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banner Monday, 18 June, 2001, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK
Dunlop's stable to be noted
Lucido races in Friday's Hardwicke Stakes
Lucido races in Friday's Hardwicke Stakes
By Richard Griffiths

Not since 1996 has John Dunlop saddled a Royal Ascot winner.

A strange statistic when you consider that his career total at the meeting of 29 winners is bettered only by two current trainers, Henry Cecil and Sir Michael Stoute.

Unlike Cecil, who focuses on the meeting with searing intensity, Dunlop says that Royal Ascot is not the be-all and end-all of his season.

There is no long-term planning for the meeting, it is more a case of waiting to see if a horse is in good form and there is a race to suit him.

Dunlop fancies San Sebastian's chances
Dunlop fancies San Sebastian's chances
That criteria certainly applies to San Sebastian, Dunlop's strongly fancied runner in Thursday's feature, the Ascot Gold Cup.

Mick Kinane is a significant and long-term jockey booking for the gelding, an unlucky fourth in last year's Gold Cup.

"Mick used to ride San Sebastian in the old days when he was trained in Ireland," Dunlop says.

"Frankie Dettori rode him in the Sagaro Stakes last time and we would have liked him to have ridden him again but he's now needed to ride Marienbard for Godolphin.

"San Sebastian didn't get a great run in last year's race but he stays terribly well so the two-and-a-half miles should suit him.

Lucido beat Oath and Daliapour in his two races prior to the Derby - so that gave us good reason to think he had talent
  John Dunlop
"He'd like firm ground and he ran very, very well on his first race this season at Newmarket (the Sagaro)."

Dunlop will be dual-handed in the Gold Cup, with San Sebastian joined by the younger and progressive Romantic Affair, who finished behind his stablemate at Newmarket.

However, he was receiving weight from San Sebastian that day - whereas in the Gold Cup all horses carry the same weight - and Dunlop thinks it is unlikely that the placings will be reversed.

"Romantic Affair has got it all to do, and he might not stay either," Dunlop warns.

While San Sebastian looks to have a strong chance of ending Dunlop's four-year drought, especially as this year's Gold Cup is a weaker contest than in recent seasons, there are others from his famous Arundel stable who should be noted.

Kinane won both the Epsom Oaks and Derby
Kinane won both the Epsom Oaks and Derby
Dandoun, unbeaten in his three starts this season, is the early favourite for Tuesday's St James's Palace Stakes but faces a stiff task against French and Irish 2,000 Guineas winners Noverre and Black Minnaloushe.

Another to watch is Lucido, in Friday's Hardwicke Stakes.

The five-year-old has been nursed back to fitness by Dunlop following a sequence of injury setbacks that began in the 1999 Derby.

Lucido has struck up two impressive wins this season - both came at a time when Dunlop's horses were running noticeably better than most of his rivals - but that Derby of two years ago remains a potent guide to Lucido's ability.

"He beat Oath and Daliapour in his two races prior to the Derby," Dunlop says. "And they finished first and second at Epsom, so that gave us good reason to think he had talent."

Despite his injuries, Lucido looks to have retained that talent. And there is no more reliable a platform for talent to reveal itself than the competitive fields of Royal Ascot.

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