Varian on weather watch with Defoe set to be unleashed in Tattersalls Gold Cup
Roger Varian is hoping to unleash crack colt Defoe in the Tattersalls Gold Cup on Sunday – but only if the ground at the Curragh is not deemed too fast.
Defoe, who is the 7-4 second favourite behind Cliffs Of Moher, is an intended runner in the €300,000 Group 1, but good to firm ground and a dry forecast has worried Varian, who does not want to risk the progressive four-year-old, from whom he is expecting big things this year.
Varian said: "We're keen to run but are concerned about conditions so we'll keep a close eye on the ground.
"We don't need cut but we'd like to race on good. If I feel it's too firm there's a chance he won't run – he's an intended runner but I don't want to risk him on fast ground.
"There's not a lot of rain – if any – forecast. Until we get out there we won't know how fast it is."
The progressive Defoe has won six of his seven races since his juvenile days, with the one defeat coming in the St Leger last season.
An easy victory over 1m5½f in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes last season proved he is a thorough stayer, but he also displayed speed to win a tactical running of the 1m4f Jockey Club Stakes this month, and Varian is confident Defoe, who is bidding for a first Group 1 success, has the gears to cope with 1m2½f.
"The trip is not a concern," he said. "This looks like an attractive opportunity but we have to be disciplined – he's got a big season ahead."
He added of Defoe, who can be backed at 25-1 for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe: "You can put a line through his Leger run. Everything he did until that was progressive and he's carried on again this season. He's a lovely horse, very talented, has a good attitude, switches off, quickens and has everything you'd want in a high-class middle-distance colt. He's a good one for the year ahead.
"He's in very good form and training well."
Eminent, an 8-1 shot for the Tattersalls Gold Cup, will not run at the Curragh, with trainer Martyn Meade electing to keep his stable star fresh for a crack at the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot next month.
Meade said: "We're not going to run – we'll go straight to the Prince of Wales's Stakes. He's in great nick but it's just too close to Ascot."
Eminent, who was fourth in last year's Derby and finished within two lengths of the winner Wings Of Eagles, was a bitterly disappointing last of five on his seasonal reappearance in the Huxley Stakes at Chester, after which it was revealed he had a fibrillating heart.
However, Meade, who last week issued a clean bill of health for Eminent, remains upbeat with the horse's work at home and confident the heart problem will not resurface.
Speaking on Thursday morning, he added: "It was a complete one-off. He's been perfect since he got home. He worked today and was perfect in every way. I've no reason to believe the issue will happen again."
The absence of Eminent leaves the Tattersalls Gold Cup looking a bit light on quality and depth, with a possible field of just nine.
Cliffs Of Moher and Defoe head the market but Hydrangea, the 8-1 third favourite, is the only runner among the nine possible contenders to have won a Group 1.
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