06/17/2004 12:00AM

Hardwicke sets up as prep for Doyen

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Doyen appears to have found a perfect spot in Saturday's Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes, Royal Ascot's traditional closing-day 1 1/2-mile event for older horses.

A half-brother to the 1995 English Oaks winner, Moonshell, Doyen proved adept at 12 furlongs by winning his first three starts at that distance last year when he was trained in France by Andre Fabre for Sheikh Mohammed. A 4-year-old son of Sadler's Wells, he was hardly disgraced later in the year when he finished second and fourth behind Dalakhani in the Prix Niel and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. When Sheikh Mohammed brought him into the Godolphin fold over the winter, he looked ready to take his place among Europe's premier middle-distance horses.

An unlucky second to repeat winner Warrsan in a roughly run Coronation Cup at Epsom on June 4, Doyen will have two-time Hardwicke course-and-distance winner High Accolade to contend with. Trained by Marcus Tregoning, High Accolade won both the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes and the Group 3 Cumberland Lodge Stakes at Ascot last year and finished a tiring fourth, just two noses behind Doyen, in the Coronation Cup. Also posing a threat is the Michael Stoute-trained Gamut, who beat Warrsan 2 3/4 lengths into third in the 1 1/2-mile Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket on May 2.

Should Doyen live up to his potential, the Hardwicke could make a perfect prep for his anticipated return to Ascot in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes on July 24.

Cape of Good Hope paid the ace Hong Kong sprinter Silent Witness a compliment when he finished second to The Tatling in the five-furlong King's Stand Stakes on Tuesday. Trainer David Oughton wheels him right back on Saturday in the Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes, a six-furlong dash worth $455,000.

The Hong Kong-based Cape of Good Hope, placed four times behind the undefeated Silent Witness at Sha Tin since December, was running to form in the Group 2 King's Stand. Michael Kinane will be back in the saddle aboard Cape of Good Hope, for whom victory over the favored Monsieur Bond and last year's runner-up, Airwave, would give Hong Kong racing its biggest foreign victory ever.

* Rule of Law, Godolphin's odds-on favorite for the King Edward VII Stakes at Ascot on Friday, was withdrawn from the Group 2 contest because of a fever.