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Wednesday, 23 January, 2019

Stronger Via Egnatia ready to do it his own way from the front

Via Egnatia: clear of field at Newmarket last year
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Via Egnatia, who sauntered home seven lengths clear of his nearest pursuer in a Newmarket maiden last year, bids to put his track experience to more good use on his return to action on Tuesday.

He was expected to do well when he made his debut in June, but he pulled too hard on his first two starts over 6f. However, when stepped up to a mile after a 77-day break and allowed to bowl along in front he recorded a convincing win.

John Gosden has equipped him with a hood for his return to the Rowley Mile in the EBF Stallions Bet365 Conditions Stakes (2.55), where his chief opponent could be the Godolphin runner Salsabeel, who like his rival is entered in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas.

Last year's race was won by Thikriyaat who subsequently landed the Group 3 Thoroughbred Stakes at Goodwood and was beaten favourite in the Group 2 Celebration Mile.

Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to Via Egnatia's owner Khalid Abdullah, said: "He was a little bit disappointing on his first two runs. We expected him to do better. Then he obviously just got the hang of things and we let him do what he wanted to do which was basically make the running and he was happy doing that.

"He's strengthened over the winter, I wouldn't say he's grown much. His work has been pretty decent. He's a nice-striding horse. He works in a hood and settles well in it."

Salsabeel won first time out last year and lost out by a short head on his next appearance in a Listed race at Doncaster.

Trainer Charlie Appleby said: "He broke his maiden on his first start then ran a creditable race in the Flying Scotsman. He's wintered well in Dubai and I've been pleased with his preparation. He's still learning.

"The Rowley Mile can catch out inexperienced horses out but I think he's going to be very competitive. They have him to beat. Quick ground will suit him too being an Exceed And Excel."

William Buick rides Salsabeel in a race in which James Doyle partners the Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained Time Zone.

Doyle, Godolphin's other retained jockey, has his first British rides of 2017 having spent most of the winter riding for the team in Australia.

He will be in Godolphin blue on the Gosden-trained Mark Of Approval in the bet365 Wood Ditton Stakes (1.50), in which Hamdan Al Maktoum has three runners including Frankel colt Elyaasaat.

Trained by William Haggas and the choice of first jockey Jim Crowley, Elyaasaat is out of Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Lahudood.

Angus Gold, racing manager to the owner, who also runs Dawaaleeb and Buldan, said: "He's a good-looking horse. As far as I know he goes well. He's very immature mentally so will need a run just to settle him down. He definitely has some ability so we'll see a bit more here.

"Dawaaleeb is a big, Invincible Spirit horse. Charlie Hills took him to Lingfield and he galloped all right and he's been happy with him since.

"Buldan got a very bad infection in an eye last year and they had to remove his right eye. It was a pity because he goes well and would have been all right."

In the Montaz Restaurant EBF Stallions Novice Stakes (2.20), Appleby saddles his first two-year-old runner of the year in Sound And Silence.

"He is another Exceed And Excel," he said. "It's a starting point but he's shown some natural pace at home and seems very professional. It will give us a line on our two-year-olds."

He has strengthened over the winter, I wouldn't say he has grown much. His work has been pretty decent

Key data

Via Egnatia
E.W. Terms
Sky bet