Isle Of Jura bids to round off season with victory in the King’s Cup

Isle Of Jura bids to round off season with victory in the King’s Cup
Isle Of Jura, ridden by Callum Shepherd, eases clear of his rivals when comfortably winning the HH Shaikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa Cup
Victorious Racing’s star performer has eyes on ‘Triple Crown’ win. Jockey Callum Shepherd says Isle of Jura could be the best he’s ridden.

All eyes turn back to Bahrain on Friday 8th March for the 2024 running of the King’s Cup (Listed), run in honour of His Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of the Kingdom of Bahrain, and sponsored by Bapco Energies. The $200,000 race and season finale has attracted a quality field of international and locally trained horses, including runners from Dubai for Godolphin and this season’s breakout star in Bahrain, Isle Of Jura.

Trained by George Scott and racing in the colours of Victorious Racing, Isle Of Jura has shown rapid improvement since flying in from Newmarket last December to run in the opening race of the Bahrain Turf Series. The four-year-old has won three of his four starts, including the prestigious Crown Prince’s Cup, and was impressive when cruising to victory on his most recent run, the HH Shaikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa Cup. He now bids to win the King’s Cup, run over 2400m, to complete the hat-trick of big races, all within the space of five weeks.

On board the four-year-old for each of Isle Of Jura’s four runs in Bahrain, during which time the gelding’s rating has risen from 97 to 111, has been jockey Callum Shepherd, who is looking forward to being reunited with the horse in the King’s Cup.

Callum Shepherd said: “Isle Of Jura is the best middle-distance horse I’ve ridden and he’s got the potential to improve still further. The King’s Cup will be his toughest task to date and the Godolphin horses will provide a different kind of opposition, they clearly mean business, but I think our horse remains the one to beat.

“He has grown up noticeably while he has been in Bahrain. He’s now so relaxed in a race, he really enjoys the quicker ground and he’s got this high-level of raw ability that allows him to travel so well into his races and he finishes them off so well too.

“Once his handicap rating ruled him out of the Bahrain Turf Series, the King’s Cup became the target. And then after he won the Crown Prince’s Cup, the possibility arose of winning the ‘Triple Crown’. His Highness Shaikh Nasser was keen to have a go and it would be magic if he could complete the hat-trick in the King’s Cup.”

Shepherd has felt the benefits of success in Bahrain back home in the UK, adding: “I have been surprised by how much attention the wins in Bahrain have received. Isle of Jura has become a flag-bearer for George (Scott) and myself this winter and it has been a real positive for us and I think he can be highly competitive in group races back in Europe this summer.”

The opposition to Isle Of Jura includes the 2023 King’s Cup winner Passion And Glory, trained by Saeed Bin Suroor, and two other Godolphin owned runners trained by Charlie Appleby in Dhahabi and King Of Conquest.

William Buick’s mount Dhahabi has the benefit of a recent run. The Frankel half-brother to Derby winner Golden Horn won at Meydan in December and then ran fourth in January, beaten less than two lengths by high-class stable companion, Siskany. Saffie Osborne takes the ride on King Of Conquest, who has winning course form in Bahrain, albeit over a shorter trip, but he must overcome an absence of five months from the track, having not run since finishing third at Newmarket in November.

The fifth international horse in the field is the wonderfully consistent Lucander for trainer George Baker, while the home team is led by Goemon and in-form Sovereign Spirit.

The card also features the $80,000 Al Methaq Mile (Listed), which has attracted an international runner in Godolphin’s Real World who faces stiff opposition from the locally trained winner of last year’s race, Byline. Owned by Al Adiyat Racing, Byline is fresh from arguably a career best performance on Saudi Cup day when finishing a close third behind Annaf in the Group 2 race over 1350m.

The King’s Cup is the feature event on the 27th and final race meeting of the 2023-24 Bahrain season and the race to be crowned the season’s leading owner and jockey is set to go right down to the wire.

In the owners’ title race, Al Mohamediya Racing lead Victorious Racing by a margin of just two wins, while for the jockeys’ title, Neil Callan (19 wins) has only one win to spare over Stephane Ladjadj (18 wins), followed by Gerald Mosse (16 wins) in third. However, Fawzi Nass, with 48 winners, has secured the trainers’ title, with Allan Smith in second.

The full field for the King’s Cup, sponsored by Bapco Energies, can be viewed here. And to watch highlights from Isle Of Jura’s winter in Bahrain, together an interview with work rider, Rosie Jessop, click here.

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