Dunlop ponders retirement for top stayer Trip To Paris
Ed Dunlop admits retirement could be on the horizon for Trip To Paris after the former Gold Cup winner beat only one horse home in last month's Dubai Gold Cup.
The six-year-old led a parade of horses at an open day at Dunlop's La Grange Stables in Newmarket on Sunday but despite having returned from Dubai in fine physical order, the trainer fears the 2015 Royal Ascot hero, who also finished second in a Caulfield Cup and fourth in a Melbourne Cup, may be losing his appetite for racing.
Dunlop, who is also a part-owner of Trip To Paris, plans to give the horse a chance to redeem himself in a lower grade but says he will not force him to continue any longer than he wants to.
"He's been great, great fun for so many people but if he's not in love with it and it's not doing him any good, we don't want to see him carrying on," said Dunlop.
"He still appears enthusiastic at home and he's moving very well but he blatantly showed no interest in Dubai. He got very far back on soft ground but he didn't pick the bridle up at all.
"He has come back from Dubai and you wouldn't think he'd had a race, so we'll drop him in class and see what happens. He's won a Gold Cup, so he doesn't need to do any more for us."
Should Trip To Paris fail to return to the heights he scaled two seasons ago, Dunlop is optimistic Red Verdon could step up to fill the void.
The four-year-old, who carries the colours made famous by another great Dunlop-trained stayer in Red Cadeaux, was one of 2016's most progressive horses, finishing sixth in the Derby and second in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris.
Dunlop had hoped to get Red Verdon to Dubai but a sinus operation caused those plans to be shelved and the trainer is now eyeing a trip to Australia later in the year.
"He should stay a bit further and [owner] Ronnie Arculli loves having international horses, so if he's good enough then he could potentially go to Australia for the Melbourne Cup," he said. "He's a lightly raced horse who should give us a lot of fun."
Before then, Dunlop is hoping he could be off to Epsom in the first weekend of June once again, with Apex King set to be given the chance to prove himself an Investec Derby contender.
The son of Kodiac was a Listed winner last year before finishing fourth in the Group 3 Solario Stakes, in which he picked up an injury that ended his campaign.
"It's the time of year when all of us are seeing if we have a horse good enough to run in the big races," said Dunlop. "He's done very well from two to three and he'll probably run in a Derby trial.
"This time last year I had Red Verdon and if you'd told me he would run in the Derby I would have laughed at you, so it's always possible."
Dunlop also confirmed Global Applause, currently his highest-rated three-year-old after making a big impression early last year, will be stepped up in trip for the Free Handicap over seven furlongs at Newmarket's Craven meeting.