Lord North and Love, trained by champions John Gosden and Aidan O’Brien and to be ridden respectively by champions Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore, will be the headline skirmish for Wednesday’s (16 June) G1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes (1993m) on Day Two of Royal Ascot. Excellence at a G1 level unites them, but the similarities pretty well stop there making this clash all the more intriguing.
Dettori recalls the now five-year-old Lord North as a ‘real handful early in his career,’ whilst Gosden, who now trains in partnership with his son Thady, explains that gelding became a necessary operation when the son of Dubawi virtually destroyed the gate prior to an all-weather win at Newcastle back in 2019. Even now, Gosden worries about his pre-race attitude: "Let’s hope he behaves at the start this time. He can still be tricky and sometimes won’t listen to anyone."
A former handicapper, the elevation to Stakes company for Lord North was uncomplicated as he gained three straight wins, the third of which was a compelling victory in this historic G1 last year. His reputation soared further when he comfortably saw off an international field to win the G1 Dubai Turf (1800m) on Dubai World Cup night at Meydan on 27 March.
A big horse and hard to get fit according to stable reports which is one of the contrasts with Love, a four-year-old daughter of the brilliant sire, Galileo. "She is easy to get fit, easy to train," O’Brien said. But unlike Lord North, now an old hand at this Berkshire track about to have his fifth career start here, Love will be visiting this iconic racecourse for the first time.
Love raced just three times last year but what performances they were, leaving her rivals gasping in each of those G1 races, first in the 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Newmarket, then the Oaks at Epsom (2405m), supplementing those two Classic wins with a victory in the Yorkshire Oaks (2371m) at York, combining her total winning margins to be in excess 18 lengths.
Subsequently hard trained in the direction of the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m), only for a straightforward surface-based decision to bypass Europe’s premier race for this beautifully moving good ground filly. Ultimately Longchamp hosted the deepest Arc ground in recent times, destroying many dreams notably that of the Gosden-trained superstar mare Enable, who finished sixth.
Gosden is fully respectful of last year’s supreme three-year-old filly describing Love as ‘exceptional’ though he and other supporters of the older gelding point out that she only encountered her own sex through 2020. Whilst another edge to this encounter are the tactical implications and with no obvious speed in the race, O’Brien may also direct Armory, a fluent winner of last month’s G2 Huxley Stakes (2064m) to the front.
At this stage warm and sunny weather suggests that the ground for the Wednesday of Royal Ascot may be on the fast side of good.