In at the deep end: Louie De Palma set for Victoria Cup after 1,381 days off
As devilishly competitive handicaps go, Saturday's totescoop6 Victoria Cup at Ascot is as tough as they come to win. It is even more difficult to pull off with a horse returning from a near four-year break.
Clive Cox attempts to seal the prize for training performance of the decade this weekend with Louie De Palma, who was last seen finishing second to Ivawood in the Group 2 Richmond Stakes at Glorious Goodwood in July 2014.
A winner of his first two starts, Louie De Palma suffered an injury during that highly creditable defeat, when he finished a neck in front of this year's Al Quoz Sprint winner Jungle Cat, that has proved particularly troubling to Cox and his team.
They are just delighted to have the son of Pastoral Pursuits primed for action and, off a mark of 92, Louie De Palma has attracted support for his first assignment in 1,381 days with bet365 shortening him to 8-1 second favourite (from 10) on Thursday after he was declared in a maximum field of 29 runners.
Cox said: “We’re very pleased to have Louie De Palma ready to run as it’s been a very long journey back with him. He’s showing us the right sort of signs at home that he’s ready for his first racecourse experience in a long while.
“As is the case with any horse, as long as there is hope you carry on with them and he has a very understanding owner in Peter Ridgers. I’m very proud of the team to get him back in the sort of order he is in and hopefully he can progress from here.
“It’s a huge ask for him – it will be jolly difficult and it’s undoubtedly a very hot race, but on his rating it looks a good race to start him in.”
Cox also unleashes a potential Classic contender at Lingfield on Saturday with the Bridget Drew and David Keast-owned Perfect Clarity contesting the Listed Betfred Mobile Oaks Trial Fillies' Stakes.
Adam Kirby's mount ran out a comfortable winner of a mile novice stakes at Nottingham on her only start at two and is a best price 50-1 with Betfair and Paddy Power to land the Investec Oaks at Epsom on June 1.
Cox said: “She made a very pleasing debut at Nottingham last year and has wintered really well. The step up in trip will be very welcome for her and she’s a very good, strong and athletic filly – I’m looking forward to seeing her run.
“We did have the option of the Fillies’ Mile at the back end of last season but she coated up soon enough last autumn and went off the boil so we gave her plenty of time and it seems to have been the right move. She’s improved very clearly for a nice winter on her back and she’s a nice filly.
“We need to take this step forward into Listed company to see where we are with her, but she looks well and I’m very happy with her preparation.”Harry Angel at the five-day stage for the Duke of York Clipper Logistics at York on Wednesday, where his rivals could include familiar foes Brando, Limato, Tasleet and The Tin Man.
He said: “Harry is in great form and we’ve been very happy with his progress. He appears to be even stronger than last year so we’re very much looking forward to seeing him back in action.”
Members can read the latest exclusive interviews, news analysis and comment available from 6pm daily on racingpost.com