LONDON // Elzaam, Dream Ahead and Delegator have all been touted this season as the potential sprint champion of Europe, but when their respective opportunities arose, none of them took the crown.
All three have the chance Saturday to assume that mantle when they go head-to-head in the Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock Park in England.
Elzaam suffered trouble in running when finishing fourth in the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in June before fluffing his lines completely behind Dream Ahead and Delegator in the July Cup at Newmarket.
It was the third time that Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid's three year old struggled to perform at the home of British racing, and his trainer, Roger Varian, said today's assignment is better suited to his charge.
"I don't think he likes the undulations at Newmarket," Varian said. "He's got a good record on flat tracks, which is what he'll get at Haydock. The July Cup was a slowly-run race which didn't suit him. He saw too much daylight.
"He needs to be just off a strong pace."
Varian set the season alight when he officially took over from Michael Jarvis, his mentor at Kremlin House stables, in April.
Varian's stable was quiet during August, much through choice as well as a lean patch, which has resulted in him sending out more horses to finish last than first in the past 14 days.
"We have deliberately regrouped for the busy autumn ahead," Varian said. "We'll have a lot of runners in September, but let's just get Saturday out of the way before we release the rest of the big guns."
Elzaam is sure to get the cover he needs with 15 other rivals in the line-up, including Society Rock, the Golden Jubilee victor, and Hoof It, who was supplemented on Monday for £13,000 (Dh77,350) by Lee Westwood, the golfer, and his manager, Andrew Chandler.
Despite the bullish signals emanating from the Hoof It camp, there is a feeling that neither Delegator nor Dream Ahead has shown their true colours this season. Dream Ahead surely holds the most latent talent, having finished last season rated as the joint-top juvenile alongside Frankel. There was a glimpse of his true ability when he won the July Cup, but of the horses that finished behind him that day, only one has placed in 14 subsequent runs.
Khalifa bin Dasmal's colt then flopped in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville, a run that still mystifies his trainer, David Simcock. With the sun shining over England yesterday his chances have decreased with the ebb flowing towards Delegator.
Saeed bin Suroor, the Godolphin trainer, has said all season that Delegator needs fast ground to be seen to his best effect. The five year old was scratched from Royal Ascot due to rain-affected going. When conditions had come in his favour for the July Cup, he was drawn on the far side of the pack away from the pace. Godolphin have been desperate to showcase Delegator's considerable talents with everything in his favour. Having drawn the gate two down from Masamah, the pace horse, it would appear to be that day.