Royal Ascot: Ed Walker hoping Starman can lift Group One monkey off his back

Ed Walker hopes this could finally be the week he breaks his Group One duck as Starman heads his strongest ever team into Royal Ascot.

Walker has just one Royal Ascot victory to his name, with Agrotera’s victory in the class two Sandringham Stakes in 2018.

The Newmarket trainer has plenty of good chances to add to that tally this year including Diamond Jubilee hope Starman and Coronation Stakes contender Primo Bacio.

“You’ve got to prove yourself on the biggest stage,” Walker told Sky Sports Racing. “That’s what all owners want but certainly the bigger owners who are breeding and buying the best horses. They want to be competing at the top table and you’ve got to prove that we can do the job.

“We’ve done it in a number of races over the years but the Group One monkey is firmly on my back. I’m hoping that will be off soon.

“It’s pressure, but it’s good pressure. It was like that last year with English King going into the Derby. Sadly that didn’t pan out but you want that pressure.

“If it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose then what’s the point in doing it?

“Before Agrotera, I found Royal Ascot the most depressing meeting of the year because you always go there with hopes and just get thumped.

“It’s so hard there, it’s so competitive. It is the hardest place on earth to win races. Agrotera really gave me the appetite that it’s doable and what a rush it is when it comes off.

“We’re going in with a really good team. We could have eight or nine runners there this year which is unbelievably exciting.”

Royal Ascot Group 1 races

2.30 Tuesday – The Queen Anne Stakes

3.40 Tuesday – The King’s Stand Stakes

4.20 Tuesday – The St James’s Palace Stakes

3.40 Wednesday – The Prince of Wales’s Stakes

4.20 Thursday – The Gold Cup

3.40 Friday – The Commonwealth Cup

4.20 Friday – The Coronation Stakes

4.20 Saturday – The Diamond Jubilee Stakes

Starman is a general 5-2 favourite for Saturday’s feature after making an impressive winning return to the track this season in the Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes.

The four-year-old, who now boasts four wins from his five starts, is exciting Walker with his form and temperament.

“He just looks the part, he’s some specimen,” Walker said.

“He’s an absolute dude and a bus of a ride. Every now and then if he gets the whiff of a filly he gets a little bit coltish but he’s got a wonderful temperament.

“What he’s done has been remarkable really. How many sprinters are three from four? His only blip was on bottomless ground at Ascot.

“The real champions spring the wins together but it’s a bit like musical chairs the sprint division. Every now and again you get a standout. I’m just praying he’s the standout.”

Walker will be hoping the forecasted rain for later this week does not affect the ground too heavily at the Berkshire track, with Starman acting best in fast conditions.

“At York [on good to soft ground], I think we got away with it,” Walker said. “We’d gone through that April heatwave and David [Ward, Starman’s owner] said: ‘We know what’s going to happen, no rain in April means rain in May’ and it did. Thank god, somehow, York missed the majority of it.

“I thought he’d grown up as well. At York this year he behaved better than he had done previously. He was as cool as a cucumber.

“Oisin [Murphy] got off and said: ‘What an easy ride’.”

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