Elarqam bids to book Juddmonte International slot in York Stakes
Sky Bet York Stakes | G2 | 1m2½f | ITV/RUK
Elarqam bids to become only the second three-year-old to win this £120,000 Group 2 feature which is often used as a warm-up for next month's Group 1 Juddmonte International.
Mark Johnston's striking son of Frankel is on something of a recovery mission after blowing out in the Irish 2,000 Guineas but now tackles a trip that many in his camp have always thought may be his optimum.
Beaten only two and a quarter lengths when fourth behind Saxon Warrior in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket in May, the Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned colt was subsequently made favourite for the Irish equivalent at the Curragh but could finish only seventh to Romanised.
Elarqam had an excuse that day as he made a noise during the race and has since been treated. Subsequent Group 1 winner Mukhadram won this for the owner in 2013 and connections are hopeful this latest contender will relish returning to a track where he won as a juvenile.
Richard Hills, assistant racing manager to Sheikh Hamdan, said: “After he disappointed in Ireland he was thoroughly checked over. He was found to have a respiratory problem – a dirty scope – which was treated and has cleared up. He's been freshened up and this looks a good spot for him."
He added: "His Guineas run was very good and hopefully he can get back on track. The step up to a mile and a quarter shouldn’t pose any problems and he has won at the track before. If all goes to plan on Saturday, we would look at York [the Juddmonte International] and other big autumn targets.”
Stoute to make a ground Call
Sir Michael Stoute, who won the first running of this event with Best Alibi in 2006 but has been out of luck since, is hoping the rains stay away for Smart Call, who won on the all-weather at Newcastle last time.
The six-year-old mare was a Group 1 winner in South Africa in her younger days and steps back up into Group company after her Listed win on Tyneside.
Smart Call has since worked nicely on the synthetics at home and connections are going for further bold black type.
Stoute said: "Smart Call is in good shape but we'll keep an eye on the weather as she needs good, fast ground. We'll see if they get any rain up there and take a view."
What the others say
Richard Fahey, trainer of Forest Ranger
He wasn’t good enough in the Eclipse at Sandown last time but still ran a fraction below par. He has a penalty to carry, which doesn’t make things easy, and needs to bounce back to his best, but would have a chance if he did.
Andrew Balding, trainer of Brorocco
He's got a bit of a mountain to climb on official ratings but he's been a little bit unlucky in those big handicaps this year and we're keen to make a jump up to Pattern class. He's a very capable horse on his day and will outrun his odds in my opinion."
Tony Nerses, racing manager to Saleh Al Homaizi and Imad Al Sagar, owners of Euginio
He could run a decent race – he just needs everything to drop right for him. He's been knocking at the door and should be in the mix.
Michael Bell, trainer of Fabricate
He's been in good form since Royal Ascot, where he ran slightly below par. His run behind Crystal Ocean is very good form and if he runs to that sort of level he should give a very good account of himself. We're hoping, unlike most people, that the rain stays away.
David Menuisier, trainer of Thundering Blue
If they get the rain up there it will help him and he's very versatile. I expect a good run.
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