GROUND conditions will determine the next big race target for The Grey Gatsby after Yorkshire’s horse finished a gutsy third in last week’s Juddmonte International.
The most likely assignment is the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on September 12 – this is the race that Kevin Ryan’s stable star won so memorably in 2014 after a pulsating battle with Epsom Derby victor Australia.
However, The Grey Gatsby also holds entries in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on October 4 and the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot on October 17.
Nevertheless owner Frank Gillespie says fast ground is the key to his horse of a lifetime who chased home David Elsworth’s shock winner Arabian Queen, and Frankie Dettori’s Derby champion Golden Horn, at York last Wednesday.
“He’s fine. He trotted up the next morning and ate up,” Gillespie told The Yorkshire Post. “It was too soft for him.
“It was the same with the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster two years ago when he was seventh to Kingston Hill. If it is good to firm like last year, we will go for the Irish Champion Stakes and try and win it again. He’s in the Arc and the Ascot race, but it has to be good ground.”
Gillespie says no decision has been made on whether The Grey Gatsby will be retired to stud at the end of the this year – or continue racing at the highest level next year as a five-year-old. “We will see how the season fares out. No decision has been made,” added the owner.
“He never runs a bad race. Even when the ground is bad, he’s still run his heart out. He’s very consistent.
“Second in the Dubai Turf on World Cup night, fourth in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, second at Royal Ascot beaten less than a short-head, second in the Eclipse, third in the Juddmonte, it’s still been some year. He’s earning his keep!”
Next month’s Irish Champion Stakes could be a mouth-watering contest if ground conditions permit The Grey Gatsby to renew his rivalry with Golden Horn and race this year’s English and Irish 2000 Guineas winner Gleneagles who was pulled out of the Juddmonte because of York’s soft going.
From 16 starts, The Grey Gatsby has won four races and been runner-up on seven occasions. He has now earned more than £2.5m in prize money.
Group One-winning sprinter Maarek is poised for a return to England after he was confirmed for the totescoop6 Beverley Bullet on Saturday.
The eight-year-old Irish sprinter, trained by Evanna McCutcheon, is on course to feature in the Listed heat after finishing fifth behind Mattmu in the Phoenix Sprint Stakes at the Curragh on August 9.
Tangerine Trees won the race in 2011 before claiming a Group One success in the Prix de l’Abbaye a few months later at Longchamp.
Hambleton-based Bryan Smart could give the 10-year-old another chance to shine on the Westwood, where he may be accompanied by stablemate Red Pike.
North Yorkshire handler Paul Midgley is similarly double-handed with Line Of Reason, a close third in the Bullet 12 months ago, and Silvanus.
Many Clouds, winner of this year’s Crabbie’s Grand National, could make his seasonal reappearance in Wetherby’s bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at the end of October.
The West Yorkshire track’s feature race of the year is one option being considered by trainer Oliver Sherwood before Many Cloud’s possible clash with Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Coneygree in Newbury’s iconic Hennessy Gold Cup.
Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton could have her first ride under Flat rules at Ripon on Monday.
She has been declared to ride Royal Etiquette for trainer Lawney Hill in a Flat race for amateur riders.