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Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Limato on salvage mission as Jacobs eyes big bucks next year

Limato (Harry Bentley,whip up) wins the 2016 July Cup from Suedois (red, star on cap)
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3.00 Newmarket
Godolphin Stud And Stable Staff Awards Challenge Stakes | Group 2 | 7f | 3yo+ | ITV4/RUK

If all goes to plan at last for Limato in Friday's Challenge Stakes after what has been a frustrating campaign, owner Paul Jacobs is considering changing tack in 2018 and aiming him at one or two of the massive pots available over a mile in the US.

With places in two Group 1s it has hardly been a disastrous campaign for the Henry Candy-trained five-year-old, but Jacobs has been inspired by Suedois's success in last weekend's $1m Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes.

Limato beat the David O'Meara-trained gelding comprehensively in his two 2016 Group 1 wins, and Jacobs is also mindful of the unpredictable British weather which makes plotting a domestic campaign so tricky for his top-of-the-ground lover.

He said: "Various factors, including the elements, have rather conspired against us this year and the Challenge Stakes is something of a salvage operation. It's the last possibility for him to race in Britain this year, as by the time of next weekend's Champions Sprint I understand Hurricane Ophelia will have done her worst.

"We go in hope rather than expectation, as we are taking on two or three improving younger horses, but it should be good ground at Newmarket, and although he's never run on the Rowley Mile it's not dissimilar to the July course, where he was a brilliant winner of the July Cup last year and a good second this time."

Jacobs has no appetite for a return to the Breeders' Cup, in which Limato was sixth in the Breeders' Cup Mile last year, but said: "I think it's unlikely we will go back to six furlongs with Limato as a six-year-old and we might well try a mile again next year.

"Having seen what David O'Meara has done with Suedois at a mile that sort of thing might be in the back of our minds, although I haven't spoken to Henry yet. Firm ground like they had last weekend at Keeneland would be just up our boy's street."

Dutch Connection is another five-year-old who has not quite matched last year's achievements, although he did manage a Group 3 win in the Supreme Stakes at Goodwood.

He has similar requirements to Limato and Charlie Hills said: "Dutch Connection had to miss the Prix de la Foret earlier this month due to soft ground, but I couldn’t be more pleased with him at home. He would have his best chance on quicker going and I'm hoping the weather stays dry."

As big a danger, arguably, is last year's 2000 Guineas second Massaat, who made a successful return in the Hungerford Stakes.

Trainer Owen Burrows said: "He ran respectably behind Ribchester over a mile and is back to seven furlongs. The vibes I'm getting suggest he stays in training, so we thought we would go for this and try to make him a Group 1 winner next year. He's in good form and I'm not too concerned about the ground."

There have been only two Irish-trained Challenge winners in the last 40 years, and veteran Gordon Lord Byron, six-year-old Cougar Mountain and the three-year-olds True Valour and Rehana all look set to go off as outsiders.

The Johnny Murtagh-trained True Valour, who chased home Suedois in a Group 2 over a mile at Leopardstown last time, could be the pick of them.

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Various factors, including the elements, have rather conspired against us this year and we go in hope rather than expectation
E.W. Terms
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