Fresh from training the winning horse at Meydan Racecourse, Roger Charlton has high hopes for Top Offer in the English 2,000 Guineas.
Dubai Duty Free winner targets British Classic
Newbury, England // Roger Charlton has never won the English 2000 Guineas but the 62-year-old trainer believes this year he has a decent chance of landing the first Classic of the British season with Khalid Abdullah's Top Offer.
Charlton is still reeling from earning the biggest pay cheque of his career when Cityscape, also owned by the Saudi prince, won the US$5 million (Dh24.2m) Dubai Duty Free at Meydan Racecourse last month.
His confidence in Top Offer's bid stems more from the lack of perceived quality of the horses that may line up at Newmarket on May 5, but also from the possibility that the field may cut up considerably.
Aidan O'Brien's unbeaten Camelot is considered the most likely winner after his athletic ability was on display in two racecourse victories last season, including the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.
However, the Irish trainer has suggested that Camelot may not cross the Irish Sea to contest the Guineas, and Most Improved, another well-fancied runner, suffered a dose of lameness on Thursday to miss the Craven Stakes, a traditional trial.
It is a far cry from the past two years for which the big-race build up was dominated by illustrious names such as Frankel, now the world's highest-rated racehorse, and St Nicholas Abbey, who subsequently finished second in this season's Dubai Sheema Classic.
"Is seems to have been apparent all winter but you wonder where the depth is in these races," Charlton said. "There are not that many potential contenders. We don't know whether Camelot will run, Most Improved may not run. Will the good horses stand up and be counted?"
Top Offer's participation at Newmarket appeared to hinge on a run at Newbury Racecourse today in the Greenham Stakes, a race Frankel used as a springboard to Classic success last season. Heavy rain has fallen in the Newbury area for the past few days, however, and late yesterday Charlton decided to scratch the horse from the line-up. "It is too close to the Guineas to have what could be a very tough race in ground that could be holding," he said.
Top Offer will still come to Newbury today to build racecourse experience, having won his only racecourse start last season, but the three-year-old will be prepared in the privacy of Charlton's Beckhampton stables.
As for Cityscape, Charlton reported his stable flag-bearer to be in fine shape on his return from Dubai. The BMW Champions Mile at Sha Tin on May 6 remains the intended target and Charlton has put in the ground work to recommend the race to the prince.
"We've done all the forms to get to Hong Kong and looked at the travel arrangements," he added. "Having won the Guineas with Top Offer, we can jump on a plane from Heathrow" with the hockey James Doyle and arrive at Hong Kong at lunchtime the next day. "If the owner is happy to do that then we'll give it a go" Charlton said. I've got it all worked out."
Over in Singapore, Rocket Man is gearing up for a fourth consecutive victory in next week's Lion City Cup at Kranji Racecourse, having emerged from quarantine this week.
Patrick Shaw's sprinter finished second to Krypton Factor in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on World Cup night at Meydan Racecourse last month.
The seven-year-old gelding cleared quarantine on Wednesday following his return from Dubai and was entered in a barrier trial by Shaw.
Rocket Man pulled hard under Bernard Vorster in the 1,000-metre trial and recorded a time of one minute, 00.3 seconds and covered the final 200m in 11.7 seconds.
"He did it so easily and hasn't taken any harm from the trip to Dubai," Vorster said. "He feels super and you couldn't ask for anything else from him."
Shaw said it was the perfect preparation for next Saturday's Group 1 race, Singapore's richest domestic sprint at Dh1.4 million, despite a week less recovery time for his stable star.
"He's been eating well and he's been holding his condition, and looks well in his coat," Shaw said in an interview with the Singapore Turf Club. "I don't think he needs much more as he came back here pretty fit. It's been a bit of a rush to get him ready for this race all the same.
"We just wanted a nice easy trial for him and that is what he has had."
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