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Royal Patronage handed 2000 Guineas assignment

Royal Patronage has been given the green light to have a crack at the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

An impressive winner of the Acomb Stakes at York last summer, the Mark and Charlie Johnston-trained colt went on to beat leading Guineas hope Coroebus in a thrilling Royal Lodge over the Rowley Mile.

The Wootton Bassett colt suffered injury when disappointing on his final juvenile start in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster, but having impressed in a racecourse gallop at Newmarket’s Craven meeting, connections have decided to roll the dice in the season’s first Classic on Saturday week.

Harry Herbert, chairman and managing director for owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, said: “After speaking with Mark and Charlie, we have decided to have a crack at the Guineas.

“He’s won a Group race over the Rowley Mile, so we know he acts on it very well, and he’s showing plenty of natural speed at home.

“He was working with some fast horses when he galloped at Newmarket the other day, albeit inferior rated horses, and he had absolutely no problem laying up with them having gone a decent clip.

“Touch wood he seems very well, there is only one Guineas and he has beaten the second-favourite, so we felt it would be madness not to throw one’s hat into the ring.”

Royal Patronage was widely expected to kick off his campaign in the Dante Stakes at York before a potential tilt at Derby glory in June.

And while he will instead return in the Guineas, a potential trip to Epsom remains on the radar.

Harry Herbert (right) has high hopes for Royal Patronage
Harry Herbert (right) has high hopes for Royal Patronage (Tim Goode/PA)

“We can use this as a Derby trial anyway, should that be the way he goes,” he added.

“If the Guineas trip turns out to be too short, the Derby would be one of his aims this year.

“But looking at his pedigree and the way he is at the moment, I think it’s absolutely right to let him take his chance at Newmarket.

“You can put a line through his Doncaster run as he was struck into and had a very nasty cut above his hock, so there was a very valid reason why he ran so far below par.

“He seems to have thrived through the winter and the stable is in great form as well, which obviously counts for a lot, so that’s where we head.”

The Highclere colours will also be carried in the Qipco 1000 Guineas by George Boughey’s Cachet, who booked her ticket with victory in the Nell Gwyn Stakes.

“I saw her this week and she is also in good form – George is very happy with her,” Herbert added.

“Having won the Nell Gwyn so well, she’ll line up in the 1000 Guineas and hopefully William Buick will ride her again.”

On having runners in the first two Classics of the year, he said: “It’s fantastic. It’s a big buzz, thrilling for the owners and everyone at Highclere – this is what we aspire to for our owners.

“We have a lovely group of horses for this year and hopefully we’ll have plenty of action and action in the right places.”

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