Mother Earth and Empress Josephine give O’Brien strong Coronation hand
Mother Earth was ridden by Frankie Dettori to victory at Newmarket, where Ryan Moore preferred Santa Barbara, and she subsequently went on to finish second in the French equivalent.
Empress Josephine, meanwhile, caused something of a surprise in the Irish Guineas and has been supplemented for this latest Group One assignment.
“Mother Earth is very well. We were happy with her in the Guineas (at Newmarket) and at Longchamp. We thought this race was really going to suit her,” said O’Brien.
“She’s versatile enough – fast ground or easy ground (won’t bother her).
“Empress Josephine won her maiden very well, then disappointed next time on fast ground over seven furlongs in Leopardstown – but we think it was the pace. It was too strong and she got caught in the middle of it.
“We think that was the reason. She handled very soft ground at the Curragh, but we are going to know a lot more (after this). She’s in good form and I’m looking forward to seeing her run.”
It could perhaps been seen as a tip in itself that Sir Michael Stoute has decided to run Potapova after just two wins at Chelsmford and Redcar – but she is certainly bred for the job hailing as she does from a famous Cheveley Park Stud family.
“Sir Michael has always believed she is hugely talented. I know she has only run twice, but she has impressed on both occasions,” said Cheveley’s managing director Chris Richardson.
“I think it was a 50-50 call. It’s a tall order putting her in against such proven opposition, but she has been working nicely and he felt she deserved to take her chance.
“She’s in good form and she shouldn’t mind the ground if we get the rain that is forecast.
“She’s from a family we know well, Russian Rhythm (grand-dam) won several Group Ones and Safina (dam) was placed in the Sandringham at Royal Ascot for us.
“This is the last chance to run her just against three-year-olds and she was never going to be ready in time for a Guineas.”
Ed Walker is hoping Primo Bacio can prove herself adept at a “different game” as she takes on the best of her generation.
A revelation so far this season, outrunning odds of 100-1 to be a close fourth behind the reopposing Alcohol Free in the Fred Darling Stakes, before easily putting more fancied rivals in the shade as an impressive Listed winner at York last month.
Walker is under no illusions this represents a different task, though.
“She has improved a ton from two to three, and her work all spring has been of a high quality,” said the Lambourn trainer.
“I’m not talking down the field at York – but this is a different game, a different track and a different test of stamina.
“It was an eyecatching performance – she sat last and quickened by them as if they were all ordinary and scooted clear. She wasn’t stopping, and Andrea (Atzeni) struggled to pull her up.”
Ascot will probably be a different tempo, and certainly a different test of stamina, but she certainly wasn't stopping at York
Walker, who is targeting a leg of the Qipco British Champions Series, credits a new found maturity for her improvement.
“She’s really grown up and is much more relaxed,” he said.
“At Newbury she was very fresh, and the red hood (worn until discarded at the star) helped at York – she chilled really well.
“She has a high head carriage until she is quickening – which probably makes it look worse than it is.
“Ascot will probably be a different tempo, and certainly a different test of stamina, but she certainly wasn’t stopping at York. It will also be a different test of opposition.”
Richard Hannon’s Snow Lantern has already come up unexpectedly short once against Primo Bacio – but both her jockey Sean Levey, and her trainer, have seen the potential as she seeks to emulate her dam Sky Lantern as a Coronation Stakes winner.
Levey has already won a Newbury maiden impressively on Snow Lantern, and rode her mother on the Marlborough gallops when she was in her racing prime several years ago.
“I rode Sky Lantern at home when she was around,” he said.
“Snow Lantern is a lot more forward-going, being by Frankel. Her mother was the other way around – she was inclined not to light up the gallops, whereas this filly is not shy of putting her best foot forward.
“I think me and Richard both stand together as far as thinking she’s a very good filly.”
Hannon tells the same tale, from what he has seen at home.
At York she just didn’t settle and she did everything wrong
“It would sound arrogant to say that I doubt she’ll get beat because she’s not good enough – but if she does everything right she’s an extremely good filly,” he said.
“At York she just didn’t settle and she did everything wrong. Sean said that when she took hold of the bridle after just a furlong and a half she held her breath.
“She didn’t breathe properly through the race, and that’s why she finished so tired. But she’s done everything right at home, and also when we took her to Newbury last week for a gallop down the back straight with Mums Tipple and Ouzo.”
Andrew Balding’s 2020 Cheveley Park Stakes heroine Alcohol Free followed her successful Fred Darling return by finishing only fifth behind Mother Earth back at Newmarket for the 1000 Guineas.
Her trainer Andrew Balding said: “I think and hope that she’s better than her Guineas run.
“Things didn’t pan out for her there – she was drawn on a wing slightly and gave away a couple of lengths by lugging into space. She’s better than that.”