Karl Burke is excited to see El Caballo make his first competitive appearance since Royal Ascot last summer in the Pertemps Network Cammidge Trophy at Doncaster on Saturday.
Narrowly beaten on his Town Moor debut two years ago, the Havana Gold colt went on to win his next six races, including his first four last season.
A Listed success in Lingfield’s Spring Cup was followed by a lucrative victory on All-Weather Championships Finals Day at Newcastle, while a successful switch to the turf in the Group Two Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock ensured he a major contender for the Group One Commonwealth Cup.
El Caballo was well beaten on fast ground at the Royal meeting and missed the rest of the campaign, but he is reported to be in rude health ahead of his return in this weekend’s six-furlong Listed event.
“He’s wintered really well and has been working nicely. We’re hoping for a big run,” said Burke.
“He just got jarred at Ascot, so we had to back off him after his run in the Commonwealth. We’ve given him plenty of time to recover and hopefully he can make up for lost ground this spring.
“It’s going to be pretty heavy and pretty testing. I’m not saying he wants that, but I’d rather there was a bit of juice in the ground than not.
“He will improve for the run, but we’ve been very happy with the way he’s working.”
Burke has an interesting second string to his bow in the form of Fast Response, who rounded off 2022 with victory in the Wentworth Stakes over the course and distance in heavy ground.
The Fast Company filly will again have conditions to suit, but her trainer believes she may not be at concert pitch at this early stage of the season.
“She loves the heavy ground and obviously won a Listed race at the backend of last season,” the Spigot Lodge handler added.
“She was very progressive at the end of the year and heavy ground is the key to her, but her form improved as the season went on last year.
“I’m not sure she’s a spring filly and like a lot of fillies at this time of year, she looks like she wants a little bit of sunshine, but we’ll let her take her chance.”
The Charlie Fellowes-trained Vadream returns to turf action after three successive runs on the all-weather this year.
“She’s a soft ground performer. I’m not convinced she’s really suited to those all-weather races round a bend, but we wanted to get her qualified for Good Friday and that is not out of the question – she could easily run at Doncaster then at Newcastle as well,” said the Newmarket handler.
“She’s got her conditions on Saturday and I thought she was quite overpriced considering a straight six on soft ground is what she loves.
“If she can produce the runs from the back end of last year, especially on Champions Day, I think she will go pretty close.”
Michael Dods saddles dual Stewards’ Cup winner Commanche Falls, and said: “He normally doesn’t race as early in the season, so while he’s well I wouldn’t say he’s come to himself yet.
“But there’s limited opportunities off his present rating and he seems well enough to have a run, so we’ll let him take his chance.”
James Horton is represented by Asjad, who was touched off by a stablemate of Commanche Falls in Dakota Gold on his latest appearance at Doncaster in October.
“He’s earned his place and his right to go and compete in those races. He’s rated 107, so he has to go and run in those races really,” Horton told Sky Sports Racing.
“We know he likes Doncaster, we know he likes soft ground and we know he likes running fresh.
“He seems fresh and well. He still possibly looks a little bit wintry in his coat, but he’s a five-year-old gelding living in North Yorkshire, so he’s probably not stupid!
“He’s coming nicely into this race and whatever he does on Saturday should bring him forward.”
Andrew Balding’s King’s Lynn, who carries the colours of the King and the Queen Consort, also features in a 12-strong field.