David Morgan

Chief Journalist


‘Edgy’ is just how Shahryar rolls

Japan’s big-name Royal Ascot raider will need to keep his cool if he is to achieve a historic ‘first’ at the Royal Meeting.

Shahryar’s connections are confident their star will have the strength of mind to match his athletic prowess when he arrives at the Royal Ascot cauldron on Wednesday for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.

Last year’s Tokyo Yushun hero – owned by the Northern Farm affiliated Sunday Racing club – enhanced his international reputation and secured this Ascot trip with victory in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March, despite having expended a good deal of nervous energy pre-race.

“Dubai was just the trial. Every horse that goes abroad, it is new for them and they can get tense,” Northern Farm manager Yasuhiro Matsumoto told Asian Racing Report

Plenty of big-name raiders from overseas have raced tamely after they became stewed up or lost the plot at Ascot. Hong Kong’s Able Friend was one, America’s Animal Kingdom another, and Japan’s all-or-nothing front-runner A Shin Hikari was fizzing before the 2016 Prince of Wales’s Stakes, went too hard and faded to last.  

Shahryar was on his toes, jig-jogging and sweating, in the several minutes before he was loaded into the gate for the Dubai Sheema Classic. But he still had enough energy in reserve to hold off Godolphin’s Yibir by a neck in a tightly-packed finish.

“If he hadn’t lost that amount of energy before the race he might have won by more, I think,” Matsumoto said.

But, unlike Meydan, where the mile and a half starting point is right in the front of the huge grandstand, Ascot’s 2000-metre start is over the back of the track, away from the noise and buzz of the crowd.

“I think he might get edgy at Ascot but he will have learned from the Dubai experience,” Matsumoto continued. “And, being edgy has pros and cons, a horse can use up too much energy before the race but on the other side, it can be a sign that the horse has that power and is ready to go. I think he will be fine.”


Japanese horse Shahryar at Roger Varian's Carlburg yard (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Having passed the lucrative test run in the desert, Shahryar will aim to earn the regal prestige of bagging Japan’s first Royal Ascot victory. Eight horses have tried previously, going back to Grand Prix Boss, who was eighth behind Frankel in the 2011 St James’s Palace Stakes. No Japanese horse has placed better than sixth.

Shahryar will be ridden by Cristian Demuro – as in Dubai – and faces a small field of only four opponents. Chief among those is Bay Bridge, seemingly a typical late-developer from the Sir Michael Stoute yard. The four-year-old stepped into Pattern grade for the first time in the Group Three Brigadier Gerard Stakes last start and won by five lengths, which took his winning streak to five in a row.

Also in the line-up is the race’s 2020 winner Lord North, Cox Plate victor State Of Rest, and the top-class French mare Grand Glory.

But the Group One credentials Shahryar boasts are particularly impressive and also include running third in the Japan Cup behind Contrail last season.

Matsumoto hinted that a return to the Japan Cup could be on the cards but that any final decision about whether or not Shahryar will target the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe would be taken after Wednesday, after considering the best ‘rotation’ for the horse.

“If the result of this race is good, we will consider maybe the Arc, but the Japan Cup has such big prize money, so perhaps he will go back to Japan and not to France,” he added.



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