The five-year-old enjoyed his finest hour in 2016 when lifting the six-furlong Group Two feature on the Knavesmire, but was unable to top that with victory at the highest level.
A setback in the autumn resulted in an early end to that campaign, but connections of the Charlie Hills-trained grey remain optimistic he can prove himself one of the best speedsters around. “He had a little setback in the autumn. He was going to go for a Group Three at Ascot, but he injured his check ligament,” said Sam Hoskins, racing manager to owners Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds.
“He’s fine now, but that meant he had to miss the Champions Sprint or the Breeders’ Cup. We weren’t sure what to go for. Anyway he’s back now and going really nicely.
“He’s done really well for his extended break. He probably won’t go to Newmarket for the Abernant but is likely to go straight for the Duke of York which he won last year.
“If there was a good time to have a setback, he had his at the right time last year. Hopefully he’ll be the same horse from when we last saw him. It should be really exciting. He’s only five, but unfortunately there are a load of other geldings around with Limato and The Tin Man and the fillies Quiet Reflection and Dancing Star, so it’s going to be a tough division. We live the dream with him.”
Meanwhile, Mutakayyef is likely to head straight to the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot following a creditable effort at Meydan on Saturday.
Making his first appearance since being narrowly denied by the great mare Tepin in Canada last September, the William Haggas-trained six-year-old was not beaten far into fifth place in the Dubai Turf.
Connections feel the son of Sea The Stars, who was third in the Juddmonte International to Postponed, was unsuited by the rain-softened ground and are looking forward to campaigning him back on home turf in the summer.
Yet, while the Flat’s turf season begins at Doncaster this Saturday, the National Hunt season is still in full swing as attention switches from this month’s Cheltenham Festival to the Randox Health Grand National meeting which starts at Aintree next Thursday.
Last night, Gold Cup-winning jockey Robbie Power was appointed as retained rider to Barnsley-born owner Alan Potts and his wife Ann.
Power sported the green, yellow and red silks to a famous Cheltenham Festival double recently, which included the blue riband on Sizing John.
While Sizing John’s trainer Jessica Harrington will have first claim on the 35-year-old jockey who won the National 10 years ago, Power will travel from Ireland to England to ride the Potts horses in training with Colin Tizzard, starting at Taunton today with Sizing At Midnight and Sizing Granite.
They had been ridden by Aidan Coleman earlier in the season.
“I’m still Jessie’s number one, there’s no change on that score,” said Power. “But when I can I’ll ride for Alan, starting with two at Taunton.
“Looking forward to Aintree there’s so many really lovely horses to ride like Fox Norton and Finian’s Oscar for Colin, two really exciting types.
“Jessie is sending over Supasundae (Coral Cup winner), too, so hopefully we’ll have some fun.
“I’ve haven’t got a confirmed ride in the National yet, we’re still working on that.”
Meanwhile, Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hero Labaik, a first Festival win for teenage sensation Jack Kennedy, is set to go under the hammer at the Goffs UK Aintree Sale next Thursday.
The previously recalcitrant grey put his best foot forward to run out a smart winner of the Cheltenham curtain-raiser.
Having refused to race twice in succession on the Flat, Gordon Elliott’s charge looked to have been reformed by a switch to the jumping game when scoring in impressive style at Punchestown and Navan in the autumn.
However, his old problems resurfaced as he failed to jump off in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse and the Navan Novice Hurdle in December and his career looked all but over after he trailed home 100 lengths behind the winner at Naas last month.
But Elliott has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds the six-year-old.
In addition to the industry awards handed to York, Doncaster and Wetherby this week, the Racecourse Association honoured Ripon for its customer service – while its dining room won the best quality cafe/restaurant section.