Redwood gets a chance to prove its worth today, but Godolphin's Campanologist is standing in his way.
Redwood has chance to impress at Newmarket
NEWMARKET, England// Redwood's seasonal appearance in the Princess Of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket today is an opportunity to prove that his second to Rewilding in the Dubai Sheema Classic was no fluke.
In March, Redwood finished three-and-a-quarter lengths behind Godolphin's stable star, but those perusing the form book would do well to look at the weight carried that day.
Redwood carried half a kilogram more around Meydan Racecourse's 2,410-metre track, and the five year old was coming off a three-month break.
Once again, Redwood has been afforded a three-month hiatus from competitive action and, after Rewilding's sensational success against So You Think at Royal Ascot, suddenly all eyes are trained on Redwood's next move.
There is more at stake this afternoon than simply the well-being of owner Prince Khalid Abdullah's breeding interests, as the placed horses on Dubai World Cup night have not performed with credit in their ensuing races.
Although Rewilding and Rocket Man have advertised the strength of the Dubai Sheema Classic and Al Quoz Sprint respectively by adding to victories in those races this year, of the 14 thoroughbreds that finished second and third on March 26 only Sunny King has put in a better performance since.
Master Of Hounds, who finished second to Khawlah in the UAE Derby, looked to run a huge race when finishing fifth in the Kentucky Derby in May, but such was the high level of form displayed by his conqueror at Meydan that, ratings-wise, his fifth place in the "Run For the Roses" was actually below the form displayed in the UAE.
The good news is that Redwood is primed for a big run, and Charlie Hills, the assistant trainer to his father, Barry, believes their charge is better than ever.
"He's improving all the time. It's nothing specific, like weight or anything, but every time he runs he just gets better," he told The National yesterday.
Despite Redwood's age, he has only raced 13 times, and after he finished ninth in the Dante Stakes in 2009, a well-regarded trial for the Epsom Derby, it was decided that Redwood should take the year off to strengthen up.
"We have had to be patient with him," Hills said.
"He was very lightly raced as a two and three-year-old. It was nothing specific, just some niggling little things.
"He's getting better now with every run and I put it down to experience."
Redwood thrived on racing last season, running nine times in five different countries.
But it took him a while to get into gear, winning on his fifth start of the season, and that triumph in the Group 1 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes at Woodbine in Toronto sealed his reputation as an international challenger.
"Before we went to Canada we didn't know he'd like travel until we tried it," Hills said.
"You never really know with horses until you give it a go.
"It is much like going to Dubai. We came out this year because we had the right horses. If we've got the right one, then we'd definitely come again."
Redwood is rated the highest he has ever been by the official handicapper, and on 116 he is considered the best horse in the Group 2 contest alongside Godolphin's Campanologist.
Campanologist was disappointing at Royal Ascot when he finished fifth behind Await The Dawn in the Hardwicke Stakes.
Two Group 1 victories in Germany, however, indicate he has every right to compete at this level and, like Redwood, he is remains unpenalised for his previous successes.
"Campanologist was disappointing on his most recent outing, but he came back sound and healthy," said Saeed bin Suroor, his trainer.
"A mile-and-a half is his best trip, and I am hoping that he gets the chance to run on good ground this time."