Leading Classic hope Elarqam to go straight to Guineas – via racecourse gallops
Mark Johnston will rely on a tried and tested route as he charts a course towards the Qipco 2,000 Guineas for last year's hugely promising juvenile Elarqam, who will be bidding to become Frankel's first European Classic winner at Newmarket on May 5.
After wintering well Elarqam will follow in the footsteps of his dam Attraction, who won the 1,000 Guineas in 2004, and the stable's 1994 2,000 Guineas hero Mister Baileys by foregoing a traditional prep race in favour of two racecourse gallops.
Elarqam is, along with Roaring Lion and Expert Eye, one of the main British hopes of repelling Aidan O'Brien's horses in the Guineas. Johnston's challenger is a general 10-1 chance in a market headed by Saxon Warrior at 6-1.
Johnston said on Tuesday: "Elarqam is not going to race before the Guineas. He's done one piece of work already, which went very well, and he's going to gallop again this weekend before hopefully having two racecourse gallops prior to the Guineas.
"Provided the ground is okay he'll hopefully go to Pontefract on April 3, which is a raceday, and then to Newmarket during the Craven meeting for another racecourse gallop, where I hope Sheikh Hamdan will be able to see him, although that's still to be confirmed."
He added: "Mister Baileys had racecourse gallops at Thirsk and Ripon, and I well remember Attraction's racecourse gallop at Ripon before the Guineas. We've always said that if we're going straight there then we'll have at least one racecourse gallop first."
With a pedigree to die for – by one of the best 2,000 Guineas winners of all time, out of an exceptionally tough and game five-time Group 1 winner – and a price tag of 1.6 million guineas, Elarqam had much to live up to when he made his eagerly awaited debut at York in September.
It could easily have proved a letdown, but he won that novice in style and followed up by decisively beating the smart Tip Two Win by two and a quarter lengths in the Group 3 Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket later in the month.
While there was speculation he might step up to Group 1 company before the end of the year, that was never on the cards.
Johnston explained: "Sheikh Hamdan said there and then in the winner's enclosure at Newmarket that Elarqam wouldn't run again until he was three, so there was no question of going for either the Dewhurst or Racing Post Trophy."
He continued: "Elarqam has done well over the winter and is absolutely fine. He's not particularly exposed and hasn't done as much as either Mister Baileys or Attraction, but he couldn't do any more than he has done.
"He's not quite as laid-back as his mother – although she had a fair spark about her when she wanted to as well, and could be fairly explosive – but in most ways he's an absolute dead ringer for her. He's like a male version of her both physically and temperamentally. It's exciting."
Elarqam also holds the Investec Derby entry, for which he is a 25-1 chance.
Frankel's main three-year-old hopes of 2017 – Cracksman, Eminent, Fair Eva and Queen Kindly – came up just short in the Classics, but Soul Stirring got him off the mark when winning the Japanese Oaks.
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