Metropolitan up to taking on the best in St James's Palace

Trainer Mario Baratti believes Metropolitan has now developed the mental toughness to go with his athletic ability, two qualities which he expects to be tested to the full when he takes on Notable Speech and Rosallion, as well as National Stakes winner Henry Longfellow and Darlinghurst. 

The son of Zarak tracked his lead horse under regular work-rider Simone Garau on the rain-softened straight turf strip of Les Reservoirs and Baratti declared himself entirely happy with the physical condition of a colt he described as something of a lazy worker. 

Speaking to the media at an Ascot press event in Chantilly later in the morning, Baratti said: "This morning was just to keep him ticking over as he did a good piece of work at the racecourse last week. He’s quite lazy in the mornings so we asked him to do something anyway and we’re very pleased with him."

Asked how he felt taking on two Classic-winning heavyweights in Notable Speech and Rosallion, Baratti said: "It’s definitely a good race to watch, although probably more as a spectator than a trainer. But when you run against good horses you have nothing to lose. He’s running against the two best milers at the moment in Europe so I’m looking forward to seeing how good he is."

Metropolitan has shown some signs of temperament in the past but when the heavens opened at Longchamp as the Poule d'Essai field was walking around the parade ring, he took the subsequent disruption to proceedings in his stride, while his jockey Alexis Pouchin was impressed with his attitude in repelling Dancing Gemini and other rivals who were closing up the Longchamp straight.

"I was surprised [at Longchamp] because he used to be a bit soft as a two-year-old but now he has become stronger mentally," said Baratti. "He behaved very well that day; he came back into the box, we took the saddle off and put a light sheet on him to dry him off. He was very quiet and the owner and I were very happy to see that.

"Ascot is not the same as Longchamp and it’s his first travel and his first time running abroad but he’s gaining in maturity."

Baratti added: "Although as everybody could see, he got a perfect trip, it’s also very hard with the open stretch [cutaway rail]. It comes very early in the straight and so for him to keep his advantage until the end is really hard. Alexis was really pleased because it was the first time he’d had horses coming from behind and really pushing him and he never let them pass."

Metropolitan is in as 10-1 fifth best of an 11-strong line-up with Ladbrokes after Wednesday's confirmation stage, with Notable Speech 5-4 favourite and Rosallion next in at 11-4.

Much of the other interest at the event revolved around Ascot jockey bookings. Trainer Maurizio Guarnieri explained his rationale for booking Christophe Soumillon for both Big Rock in the Queen Anne and Blue Rose Cen in the Prince of Wales's Stakes. Guarnieri and owners Yeguada Centurion stuck with Aurelien Lemaitre when both horses made their debut for their new stable in order to preserve some continuity. 

"Soumillon is a champion jockey and I think it’s very easy for him to get a feeling for a horse, so I hope both [horses] do well for me," said Guarnieri. "Lemaitre is a good jockey and very professional but I think there was no great feeling between him and I.

"I think it’s the right time for the stable and the owner is in agreement with me. I thank Lemaitre for the two months we’ve worked together but I think it’s better to change. Soumillon rode the two in their gallops on Monday."

The most recent of Soumillon's three wins at Royal Ascot came aboard the Richard Fahey-trained Perfect Power in the 2022 Commonwealth Cup. 

Lemaitre will ride the Christopher Head-trained Sea The Lady in Wednesday's Duke of Cambridge Stakes, but will be forced to watch on as the stable's other runner, Ramatuelle, bids for the Coronation Stakes on Friday. Part-owners Qatar Racing have first call on their retained jockey Oisin Murphy, although Head expects Lemaitre to be back on the 1,000 Guineas third in future.

"It’s not really a case of Aurelien losing the ride, I see it more as an optimisation of doing certain things," said Head. "When you go to a certain racetrack then you’re going to use jockeys that do well there on the stats. I look forward to that kind of way of doing things. 

"And Aurelien is not losing Ramatuelle, I’m sure he’ll have opportunities to ride her again in the future."

St James's Palace Stakes (4.25 Ascot, Tuesday)
Ladbrokes: 5-4 Notable Speech, 11-4 Rosallion, 5 Henry Longfellow, 8 Darlinghurst, 10 Metropolitan, 12 Alyanaabi, 16 bar