Though Lord Yeats was well beaten in last month’s Ebor at York, Leyburn-based O’Keeffe hopes the greater ease in the ground, after recent rain, will play to the strengths of his challenger.
“We are going into the unknown trip-wise, but we’d be very hopeful he will stay,” said the trainer whose yard has gone from strength to strength after Lord Yeats won at York and Newmarket last year. “He’s definitely bred to stay and when we ran him over a mile and seven furlongs in France earlier in the year he had no trouble staying. I remember PJ McDonald saying afterwards we could go as far as we want with him.
“We were thrilled with way he ran in the Ebor last time, but the ground was too lively for him to be at his best.
“He will be a level above that on slower ground. We don’t need it to be soft or heavy, but the slower side of good is definitely preferable for him.”
Saunter already has one notable victory on Town Moor to his name, having captured last year’s November Handicap, and his trainer Ian Williams feels he is well worth his place in the race which forms another part of the Qipco British Champions Series.
“It was soft when he won the November Handicap and probably plenty quick enough for him in the Ebor,” said Williams.
“He’s up in distance, but I wouldn’t have entered him if I didn’t think the trip was within his compass. I’d be happy enough he will stay.”
The field is headed by last year’s runner up Thomas Hobson who represents Ireland’s champion National Hunt trainer Willie Mullins.
Without a win since last year’s Ascot Stakes at the Royal meeting, the eight-year-old bids to set the record straight by giving the prolific Mullins, who will also saddle last year’s Melbourne Cup third Max Dynamite and Renneti, his first victory in the Group Two contest.
“We know Thomas Hobson acts on the track, as he has run well on it before. I suppose he is our best chance and he has Ryan Moore on board, but they are three good horses on their day,” said the trainer’s son and assistant Patrick.
“Obviously Renneti is a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character. These extreme trips on the Flat seem to suit him, but it all depends which Renneti turns up when the stalls open.”
Meanwhile Yorkshire businessman Steve Parkin will be hoping Soldier’s Call can confirm his class in the Flying Childers Stakes for two-year-old sprinters.
Victorious in the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot, Danny Tudhope’s mount was beaten by Rumble Inthejungle in the Molecomb Stakes at Goodwood before returning to winning ways in France last time out.
Though Rumble Inthejungle reopposes, trainer Archie Watson is hopeful that Soldier’s Call can prevail. “Things didn’t go his way in the Molecomb and there was a bit of scratching heads afterwards, but I don’t think he particularly enjoyed the downhill part of the track,” said the second season trainer who is enjoying a career-best season.
“It was good to get back on track in France and I’ve been very happy with him since. He deserves to take his chance and I’m hoping he runs a good race.”