2023 Nunthorpe Stakes: Star sprinters set to challenge Princess
Defending champion Highfield Princess faces a stern examination in the 2023 Nunthorpe Stakes as she attempts to join the list of repeat winners of the race at York on Friday.
John Quinn’s stable star appears to be peaking at the right moment and is Coral’s 6/4 favourite as she bids to replicate the brilliant performance she produced on the Knavesmire 12 months ago.
That victory came in the middle of a fantastic late-summer Group One hat-trick as she shot to the summit of the sprinting top flight and having notched up a welcome first success of the campaign at Goodwood earlier this month, the Highfield Princess team are now ready to play their part in what is a fascinating renewal stacked with talent.
Quinn said: “We’re happy with her, it’s lovely ground and we’re drawn six of 16, which is fine.
“It’s a spicy race. I think the horse that beat her at Ascot (Bradsell) commands plenty of respect, as does the two-year-old (Big Evs) and there’s a couple of other horses there who, if they bounce back to their best, would have a chance.”
Highfield Princess will have to turn the tables with Royal Ascot conquerors Bradsell and Khaadem, who had her measure in the King’s Stand and Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes respectively, to prove victorious.
When asked if he felt she will need to be better than she was 12 months ago to successfully defend her crown, Quinn added: “She might do. We’re taking on a two-year-old and a three-year-old, both Royal Ascot winners.
“When a three-year-old wins a King’s Stand you have to sit up and take notice and the two-year-old is a Royal Ascot winner and a Goodwood winner and looks really tough, hardy and mature, so they are two and something else could pop up who at their best could be in the mix.
“Goodwood was very good, so we’re hopeful anyway. She’s done so much and people expect plenty from her, but she seems in good nick and she loves this place, which is all you can ask.”
Archie Watson’s Bradsell is second in the Nunthorpe Stakes betting at 4/1 and has not been seen since downing Highfield Princess in the King’s Stand in June (pictured below), but having proven he has the speed to be a force at the minimum distance, big-race pilot Hollie Doyle is hopeful of recording her first victory in the race following her second aboard The Platinum Queen 12 months ago.
She said ahead of the Qipco British Champions Series event: “Bradsell is a really good horse and has the heart of a lion. I thought it was a great performance back down to five furlongs in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot. He beat a real sprinting star in Highfield Princess, and the pair of us were clear.
“We thought he might not have as much early speed as the Australian sprinters, but he showed more speed than ever before and really thrived down in trip. He’s our flagbearer at Archie’s and it’s great to be going to the Nunthorpe with a live chance again.”
Frankie Dettori will partner King’s Stand fourth Twilight Calls in his final Nunthorpe Stakes as Henry Candy’s five-year-old attempts to follow in the footsteps of his grandsire Kyllachy by winning this contest, while out of luck in that Ascot contest was Dramatised, who finished down the field.
Connections felt the draw and conditions were completely against Karl Burke’s filly on that occasion and having dazzled at home in the interim, are excited to see where she places in the sprinting pecking order.
“It was a non-event at Ascot, we thought we were drawn on the wrong side,” said Joe Foley, racing manager for owners Clipper Logistics.
“Danny (Tudhope) came in and said he looked up two furlongs out and they were a long, long way behind. She was just on the wrong side and also the ground was quite dead on the first day of Ascot and she needs fast ground, hence we missed the King George at Goodwood.
“We’ve had a bit of a frustrating summer waiting for fast ground for her, but it looks like we’re going to get it Friday. She has been working very, very well, so it’ll be interesting to see where she stands with the proper Group One sprinters now that she is a mature three-year-old and is getting her ground.
“It will be interesting to watch and we’re looking forward to seeing her run.”
It cost £40,000 to supplement Big Evs into the line-up and now the Royal Ascot and Qatar Goodwood Festival scorer will not only try to hand trainer Mick Appleby a first Group One triumph, but become the first two-year-old winner since Kingsgate Native in 2007.
“It’s good to be going to the Nunthorpe with a horse with a live chance and hopefully he will run well,” said the handler.
“He’s come out of Goodwood really well and we’ve got a good draw as well between two of the favourites. All being well he will run a big race.
“He will be one of my best, he will be up there with all the good ones I’ve had – Danzeno, Caspian Prince and I’m not sure of a better two-year-old we’ve had.
“It would mean a lot to have a Group One winner. It’s what every trainer tries to get and not a lot of trainers ever actually do get one. So it would be nice if we could win one. Hopefully he runs really well and comes back safe and sound.”
Another handler who could enjoy their finest hour is Ed Bethell who gives his course-and-distance winner Regional a first taste of Group One action in search of a hat-trick.
Bethell said: “I’m really happy with him. I would have loved to have got a run into him, but the ground went against him and he wants fast ground. Hopefully it looks like he will get that this week.
“I’ve been really happy with in the interim period, we know he goes really well fresh and I’m looking forward to a big run.
“He’s got a good draw right in the middle which means we can go whichever way we want. We’re drawn next to Highfield Princess and Big Evs and near Bradsell, while Live In The Dream is not far away, so there is a lot of speed in and around us which can only benefit us. We’re really looking forward to it and it’s exciting.”
Charlie Hills knows all about Nunthorpe Stakes winners having saddled the imperious Battaash to do the double in 2019 and 2020 and he now launches a two-pronged assault on the five-furlong shootout with shock Jubilee Stakes hero Khaadem and stablemate Equality.
“Khaadem is a horse that’s got form over five furlongs and was fourth in this last season,” said Hills. “He’s been in very good form this year and if he can reproduce that he should be going close as well.
“Equality was just drawn a little bit out of it at Goodwood I thought, and he struck into himself as well. It’s going to be competitive, but if he runs like he did at Sandown, he’ll have a good chance of being close.”
2023 Nunthorpe Stakes betting odds
6/4 Highfield Princess
7/1 Big Evs
16/1 Twilight Calls
All odds and market correct at date of publication