Hugo Palmer: Saddles leading Solario Stakes fancy Aktabantay at SandownPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Aktabantay in "good heart" for Solario test
THIS time last year the Solario Stakes provided confirmation that the rumours and hype surrounding Kingman were not entirely unmerited, but it will take a breathtaking performance for a horse to emerge from Saturday's edition with a 5-1 quote for next year's Qipco 2,000 Guineas.
Hugo Palmer's Aktabantay is the favourite and the shortest in the betting for the first Classic of next season and his trainer feels he will take a lot of beating. "He has the best form in the race, but he will probably have to improve again to win," said Palmer.
"The ground drying will help but he was second on good to soft to a very good horse of Richard Hannon's in the Superlative. I've been very happy with him since and he goes there in good health and good heart."
Scott Dixon's Brocklesby winner Cock Of The North was two and quarter lengths behind Aktabantay in the Superlative, with his trainer hoping a stronger pace may make a difference. "He has a bit to find with Aktabantay based on the Superlative, but that race was not run to suit as they went a slow pace. Hopefully that will change tomorrow and the yard is in good form. He's not a bad price, I think he's been overlooked a little," said Dixon.
Instead the main threat to Aktabantay's bid for a first Group win comes from Saeed Bin Suroor's Future Empire, who like Kingman comes into the Solario with just a Newmarket seven furlong maiden to his name. The form of that race is working out particularly well, with the second, third and fourth all having won on their next start.
"Future Empire is doing well," said Bin Suroor. "He is a colt that I like and has improved since his debut. His last piece of work was good. He does need good ground."
Richard Hannon knows what it takes to beat Aktabantay having trained two of the three horses he has finished second to, but he also has ground concerns for the Middleham Park-owned Lexington Times, who is stepping back up in trip after disappointing last time.
"He's back over seven furlongs as he found six too sharp in the Hornblower at Ripon, which is a track that does not suit every horse," he said.
"The form of the maiden which he won at Newmarket's July meeting could not have worked out better, and if he handles the ground we would hope for a big run."
Charlie Johnston, son of trainer Mark is convinced Pallister will handle the ground. "The ground is likely to be pretty extreme there after all the rain they had earlier in the week, and we've chosen Pallister to run from our entries because he's by Pivotal and should handle it. We've seen nothing from him to date which suggests he won't go on a very soft surface," said Johnston.
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