The weather will dictate where Hugo Palmer heads next with his Group Two Greenlands Stakes winner Brad The Brief.
The five-year-old began his season, and his career under the care of Palmer, with a three-and-a-quarter-length victory in a Haydock conditions event, defeating Group One-winner Glen Shiel in the process.
Both horses lined up at the Curragh on Saturday, with Brad The Brief prevailing once again as he saw off Jack Davison’s Mooneista to take the race by half a length.
“He’s come out of his race in Ireland really well,” Palmer said.
“He looks tremendous this morning and the handicapper has put him up 8lb to 117, so he’s getting on for being one of the best sprinters in Europe I suppose, which is really exciting.”
The previous Haydock contest was run on soft ground and the Curragh going was good to yielding, conditions that are essential to Palmer’s horse and will inform where he heads next.
Royal Ascot’s Platinum Jubilee Stakes may come into the picture if the weather is favourable, but also under consideration are the six-and-a-half-furlong Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville and the seven-furlong Lennox Stakes at Goodwood.
“I don’t think he needs a bog but he definitely doesn’t want fast ground, it was just nice good to soft ground in Ireland,” Palmer said.
“He doesn’t have any particular targets because he’s so weather dependent, but if it was soft ground in a few weeks time, we could look at supplementing him for the Platinum Jubilee.
“I’m not sure we’d want to be taking on the Australians unless the ground were to level the playing field somewhat, because Home Affairs looks a pretty awesome animal.
“In my mind, the most likely target for him would be the Prix Maurice de Gheest – six and a half furlongs wouldn’t be a problem and William (Buick) got off him and said ‘this horse will get seven’.
“He’ll probably also get an entry in the Lennox, being such a valuable race, but because we know we want cut in the ground, we’ll try not to over-race him because the Champions Sprint at Ascot at the end of the season looks like a very obvious target for him.
“He’s a lovely, lovely horse. As a five-year-old, and you see this quite often with sprinters, they get better with age and he seems to be doing that.”
On the same day as Brad The Brief’s Greenlands victory, Flaming Rib came close to providing Palmer with another Group winner as he was beaten just a neck by El Caballo in the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock.
The Ribchester colt was previously a winner at Chester when beating King’s Lynn in a conditions race, with the latter horse also in the money at Haydock on Saturday as he landed the five-furlong Temple Stakes.
Flaming Rib has been quite leniently treated by the handicapper following both successes and will go into his next assignment rated only 3lb higher than the mark on which he started the season.
“I’m quite surprised that the handicapper only put him up 1lb for winning the conditions race at Chester when he gave a Listed penalty to an older horse (King’s Lynn) and that older horse has now gone and won the Temple,” Palmer said.
“He’s only put us up another 2lb, so I think the handicapper must be looking at this and not quite believing what he’s doing, which never seems to happen when you have a handicapper!”
A re-match with El Caballo in the Commonwealth Cup now looks likely as Palmer feels his charge would have benefitted from locking horns with the Sandy Lane winner at an earlier juncture in the Haydock race.
He said: “He’s a very tough, very durable and likeable horse. We felt on Saturday that if he’d been drawn a bit nearer to the winner, we’d have been able to battle with him earlier and maybe he could have reversed that result.
“The winner was very good and very tough, but he (Flaming Rib) got racing an awfully long way out when he was taking on Edward Cornelius. He got into that battle and won and then he had to go to war again when the winner came through.
“We’re certainly very happy to take on the winner again, but the fact that our horse can still be backed at 25-1 for the Commonwealth Cup gives you an indication as to what a step up that will be, but it’s the direction we’re heading in.”
Flaming Rib has proven versatile with regards to ground conditions and is likely to line up on anything other than firm ground, with a summer deluge over Ascot not unwelcome as it could hinder his rivals chances but will not harm his own.
“He wouldn’t want firm ground, if it was good, good to firm in places I think we’d be happy with that but he handles soft ground, so if everyone’s hats get ruined, it would be to our advantage,” said Palmer.