Nicholls getting into the Royal Ascot Spirit at Naas on Sunday
Tees Spirit, Arecibo and Ziggy's Dream will add British representation to the much renowned Royal Ascot Trials Day at Naas this Sunday.
The Adrian Nicholls-trained Tees Spirit may evoke memories of Nicholls-trained sprinters winning at Naas as Adrian was once a regular at the Kildare venue as a jockey when riding winners for his father Dandy Nicholls, who often targeted Naas with his speedsters.
A field of 10 will go to post for the Sole Power Sprint Stakes which is just one of many fascinating races on the card.
Tees Spirit will renew rivalry with the Ken Condon-trained Moss Tucker with the British-raider just getting the better of Condon’s charge at Tipperary last season.
Newmarket trainer Robert Cowell has booked champion jockey Colin Keane for Arecibo, while the depth of the field is highlighted with Castle Star, Ladies Church and Mooneista all rated north of 100.
“I’m really happy with Tees Spirit and where his work is at,” Nicholls said. “We were ready to run him in the Palace House Stakes but the ground went for him and we said we’d wait for Naas. He also had an option in France but the ground at Naas was key to us going over there.
“His work has been very good and he is going to have some big targets this season so this is a perfect starting point for him.”
Nicholls added: “There is a number of the runners who will be set to take each other on in Group races later on the in year so it looks a really good renewal. Moss Tucker was very impressive on heavier ground last time out and you’d have to be fearful of Ladies Church and two or three others.
“Tees Spirit has a penalty for Tipperary last year but I wouldn’t swap him.”
Nicholls has fond memories of the track with his late father who was a specialist with sprinters.
“Naas was good to me when I was riding and it felt like Dandy was bringing us over every second weekend! We had some great days with the likes of Tax Free and Inxile and Irish tracks look after us really well so we really enjoy coming over.”
Course and distance winner Ribchestina will return to Naas with new connections Paddy Twomey and owners Team Valor International having won last month in good style for Sheila Lavery.
Ribchestina is one of four previous winners in the Group 3 Coolmore Stud EBF Fillies Sprint Stakes with Ziggy’s Dream declared for Newmarket-based trainer Alice Haynes.
The juvenile contest produced a Royal Ascot winner last year as Meditate went on to win the Group 3 Albany Stakes and as well as four previous winners lining up, there is further intrigue with Ger Lyons and Michael O’Callaghan both introducing newcomers in Jakku and Navassa Island.
A dozen runners will face the starter for the Owenstown Stud Stakes which looks a particularly strong edition.
The Ger Lyons-trained Mutasarref was a course and distance winner while racking up a hat-trick last season, while the Joseph Murphy-trained Lord Massusus and the Joseph O’Brien-trained Yerwanthere are both looking to complete a hat-trick this weekend. The Sheila Lavery-trained 2,000 Guineas runner-up, New Energy, is another major player in the seven-furlong contest.
Course and distance winner The Antarctic heads a field of 15 for the Group 3 Goffs Lacken Stakes with Ryan Moore onboard. Johnny Murtagh’s Group 2 winner Shartash and recent Navan winner Ocean Quest are also among the declarations.
The Antarctic won the opening Coolmore Stud Calyx Race last year and his trainer Aidan O’Brien is doubly represented in that race Sunday with Curragh maiden winner Democracy and Navan winner River Tiber looking to book their trip to Royal Ascot.
As well as providing Royal Ascot clues on the track, there will be a Royal Ascot vibe off the track at Naas this Sunday with cocktail bars and food inspired by Royal Ascot as well as live music by the Rolling Tones Vinly Van.
Admission and hospitality packages are available at naasracecourse.com while for those who can’t attend the stellar card will also be live on RTÉ television