Laurens is one of 17 five day entries for the £350,000 contest, the first older horse Group 1 race run in Britain in 2019 and the feature prize of Newbury’s richest Flat raceday.
Laurens, owned by Newcastle-based stockbroker John Dance, went on a Group 1 winning spree last year when she netted the Prix Saint-Alary, Prix de Diane, Matron Stakes and Sun Chariot Stakes.
She features alongside the Aidan O’Brien-trained pair Le Brivido and I Can Fly, bet365 Mile first and second Beat The Bank and Sharja Bridge, Godolphin’s Mythical Magic, plus Accidental Agent, Romanised, Without Parole, Billesdon Brook and One Master, all five Group 1 winners in 2018.
Speaking at a special media morning at his Spigot Lodge Stables in Middleham, Yorkshire on Monday, Burke said Laurens was a bigger and possibly quicker horse this year so was likely to stick to mile races.
“The mile division probably lacks a real superstar and hopefully she is there to fill that gap,” he said. “She is a high class horse. She has proved that each year she has run. We think she has improved again. She has certainly improved physically and as she has got stronger she has probably got quicker.
“That’s why we are happy to start at a mile and we’ll make a decision after Saturday and the Queen Anne Stakes as to whether we stay at a mile. I would be surprised if we go back up, certainly to a mile and a quarter. Maybe we would take on one mile, one furlong, but to be honest the pattern of races over a mile suit her perfectly after the Queen Anne.
“Her first two races against the colts could be her hardest of the year, as the other races, if we stick at a mile, are probably going to be against fillies, apart from the Breeders’ Cup if we go there at the end of the year.
“She will definitely improve a little bit, as most horses do for a run, but she’s been away to Newcastle for a gallop, she’s done loads of work here. I would say she is 95 per cent, looks in great order and is working well. She will need to be all of that in a Group 1. She will have another final blow tomorrow morning and hopefully that will be good enough.”
The Group 1 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes, part of the QIPCO British Champions Series, will be only Laurens’ second race outside her own sex.
“We were disappointed at Ascot at the back end,” Burke said. “At the time I put it down to being the end of the season but she had had a herpes jab not too long before that race and I have a feeling that might have just knocked the edge off her as well. She did run a bit flat and it could be a valid excuse.”
He continued: “The Al Shaqab Lockinge is wide open. More of a concern is our horses aren’t really firing, but they weren’t really last year when the 1,000 Guineas and the Prix Saint-Alary came around. We are having the odd winner but the majority are not performing as I would like.
“If we do get beat we won’t be looking for any excuses. We will be going there thinking our horse is fit and healthy, she has scoped clean. There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t run. We are going there quietly confident.”
Dance said he had resisted numerous offers to buy Laurens last year before deciding to keep her to breed from himself after one more season of racing.
“The chances of us getting a horse like her again are minimal,” he said. “There are a whole load of races this year that only she will ever take us to. We thought when we are ever going to get to go to races like the Lockinge, or whatever may come.
“From the breeding perspective, it’s so hard to find one to compete with the likes of Godolphin, Coolmore or Juddmonte. If we are selling them our best breeding stock we are probably diminishing the chances even more. If she does breed something I would rather they were running in our colours.
”We are not going to be too despondent if her first run of the season doesn’t work out in her favour. But if it does we will be really excited because if she can win on her reappearance that would be a great sign for the rest of the year.”
The Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes is the feature race of Newbury’s richest raceday this Saturday where prize money is £750,000.