magical Morning both well-fancied, while Clive Cox’s River Nymph will try to retain his title.

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