Verse and Spear take centre stage

Two of Qatar Racing’s flagship horses, Simple Verse and Lightning Spear, return in big races at York and Newbury in the coming days.

First up is the dual Gr. 1 winner Simple Verse who lines up in the Gr. 2 Betway Yorkshire Cup over almost a mile and three quarters at York on Friday.

Simple Verse is unexposed over staying distances as her four runs over further than a mile and a half have yielded wins in each of the Lillie Gr. 3 Langtry Stakes, Gr .1 St Leger and Gr. 2 Park Hill Stakes, as well as a good length third behind Sheikhzayedroad and Quest For More in the Gr. 2 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup last November.

Soft ground will be new for the Ralph Beckett-trained Simple Verse, but her two Gr. 1 wins came on rain-softened going so we’re very hopeful she’ll handle conditions on the Knavesmire. Also making their reappearances in the race are Darrtmouth and Endless Time, both runner-up in Gr. 1s on their final starts in 2016.

Lightning Spear will line up against nine rivals in the Gr. 1 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes over a mile at Newbury on Saturday.

Like Simple Verse, Lightning Spear was third on Champions Day at Ascot when last seen, coming from near last when behind Minding and Ribchester in the Gr. 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Sponsored by QIPCO). He also went into his race there on the back of a success, smoothly beating four rivals – including the Gr. 1 winner Toormore – in the Gr. 2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood seven weeks previously.

Ground that is currently good to soft, soft in places at Newbury is a slight concern for the David Simcock-trained Lightning Spear as his very best form – on his final two outings last year - has come on good to firm, though he was also third in the 2016 Gr. 1 Queen Anne Stakes on good to soft and is by Pivotal.

Providing all goes well at York and Newbury, Simple Verse and Lighting Spear could line up at Royal Ascot for their next starts, with the former having the Gr. 1 Gold Cup on her agenda and the latter having a repeat bid in the Gr. 1 Queen Anne Stakes (third in the race on his return last year) as a natural next target.

There are a number of other Qatar Racing-owned horses in action over the weekend, including Simple Verse's consistent stalemate Chemical Charge who goes in the Gr. 3 Al Rayyan Stakes (Aston Park), also at Newbury on Saturday. Chemical Charge produced just about a career-best effort when a neck second to Muntahaa (who Chemical Charge had beaten at Doncaster on his previous start) in the Gr. 3 John Porter Stakes over this C&D last time and promises to run another big race.