AS THE races start on day one of Royal Ascot 2023 today, a famous British bloodstock agent who advises leading horse-racing enthusiasts in the kingdom, will be hoping to emulate, if not improve upon, his successes in last year’s edition when three of the horses he bought were winners and two finished as runners-up.
Oliver Gaisford-St Lawrence, a bloodstock agent since 1991 and chairman of the Federation of Bloodstock Agents (GB) for the past six years, will watch Army Ethos and Watch My Tracer, two horses he bought for Bahrain-based Victorious Racing, try to replicate the success of the team’s previous Royal Ascot winners, Bradsell, last year, and Daahyeh in 2019.
Victorious Racing comes under the wing of His Majesty King Hamad’s representative for humanitarian work and youth affairs Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
Another purchase by St Lawrence for Bahraini connections is the KHK Racing-owned St Leger hero, the four-year-old Eldar Eldarov, who will run in the Gold Cup after finishing second in the Yorkshire Cup earlier this year. He won the Group 2 Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot last year by the smallest of margins in a thrilling dash for the line.
The driving force behind KHK Racing is Supreme Council for Youth and Sports (SCYS) first deputy chairman, General Sports Authority (GSA) chairman and Bahrain Olympic Committee (BOC) president Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
“Last year’s Royal Ascot was stressful, but then having Bradsell win the Coventry took away a lot of it,” St Lawrence told Great British Racing International.
“It was an amazing week. Everything, on the whole, went right. It’s going to be a tough week to follow. Hopefully, we can produce one winner for the team.
“We have a couple of two-year-olds in the Coventry – Army Ethos, trained by Archie Watson, and Watch My Tracer, trained by George Scott. Both have a chance. It’s such an unknown, both of them have just won maidens. I think Army Ethos is probably more fancied, Archie’s quite high on the horse, so we’ll see where we are.”
This year, Bradsell, the Coventry winner over six furlongs from last year, would compete in the King’s Stand Stakes, a five-furlong race on the flat, St Lawrence added.
“Shaikh Nasser has decided to supplement Bradsell for the King’s Stand, as we think it will suit him,” he explained. “Hollie Doyle and Archie haven’t really felt he’s stayed this year.
“Having won the Coventry last year, we had thought he was a solid six-furlong horse, but we are now thinking this fast pace will really suit him.”
St Lawrence added that Eldar Eldarov, the KHK-racing-owned four-year-old, was going to be a strong contender in his race.
“Eldar Eldarov is well,” he said. “Roger (Varian – the trainer for both Victorious Racing and KHK Racing) is less worried than me. I wouldn’t want to see the ground get too firm for him. I know he won last year on good-to-firm, but I think that was his class showing, more than his liking for it.
“But he’s going very well. He ran a great race up in York, giving weight away and was only just beaten. We don’t have too many doubts about him staying 2½ miles; it’s obviously the first time he’ll have done that, but we don’t have too many doubts. I think he’s a strong contender.”
Meanwhile, a three-year-old colt called Sakheer, owned by KHK Racing, will run in the Commonwealth Cup, a Group 1 six-furlong race over the flat at Ascot, seeking to recapture the form that saw him win the Group Two Mill Reef stakes last autumn.
The horse suffered a setback last May in the 2000 Guineas Stakes when, following heavy rain, he was unable to put on a strong showing on the soft ground.
“Shaikh Khalid very sportingly wanted to run Sakheer in the 2,000 Guineas, but when the rain started falling, Roger and the team were less keen,” St Lawrence said. “It was disappointing we didn’t really get to see whether he stayed a mile on a good surface, but the obvious thing was to drop him back to six furlongs in the Commonwealth Cup.
“He’s been working very well. Little Big Bear looks a strong horse, but, hopefully, Sakheer can give him a run for his money.”
St Lawrence also buys for other Bahraini owners, including Fawzi Nass for whom he manages Aislabie Stud in Stetchworth, near Newmarket.
Nass, one of the most prominent owners/trainers in Bahrain, also co-owns some of the horses in the Victorious Racing stable.
“We’ve been blessed to have some nice horses for the owners,” St Lawrence said. “It has really encouraged them. Between the Bahrainis, there must be around 100 horses in training in Britain, which is not an insignificant number.
“They want to be involved in the big meetings, like Royal Ascot and such. It’s the prestige of it, and it’s the centre of European racing. Yes, we’ve got the horses in a few other jurisdictions, but the concentration is here in England.
“Royal Ascot is pivotal. Everyone is aiming at it. It’s what every owner wants, to have a fancied runner at Ascot. You only have to look at the amount of people who buy into horses to have runners at Royal Ascot. It’s where everyone wants to have a runner. Long may that last.”