Asfoora team expecting Ascot improvement

Trainer Henry Dwyer has said he would be 'staggered' should Asfoora not be able to make up the 2-1/2 lengths she has to find with her Temple Stakes conquerors heading into next Tuesday's King Charles III Stakes at Royal Ascot.

An eight-time winner from 19 starts in Australia, Asfoora has plenty of solid sprinting form in the book, including Group 2 and Group 3 victories over 1100m at Caulfield and a second-place finish to Australian speedster Imperatriz in the Group 1 Moir Stakes (1000m) at Moonee Valley.

Ultimately, those performances would hatch Dwyer's ultimate plan, with Asfoora now set for a lengthy spell in Europe as she searches for her elusive first Group 1 success.

The five-year-old daughter of Flying Artie made a pleasing UK debut in the Group 2 Temple Stakes (1000m) at Haydock last month. Prominently ridden by regular rider Mitch Aitken, she failed to get home in testing conditions but emerged with plenty of credit in the race won by the Clive Cox-trained Kerdos.

"At Haydock, we knew we'd need the run a bit and it was just a combination of factors," explained Dwyer. "It was too wet and whilst she handles soft tracks, a wet 1000m becomes more like a wet 1100m or 1200m, which she wasn't ready for.

"I think at her peak, which is what she'll be at Ascot and beyond, she's well and truly up to winning a Group One."

Whilst Dwyer is clearly hoping to see a bold performance from his stable star at the Royal meeting next week, the Ballarat-based handler is also excited to see what the future holds with ventures to Goodwood and York both in the pipeline.

"Ascot is going to be a challenge for her. She'll run really well, but a stiff five [furlongs] there might not suit her as well as say when we go to Goodwood or York on the flat and down the hill," he said.

"I think she'll run a really good race at Ascot, though, and I'd love to see her run in the top three or four. And if she can do that, she'll be really well placed for the next two runs."

Asfoora, who gains the services of star Irish jockey Oisin Murphy, holds down the $8 third line in King Charles III Stakes betting, which is headed by Michael Appleby's Breeders Cup hero Big Evs, whom Dwyer considers the horse to beat.

"If you take Big Evs out of the equation, because he brings different form lines and is clearly the one to beat, then the rest of the horses, including Asfoora, are pretty evenly matched," Dwyer said.

"They've finished in bunches in the Palace House Stakes, the Temple Stakes, the Greenland Stakes, and the Duke Of York Stakes. They were all bunch finishes and won by a different horse each time. There's no standout.

"She was always going to improve, especially with the circumstances of the day. She's got significant improvement to come, how much I don't know, but she got beaten two and a half the other day and I'd be staggered if she couldn't make up that sort of improvement.

"Most of the other horses in that race [Temple Stakes] had a run already whereas she hadn't."