Chabal may have proved something of a disappointment since his high-profile transfer to Godolphin last year but he can get his season back on track at Newmarket in England tomorrow. After winning on his juvenile bow, Chabal finished second in the National Stakes prompting Godolphin, the Dubai-based racing operation, to swoop for Jim Bolger's colt.
Unplaced when sent off as favourite on his final start for Bolger in the Dewhurst, Chabal looked like a possible Derby contender when landing the Sandown Classic Trial on his reappearance. The son of Galileo beat subsequent Chester winner Azmeel that day, although his two-and-a-quarter-length margin ultimately proved irrelevant as he was later disqualified after testing positive for a banned substance.
A subsequent trip to York yielded little consolation for Chabal, who finished some way behind Derby winners Cape Blanco and Workforce in the Dante Stakes, where he was sent off favoured to beat that pair. With a little bit of cut in the Newmarket ground and a short spell off the track, Saeed bin Suroor, the trainer, is expecting a much better showing in the Newmarket Nights Conditions Stakes. "Chabal is very good at the moment but the ground is very important to him," bin Suroor said.
"He missed the Irish Derby because the ground was too fast and he needs it softer." Bin Suroor will also assess ground conditions before committing Rio De La Plata to Saturday's totesport.com Rose of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock in England. The chestnut was a Group One winner in 2007 and while injury problems have hindered him since, he showed he still retains plenty of ability after dead-heating with Mabait in a Pontefract Listed event last month.
The trainer is considering a step up in grade but will not risk him on unsuitably fast ground. "Rio De La Plata won last time and is doing well. He is entered at Haydock, but we will see what the ground is like," bin Suroor said. "He wants good or good to soft ground. Firm ground would not suit him. He is working well at home, so we will see." And bin Suroor is in no rush to make future plans for Antara following her fine effort in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood last weekend.
Her handler feels a mile-and-a-quarter may be her optimum trip and is looking forward to finding her another suitable opportunity. "She ran a good race and came back very sound and happy with no problems," said bin Suroor. "There are no plans for her at the moment but we will try to find a big race somewhere. Meanwhile, Godolphin has entered 10 horses for two of the highlights of Australia's Spring Carnival, the 2.5 million Australian dollar (Dh8.4m) Group 1 BMW Caulfield Cup and the AUS$6m Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup.
Run over a mile-and-a-half at Caulfield on October 16, the race is one of Australia's premier handicaps and is a key trial for the world's richest handicap, the two-mile Emirates Melbourne Cup, at Flemington on November 2. * Agencies