sport

Bill seeks International win

View from connections ahead of Saturday's Longines International Stakes at Ascot.

George Baker is praying for that all-important piece of luck as Belgian Bill goes in search of second major handicap success at Ascot on Saturday.

The Manton trainer's stable stalwart gave Baker an unforgettable first triumph at the Royal meeting in the Hunt Cup last year, but things did not go his way when he went for a repeat last month.

Yet despite being denied a clear run, Belgian Bill was only beaten four lengths in seventh place behind Field Of Dream.

Heartened by that effort, Baker believes Belgian Bill has plenty going for him in the Longines International Stakes.

Proven on fast ground, the six-year-old has a favoured stands side draw in stall 29 and will be ridden by the in-form Ryan Moore.

"Belgian Bill didn't have much luck at Royal Ascot. Let's hope we get a bit of pay back tomorrow," said Baker.

"We're drawn high, so we know which side we're coming up. Let's hope the traffic lights work in our favour.

"We've got a man aboard who's on the top of his game and a horse who showed in the Hunt Cup the fire is still very much in the belly. We go there with him in good form and full of hope.

"Everyone will say the same thing, you need a lot of luck in these handicaps. We didn't get it the other day. Maybe it's our turn tomorrow. That would be lovely."

Hunt Cup hero Field Of Dream will be opposition with his trainer Jamie Osborne optimistic of another big run.

"Clearly he's going to need a career-best to win, but who is to say he's not capable of that," said the Lambourn handler.

"Who knows if he'd have won the Hunt Cup with another 6lb? I don't know, he might have done.

"With him it is not really a case of weights and measures, although it is to some degree otherwise the handicaps would be pointless, but what I mean is there are other factors that tend to affect him more, like the ground, the pace of the race and where he is drawn.

"He needs a strong pace to run at, he needs to get the splits at the right times and a lot of luck. The bits I am in control of I couldn't be happier with."

Horsted Keynes looked a shade unlucky when second to Louis The Pious in the Buckingham Palace Handicap over the course and distance at the fixture and has been a major fancy for this race from the start.

"Hopefully he goes there with a big chance. He's in good shape and the ground should suit him well," said trainer Roger Varian.

"At the Royal meeting he was drawn high and ran very well. He's drawn in stall 25 on Saturday, so hopefully that will prove a good draw and we will see what happens."

Gabriel's Lad had Belgian bill back in third place when lifting the Victoria Cup over this seven furlongs in May but floundered on the rain-hit ground at Newmarket when well-beaten in the Criterion Stakes.

While his trainer Denis Coakley feels Gabriel's Lad is not well-handicapped, that could be outweighed by his liking of the track.

"He's maybe not got a great draw (eight). We'll just see where the pace is," Coakley told At The Races.

"He didn't like the ground at Newmarket, he couldn't get a grip on it and didn't have a hard race. He was never going. It was horrible ground. We had so much rain in an hour and a half and the top came off the ground and he couldn't handle it.

"He has 8lb more than when he won, so it's going to be hard. He's in good order. There wasn't anywhere else to go and he likes Ascot. We'll have to go there."

Dont Bother Me was putting in his best work at the finish when seventh to Baccarat in the Wokingham over six furlongs at the Royal meeting.

His trainer Marco Botti is convinced the extra furlong will play to his charge's strengths, and any rain would be a bonus.

"He's in good form, but I hope we do have a few showers," said Botti.

"He's an older horse and I don't want to run him on very fast ground. It's not that he doesn't handle good ground, but any showers would help.

"He's in great form and seven furlongs could be his trip. I think we will take a chance, but if we got a couple of showers it could be good."