All-weather champion Grendisar back on track
All-Weather Horse Of The Year, Grendisar, returns to the scene of his most memorable triumphs when he takes on three-time South African Grade 1 winner Yorker and nine others in the Listed Betway Churchill Stakes.
Marco Botti's six-year-old was beaten by the unexposed Godolphin three-year-old Let's Go in the corresponding race 12 months ago, but he ended his campaign with successive wins in the Winter Derby Trial, the Winter Derby and the Coral Easter Classic.
That hat-trick of victories took his course and distance record to six wins, four seconds and a third from 11 starts, and his earnings surpassed the £400,000 mark. He will have a near identical programme again this winter, with the Classic, now backed by Betway, his ultimate target.
Grendisar has to be held up as long as possible and takes some knowing. However, he has on board the jockey who knows him best, Adam Kirby, having finished out of the first two only once in 13 rides.
Botti said: "It's great to have Adam on board, as he knows Grendisar so well, and from what we can see he seems as good as ever.
"The original plan was to run at Dundalk last month but we decided to keep him fresh for the Churchill because his best form has always been at Lingfield. I'm sure the race will bring him on, but he's pretty straight and in great form. He's ready to go."
Godolphin field another unexposed three-year-old in Team Talk, but on paper Grendisar's toughest rivals looks to be Yorker, who started over here with a Group 3 second to Scottish at York, and the recent Newmarket Listed principals Energia Davos and Educate. William Haggas hopes to get Yorker to Hong Kong next month and a strong performance here could well yield an invitation.
He said: "He's in the mile and a quarter race in Hong Kong and he's probably on the cusp of being invited at the moment. He was unsuited by the gallop at Chantilly last time and we had no intention of making the running there. He'll get a lead this time from Maverick Wave and the track and surface could well suit him. He's a very talented horse."
The Betway Golden Rose Stakes, also Listed class, looks wide open, but Ed Walker has two live chances with Aeolus, who was beaten only a nose by Growl in a similar race at Doncaster last weekend, and Captain Colby, who looked very good in Doncaster's Portland Handicap but needs to put a disappointing subsequent effort at York behind him.
Among the stiff opposition is the ex-French Lord Of The Land, who began his career with David O'Meara by finishing well beaten when fancied for the Lincoln but has come good in no uncertain terms since getting the opportunity to race on Polytrack, winning in great style both here and at Kempton.
Wokingham winner Outback Traveller and veteran Medicean Man are others for the short list.