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Wolfe Tone takes another step along the Gold trail; Henry II Stakes: Sandown briefing.

Byline: RODNEY MASTERS

IT IS almost half a century since the Ballydoyle stable won the Ascot Gold Cup, but the rarely seen Wolfe Tone may make an impact in 17 days' time if he picks up the Group 2 Bonusprint.com Henry II Stakes at Sandown today.

Stayers are normally a low priority with Coolmore but the lightly raced Wolfe Tone - he missed last year due to pulled muscles - looked a decent prospect when bouncing off the firm ground to win a Listed race at Newbury last time on only his third outing.

As a result, the four-year-old is only 10-1 with Coral for Ascot Gold Cup glory next month.

T rainer Aidan O'Brien said yesterday: ``He's been in good form since his Listed win at Newbury. Obviously we can't be sure that he'll get two miles. We're hoping he will, but we'll be wiser after tomorrow.''

Alcazar, from Hughie Morrison's in-form stable, is taking his races better than in previous years, and the trainer was delighted with his work last Friday.

As good as ever this season at the age of ten, Alcazar returns to his best distance of two miles and is expected to improve on his pleasing effort when fourth in the Yorkshire Cup.

``Over that trip of one mile and six furlongs they tend to quicken up and leave him a little flat-footed,'' explained the trainer.

``With 16 runners, he should get the gallop he needs. Sandown tell me they've watered well, so the ground should be fine for him.'' Dual Ascot Gold Cup winner Royal Rebel makes a belated seasonal debut ahead of a changed target this year at the Royal meeting, the Queen Alexandra Stakes. Trainer Mark Johnston, who also runs Darasim, explained that Royal Rebel had not had the easiest of preparations.

``This was the last chance to fit in a race before the Queen Alexandra,'' he said. ``Darasim has disappointed this season for no obvious reason, and he'll need to do better if he's to take his chance in the Gold Cup.''

Sir Michael Stoute's Cover Up, who won the Queen Alexandra two years in a row, missed the whole of last season after requiring repairs to a leg injury, and connections warned yesterday that the eight-year-old will need this comeback run to put an edge on him.

P eter Reynolds, racing manager for Ballymacoll Stud, owner of Cover Up, said: ``We had him here in Ireland for a year while he recovered from his injury, and when he returned to Newmarket I was told by Sir Michael that he was fatter than me! There's no question he'll need this run.''

Godolphin took this race last year with subsequent Gold Cup winner Papineau, but their two representatives this time, Fight Your Corner and Duke Of Venice, will need to improve.

CAPTION(S):

Alcazar: The ten-year-old delighted connections when working well on Friday
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:May 30, 2005
Words:480
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