It is eight years since Adrian Keatley tasted Classic success, but he could have the horse to take him back to the big time when Francisco’s Piece goes for Royal Ascot glory in the Coventry Stakes.

Jet Setting gave Keatley his biggest winner to date when claiming the Irish 1,000 Guineas in 2016 and the now North Yorkshire-based Irishman has been slowly rediscovering a few gems in recent years.

Following a winning start at Pontefract, Francisco’s Piece went down fighting to the highly-touted Shadow Army at York, before giving a glimpse that his handler may have unearthed the real deal when impressing at Listed level at Chantilly.

He now steps up to six furlongs as he tackles the opening two-year-old race of the week and the Francisco’s Piece story could have an added twist still to come when he goes under the hammer at the Goffs London Sale.


“We’ve been delighted with him ever since he started off his career with us and we’ve been delighted with all his performances,” said Keatley.

“He’s very unlucky not to have three ‘ones’ beside his name and he handled France very well. He is a horse with a great mind and travelled over and back to France very well.

“We’re very happy heading into the race on Tuesday and think he has been crying out for the step up to six furlongs. Paul (Mulrennan, jockey) is very confident he will really like the track and we’re happy enough with the draw, being near enough in the middle.

“This is what we do the job for every day of the week and we’re trying to look for these horses, so hopefully he can do the business for us.”

Coventry contenders

Charlie Appleby has never won the Coventry, but will hope that changes with his impressive Lingfield scorer Al Qudra, who joins stablemate Symbol Of Honour in the six-furlong event.

“Al Qudra has had his three starts and he won well on his last start. He takes a nice bit of experience into the race and I feel the stiff six furlongs will suit him,” said Appleby in a Godolphin preview video.

“Symbol Of Honour was very green first time up at Newmarket, but came forward nicely to go and win well at Lingfield. He improved so much from his first to his second run and we feel he’s come forward again.

“With a bit of luck we have two competitive runners there.”

Well qualified

Al Qudra had previously finished behind Richard Hannon’s The Actor at Newmarket and as someone who assisted his father in sending out Canford Cliffs to win this contest in 2009, he is well qualified in his assessment that his colt is being underestimated in a race without a standout.

“He has appeared there under the radar, he’s a real two-year-old and I like him a lot,” said Hannon.

“He holds it together mentally and I’m hoping for a big run. He’s a very nice horse, six furlongs will suit him. He’s drawn four and I’ve been delighted with him since Newmarket.

“For me, I haven’t seen an outstanding two-year-old yet and it looks quite an open Coventry.”

Doyle's choice

Big-spending Wathnan Racing have three colts in the mix and having driven up and down the country, retained jockey James Doyle has elected to partner Richard Fahey’s Hamilton scorer Catalyse over stablemate Columnist and Archie Watson’s Electrolyte.

“James will ride Catalyse in the Coventry, he was impressive up at Hamilton,” said Richard Brown, racing adviser to the owners. “There was another breeze-up horse in second that was highly regarded.

“It’s the Coventry and it’s very tough. There will be plenty of horses going there with the same profile as him, but it’s great to be going with a horse that has a chance, that is all you can ask for.”

Camille Pissarro is the sole Ballydoyle entrant as Aidan O’Brien’s Marble Hill Stakes runner-up bids to follow up last year’s win for connections by River Tiber.

Good start

“He obviously made a very good start when winning on his debut at Navan and, although he was narrowly beaten in the Marble Hill last time, I think that is a strong line of form,” jockey Ryan Moore told Betfair.

“We think he has improved and come forward since that run – he was still learning at the Curragh – and he has a good chance.

“He is a nice, big, well-related colt with a fair bit to recommend him, as do a lot of others in here, in truth.”

As identified by Moore, O’Brien’s son Joseph also has strong claims with impressive Curragh scorer Cowardofthecounty.

Keeping fresh

He has been kept fresh following his win in the early stages of the campaign and is joined in the line-up by Marble Hill third Midnight Strike, whose form ties in nicely with Camille Pissarro.

Karl Burke’s Andesite and Richard Spencer’s Yah Mo Be There finished first and second when they clashed in a warm York heat in May and lock horns once again, while John and Thady Gosden’s narrow Kempton runner-up Ingot is one seeking to shed his maiden tag on the big stage.

“He’s a well-bred son of Blue Point, being out of a dual Group One winner in Integral,” said Chris Richardson, managing director for owners Cheveley Park Stud.

“He ran promisingly on his debut, I’m not saying he’s necessarily going to win, but I think he deserves to take his chance.

“We’ll see if he can improve and see what happens.”

The Amo-racing owned debutant Angelo Buonarroti, who cost €1million at the recent breeze-up sales, will be a first-ever British runner for Raphael Freire.