Bonfire (right): will be ridden by Richard Hughes for the first timePICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Bonfire on retrieval mission at Newbury
PATIENCE is easy to preach, far harder to practice. To remain patient when the clock is ticking is harder still, so all connected with one-time Classic fancy Bonfire will be hoping Newbury on Friday will be the reward for their capacity to sit and suffer this summer.
"He's a very talented horse, but boy has he tested everyone's patience - his trainer, his owners and everyone here," said an exasperated Harry Herbert, racing manager for owners Highclere.
The time bomb comes in the form of Bonfire's impending sale. Herbert said: "We are running out of time for this syndicate. He has to be sold at the end of the season, so we have this and possibly one more run, but let's get this race out of the way first."
It is great credit to Andrew Balding, therefore, that he insisted upon waiting for the horse to come back to himself and according to Herbert, Bonfire, who will be ridden by Richard Hughes for the first time, is showing signs he is back to his Dante-winning ways.
"We gave him time off since his last run at Chester and Andrew [Balding, trainer] wanted him to come back and show all the right signs before going anywhere with him and that is what he is now doing. He's in very good form and is working well at home."
Herbert added: "It's his first run back and we've given him a break to freshen him up. The ground will be in his favour and we're dropping back in trip. He has a lot of speed and this looks the right race for him. He's really well and if he happens to win then we can look at other options."
While Herbert feels connections have found an ideal opportunity for Bonfire, he still faces some stiff opposition. French Navy is a dual Group 3 winner and has won his last two starts in Listed company.
"We've been waiting for the ground with him and I think nine furlongs is his ideal trip," said trainer Charlie Appleby. "This is a starting point and hopefully he can have a productive autumn."
John Gosden's Questioning is another Group 3 scorer while Tales Of Grimm, who has his first start for Richard Fahey having left Sir Michael Stoute, is another who has performed creditably at that level. Fahey said: "We haven't had him long, but so far we've been happy with his work. The ground is a worry for him - we're not sure if he'll handle it."