Royal looking to bow out a winner

It will be the end of an era for trainer Nathan Doyle when stable stalwart Cafe Royal chases a fairytale conclusion to her racing career in the Group 3 Pam O’Neill Stakes at Doomben. 

The mare has been the backbone of the young horseman’s team, but Saturday’s race will be her last with the rising six-year-old set for broodmare duties this spring. While Doyle has the likes of the unbeaten Norwegian Bliss coming through the ranks, he says the departure of Cafe Royal will leave a hole. 

“She has been terrific for our stable,” Doyle said. “She was one of the first horses to come in and she won her first three starts, so I will never forget her.” 

Doyle is confident of improvement from Cafe Royal, picture

Black-type placed at the Gold Coast three starts ago, Cafe Royal has finished down the track at her past two runs in Sydney. Having kicked off her current campaign in January, Doyle says it might look like the mare has come to the end of her preparation, but he is adamant she has been racing without luck.

“She has got two duck eggs next to her name but she’s been four-deep the trip on both occasions. She has just had no luck whatsoever,” Doyle said. 

“It’s a heavy 10 track up there and she swims. She loves it. She is drawn a bit sticky (12) but it’s probably the place you want to be by that race. If the track stays in that heavy range, I think she will improve out of sight.” 

The Pam O’Neill Stakes (1600m) was scheduled to be held several weeks earlier but was washed out and moved to Saturday’s timeslot. The race has always been on Cafe Royal’s radar, so Doyle has kept her ticking over with the two Sydney runs and while he admits it has been a juggle, he has her poised to do the stable proud, despite her long odds. 

“It hasn’t been ideal but at least she gets a heavy track and whatever she does, she has been good to us. She has been a tough mare,” he said. 

A full field of 16 will contest the race and in an open market, Charmmebaby is favourite at $5 with Cafe Royal a $51 chance.