Michael Dods hopes the rapidly-improving Dakota Gold will handle a combination of quick ground and a return to the minimum trip in the Dubai International Airport World Trophy at Newbury.
Already the winner this season of two valuable handicaps at York, the Great St Wilfrid at Ripon and a Listed race back on the Knavesmire, Dakota Gold takes the next step up the ladder to Group Three company on Saturday.
While he has won several times over five furlongs, his progression this summer has come over further, and Dods is slightly concerned by the warm weather in Berkshire.
“When he won last time, (jockey) Connor (Beasley) said he’d have no trouble back at five in this class, but obviously we’d have preferred a bit more juice in the ground,” said Dods.
“That is what it is, though. There are other front-runners in the race, but he deserves his chance, so we’ll see how he goes.
“I can’t say I expected him to be running in something like this at the start of the season. We knew he was decent and he might have picked up one big handicap – but to win three and then a Listed, if he never wins again this season he owes us nothing. We’re looking forward to next year as well.”
Dods is no stranger to handling top-class sprinters. In recent years the likes of Mecca’s Angel, Mabs Cross, Easton Angel and Intense Romance have all won Pattern races – with Que Amoro and Queens Gift not far from breaking through to the big time.
He said: “I don’t think there is a secret – it’s keeping them happy. We are lucky we’ve had some decent ones – but we don’t over-work them, and they get turned out a lot.
“There are a lot of races left at home. Dakota Gold goes in the field every day, and I don’t think he’s worked upsides another horse in the last six weeks – he just has canters.
“We’ve been very lucky we’ve had some decent sprinters that have enabled us to compete at the highest level, and another keeps coming along.”
Connections of Judicial are optimistic about another good run, after the seven-year-old returned to form with victory in the Beverley Bullet.
The Iffraaj gelding showed at Beverley that he was back in business with a smooth performance to beat Queens Gift cosily by three-quarters of a length.
“We’re looking forward it. He seems in good form and it’s nice to be going down there on the back of a good performance last time,” said Steve Brown, husband and assistant to trainer Julie Camacho.
“He was always well-positioned and got the job done well at Beverley. We were well-placed on the day, and there was a touch of relief as well to get a good day into him.
“He seems very well. We haven’t had to do too much with him. I think it’s a very realistic race for him – and there’s plenty of pace to aim at, which suits him – (so) we’re hopeful.”
Equilateral beat Queens Gift by a head when getting off the mark for the first time in 2019, in the Listed Scarbrough Stakes at Doncaster last week.
Trainer Charlie Hills reports the four-year-old to have taken that race well, and feels he has plenty in his favour as he bids to back up that overdue success.
Hills said: “It’s something we’ve been looking at since he won last time. We’ve been very pleased with him through the week, and it looks the obvious race for him.
“It was nice for him to get his head back in front. The track should be fine, and the ground should be OK for him.”
Stuart Williams drops Keystroke down to five furlongs for the first time, after the seven-year-old entire had an unsuccessful journey to Deauville last month.
Keystroke had finished a creditable third to Waldfpad over six furlongs on this course in July, but he is burdened with a 3lb penalty for winning the Abernant Stakes at Newmarket in April.
Williams said: “He’s fine. He didn’t run great in Deauville – I probably wouldn’t travel him again. I don’t think he enjoys the trip.
“Obviously we’re coming back to five for the first time, which will be interesting. It’s quite a competitive race. He’s still got the Group Three penalty, which he got for winning earlier in the year.
“It makes it a tough race for him – but he’s fit and well, he’s ready to run and he likes the track.”
Hit The Bid travels over from Ireland to make a quick reappearance after finishing out of the money in the Group One Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday.
Trainer Darren Bunyan has no issues with the quick reappearance.
“(I’m) very happy with everything,” said the County Kildare trainer.
“The ground is good for him. There are only eight runners, but we’ll jump him and go forward.
“There is plenty of pace in it, but none more than us.
“We have our favourite ground, and the horse is in great shape. He’s come out of the Curragh very well. I couldn’t be happier with him.
“Antonio Fresu rides him. We thought we’d go for someone who knows him, and Antonio rides the horse in plenty of work when he’s in Dubai. He knows the horse very well.
“We’re hopeful. We just need a bit of luck, as you do in these sprints.”
Those close to Wadilsafa pray the four-year-old will be on his best behaviour when he lines up for the Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup.
The four-year-old is highly-regarded by trainer Owen Burrows and his team, but has not always delivered. The hope is stepping up slightly in trip, with the ground to suit, will eke out the best in the son of Frankel.
“He has been a little bit frustrating this season,” said Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.
“He’s a horse with plenty of ability, but he is sometimes his own worst enemy because he can be a bit of a playboy.”
“He likes top of the ground, and we’re stepping him up in trip a furlong, so hopefully that might help. We’ll see how he goes.”
A tight five-runner race features David Simcock’s Desert Encounter, winner of two Group Three contests last month, and John Smith’s Cup victor Pivoine from Andrew Balding’s stable.
The James Fanshawe-trained Pondus and John Gosden’s Waldstern are the two three-year-olds in the quintet.