WILLIAM HAGGas has given the green light to star sprinter Muthmir’s quest for Group One glory in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes – one of the highlights of next week’s Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival.
The five-year-old goes into next Friday’s race on the back of an impressive victory over Take Cover , trained at Bawtry by David Griffith, in the King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood after jockey Paul Hanagan enjoyed a clear passage up the far rail.
Richard Hills, assistant racing manager to owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, said: “Muthmir has come out of his win at Goodwood very well and York is the target.
“Fast ground over five furlongs are his ideal conditions and we feel that the Nunthorpe has always been his race. He has strong form and looks to have a good chance.”
Sheikh Hamdan is also set to be represented by exciting three-year-old sprinter Waady. Trained by John Gosden, the son of Approve has won four of his five starts this season and has progressed through handicaps into Group company.
The Nunthorpe Stakes is seen by many as British racing’s definitive speed test for a top-class thoroughbred. York’s five-furlong course regularly sees sub-59 second times and the prize has been taken by some of the fastest horses ever to grace British turf.
A quarter of a century ago Sheikh Hamdan’s Dayjur ran out one of the most impressive winners in living memory – Willie Carson’s mount was a four-length winner and smashed the course record in the process.
That record of 56.16secs still stands and this year’s renewal looks set to have pulses racing yet again thanks to American superstar Acapulco who was a stunning winner of the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot.
She will bid to become the first two-year-old filly to win since Lyric Fantasy in 1992, while Sole Power will try to emulate Tag End (1928-30 inclusive) and Sharpo (1980-82) by winning three Nunthorpe Stakes.
Meanwhile the Haggas-trained Storm The Stars, the ante-post favourite for next month’s Ladbrokes St Leger and third to Golden Horn in the Derby, heads 13 possibles for Wednesday’s Betway Great Voltigeur Stakes, traditionally one of the most informative trials prior to the Doncaster Classic.
However the complexion of this race will not become clearer until Monday’s final declarations – Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O’Brien is responsible for nine of the entries.
Yet, while Haggas hinted last month that Storm The Stars would bypass this race following a gutsy run in defeat in last month’s Grand Prix de Paris, connections are clearly contemplating their options.
“He’s a probable runner, not a certain runner at this stage,” said Bruce Raymond, racing manager to owner Sheikh Juma Dalmook Al Maktoum.
“The St Leger is still his main objective and if he thinks the horse needs the run he’ll go to York.”
Frankie Dettori’s Epsom Derby hero Golden Hero heads 10 entries for Wednesday’s £850,000 Juddmonte International, the richest race ever to be staged at York.
Wetherby has been allocated two Flat fixtures for next year. The course will host 20 meetings in total, with 18 over jumps. The two additional NH meetings in 2016 will help appease those concerned by the advent of Flat racing at the track.