Donald McCain has opted to ‘take a punt’ on Navajo Pass as the soon-to-be hurdler goes for Flat honours in the £100,000 RaceBets Handicap at York.
The Cholmondeley handler has already tasted Flat success with the three-year-old, when stepping him up to today’s trip at Carlisle in August.
Though the future of the son of Nathaniel lies over obstacles, McCain has opted to give him a chance for a big pot in the valuable Knavesmire contest.
While McCain acknowledged the stiff competition awaiting his charge, he issued an upbeat bulletin on both his future and well-being.
“He’s grand,” McCain said. “He’s set to go hurdling soon enough, but we thought we’d take a punt here.
“It’s a very competitive race and I don’t really know where we stand with the form – the race from Carlisle has worked out okay, but this is a big step up in grade.
“He was bought for the other job, and he’s been schooling away over hurdles since he was two, but we know he stays and running in a race of this nature will teach him a bit more about life.”
Reflecting on his win at Carlisle, in which Navajo Pass repelled the sustained challenge of the Tom Dascombe-trained Celestial Force by a short-head, McCain added: “He was always going to want further and slower ground.
“The ground looks to be drying out a bit at York, but hopefully it will be just slow enough.”
The £100,000 RaceBets Handicap has attracted an 18-strong field, including the William Haggas-trained Hamish.
Carrying the colours of his father Brian, the three-year-old won the Sky Bet Melrose Race to the Ebor Handicap at the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival and will be bidding to enhance his career record to three wins from five starts.
The yard is already eyeing the £1m Ebor of 2020.
Mark Johnston who is closing in on a record number of winners on the flat in a single year, landed the spoils last year with Elegiac and he is double-handed this time around, courtesy of Mondain and Mister Chiang. Current leading handler at York this season, John Gosden has also entered an interesting duo in El Misk and Koscluszko.
Roger Charlton expects to have a clearer idea of Quadrilateral’s capabilities after she has tested the water at Group One level in the bet365 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket on Friday.
A narrow winner on her debut at Newbury in July, the daughter of Frankel produced an impressive display on her return to the Berkshire track last month – with her nine-length romp prompting bookmakers to promote her to favouritism for next year’s 1000 Guineas. The Khalid Abdullah-owned filly faces a significant step up in class over the Rowley Mile, and Charlton is not taking the task lightly.
He said: “I think we’re going there riding on our reputation a little bit – we don’t really know what we beat and we’re taking on the best fillies in Europe, in my opinion.
“Cayenne Pepper and Love represent the best form around, in my view. Whether we deserve to be favourite ahead of those, I don’t know, but the race will tell us where we stand.”
Charlton was considering the Group Three Oh So Sharp Stakes elsewhere on the card as a potential target for Quadrilateral following her latest triumph, but connections decided to take the plunge and supplement for the Fillies’ Mile at a cost of £40,000.
“After consultation with connections, Prince Khalid felt he wanted to let her take her chance in a Group One,” he added.
“I’d imagine by Friday the ground will be on the slow side of good and it’s drying out all the time. Hopefully she’ll be fine and Friday will tell us a