sport

Moonlight Cloud can shine

Freddie Head believes that Moonlight Cloud can do the seemingly impossible and beat Black Caviar in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.

Australian superstar Black Caviar has barely come off the bridle in winning each of her 21 starts to date and will be long odds-on to extend that winning sequence this weekend, despite some concerns about the rain-softened ground.

But French trainer Head has plenty of faith in his own mare, who was a most impressive winner of last year's Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville and made a winning return at Longchamp earlier this month.

"I'm running because I think I can win. If we finish second to Black Caviar we will be very happy, but inside of me I think we can to do it," said Head.

"She's a very high-class filly. She was impressive in the Maurice de Gheest, very unlucky in the Guineas and was a classy two-year-old.

"It's a bold move for Black Caviar to put her unbeaten record on the line, it's a change for her. No horse is unbeatable.

"Moonlight Cloud is used to the travelling, she's been to England twice already. I expect her to run very well," he told At The Races.

The defending champion in the six-furlong Group One is the James Fanshawe-trained Society Rock, another for whom conditions should not cause too many problems.

He finished a close third on his seasonal reappearance in the Duke of York Stakes and Fanshawe is anticipating a bold show.

"He had a terrible start to the season last year. He ran badly in the Abernant and then Bated Breath beat him in a conditions race at Haydock," said the Newmarket trainer.

"But he has got a good record at the Royal meeting and, touch wood, he's in good shape.

"Two years ago he was second to Starspangledbanner and won it last year. In the past he has peaked at Royal Ascot and I hope he does this year.

"Obviously Black Caviar, it's incredible what she's done. I'm looking forward to seeing her but I just hope my horse runs well.

"He doesn't like the ground rock hard anymore and doesn't mind a bit of cut these days."

Johnny Murtagh will be the man in the saddle on Society Rock and he also thinks there are reasons to believe Black Caviar can be toppled.

"She has to travel a long way, she has to come here, it's a different track, she's not at home now and they all think she's a certainty over there so they don't take her on. It will be a bit different this week," said the jockey.

"OK, she's won 21 out of 21 but she's in England now, it's going to be a different story. Society Rock's record at Ascot is excellent.

"It's a pity Deacon Blues isn't there because he was on an upward curve, but Society Rock is a Group One performer.

"She's the 2-7 favourite and an absolute superstar but there is the little thing about travelling halfway around the world."

Eve Johnson Houghton's The Cheka was last seen finishing second in the Duke Of York Stakes and the trainer is hoping he can bag some prize-money.

She said: "We're really looking forward to it.

"If he's not good enough to beat the favourite, then fair enough, but he's in fantastic form. I think he's improved a bit since York and he's as well as I can have him.

"The ground doesn't matter to him so we're going there with fingers crossed and thinking he has a great each-way chance."

Hughie Morrison's Pastoral Player has a good course record having won at the track and finished third in last year's Wokingham Stakes.

He arrives in winning form having won a Group Three over seven furlongs at Haydock, but Morrison is not quite as hopeful as others of beating Black Caviar.

He said: "I think we're pretty realistic that we have no chance of beating the mare. She looks pretty exceptional.

"But there's some good prize-money on offer and it was always the plan to come for this race regardless of the opposition.

"In theory we should have gone for a Group Two race next over either seven or six furlongs, but there wasn't one.

"I don't know whether he's as effective on softer ground as he is on a quicker surface, but he can handle it and it might slow them down and make it into more of a stamina test, which hopefully gives him more of a chance of getting in the money."

The Chris Wall-trained Royal Rock is a big outsider, but has won twice at Ascot.

Wall said: "He's very well and came out of the race at Haydock in top form. I think he's as good as I can get him coming into the race.

"I think realistically we're talking about a bit of an each-way chance. If he can run up to his best form, hopefully he can make the frame.

"Obviously Black Caviar is going to be extremely hard to beat. I think I'll have to give my jockey (Ted Durcan) the same pair of binoculars I gave George Baker when Premio Loco ran against Frankel on Tuesday!"