James Burn investigates the three-year-olds to follow
Put simply, William Muir thinks the world of Phijee and is thankful a sale to Hong Kong fell through last year. However, with that deal in the pipeline, Muir had to back off the son of Sepoy, which meant he was last seen winning a conditions race at Ripon in August.
Muir had intended sending his promising colt to the Qipco 2,000 Guineas, but a minor setback scuppered those plans. A 30,000gns yearling bought by the trainer, Phijee is on the road back and connections are aiming high with Royal Ascot on his agenda.
Muir says: "He had a slight setback, but it was nothing to worry about at all and it'll never cause him any more problems. He will be good and is a Group horse – I think he'd have gone close in the Guineas if he'd have been right. I know how good he is.
"Last year I kept running him over six furlongs, which was too short for him and he'll definitely get seven furlongs, maybe a mile. I thought he'd want softish ground, but when he did win on easier conditions last year Sam Hitchcott said not to run him on anything softer. He'll hopefully go for the St James's Palace or Jersey Stakes. That's the sort of thing I'm looking at it, but I'd like to have one run before."
Charlie Hills has a fine reputation for handling sprinters and looks to have another progressive young speedball on his hands in the shape of Nayyar, twice a winner last term. Successful on his debut at Chepstow, he was pitched in deep in the Molecomb Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, but inexperience told as he beat just one home.
The Exceed And Excel colt bounced back to win at Newbury next time up, relishing the sound surface. That is important to him and a heavy defeat on his final out of the campaign on good to soft ground at Chester can be disregarded.
Hills says: "He'll be aimed at sprint handicaps and could run at Wolverhampton next week. Five furlongs will be his trip as he's a very quick horse. He's done well over the winter and I'm pretty pleased with him. There have been no problems or issues – all nice and straightforward. He loves the ground fast and there's a good programme for him, so we'll get him out next week and go from there."
Last season was Clive Cox's best and the trainer looks to have assembled another talented squad to go to war with. Among the more unheralded names is Black Trilby, who runs in the colours of the yard's star sprinter Profitable's former owner Alan Spence.
A son of Helmet, Black Trilby was a pleasing third in a Glorious Goodwood maiden last term before finishing seventh – beaten five and a half lengths – behind subsequent Racing Post Trophy winner Rivet in York's Convivial Maiden. He has pleased Cox over the winter and should be off the mark soon.
Cox says: "I hope he'll be of interest. He was placed in a very good maiden at Goodwood and will be better with a winter on his back. He'll get a mile and is quite versatile with regards to ground. He's one I hope will be able to carry a flag for us this season."