Raasel bids to continue his rapid ascent up the sprinting ladder in the King George Qatar Stakes at Goodwood on Friday.
Snapped up for just 10,000 guineas out of Marcus Tregoning’s yard two years ago, the five-year-old has proved yet another astute purchase by successful ownership group The Horse Watchers.
After three readying runs in the early part of 2021, Raasel went on to complete a five-timer between September and November and has continued in the same vein this term – winning three of his five starts.
Having proven himself capable of scoring in Listed and Group Three company, Mick Appleby’s charge tests the water at Group Two level on his return to Goodwood, where his record stands at two from two.
Pundit and broadcaster Chris Dixon, who partly manages The Horse Watchers, said: “We’re really looking forward to it. I went into Mick’s on Wednesday morning to see him and he’s ready to go.
“This is the race that we’ve always had our eye on, even before he ran in the Listed race at Haydock. You know that bridge from handicaps to Group races in five-furlong races isn’t always massive and we know he likes Goodwood so much, so basically after he won his handicap there earlier in the season, we kind of thought this is where we’d come and it was just a case of how we got here.
“We expect him to run well. This is the next step up the ladder and we’ll see if he’s good enough, but we certainly hope he is.”
Dixon hopes a positive performance on the Sussex Downs can earn Raasel a shot at some even loftier targets later in the year, both on home soil and abroad.
He added: “He’s in the Flying Five at the Curragh and he’s in the Nunthorpe at York. Whatever happens here, so long as he comes out of it well, I think we’ll be running in the Nunthorpe and we’ll go from there.
“We’ll think about the Breeders’ Cup at the end of the season potentially as well, so it’s exciting stuff and we’re going to find out a lot more in the next couple of months, I guess.”
Raasel renews rivalry with several horses who finished behind him in the Coral Charge at Sandown four weeks ago, most notably the Roger Varian-trained runner-up Mitbaahy, who has only a neck to find.
Charlie Hills saddles the sixth home Equilateral, who has since finishing third in a Group Two at the Curragh, as well as Khaadem, who was last seen winning the Palace House at Newmarket in April.
It has been a while between drinks for Nigel Tinkler’s stable star Acklam Express, who has failed to get his head in front since winning a Listed prize at York two years ago.
The previous course and distance winner has run plenty of sound races in defeat in the meantime, though, most notably when third to Australian speedball Nature Strip when a 200-1 shot for the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot last month.
Tinkler said: “I’m very happy and the horse is very, very well. I’m happy with the draw, I’m happy with the horse and I’m happy with the ground, so I just hope I’m happy with the result!
“The horse went to Richard Fahey’s last Saturday and worked and we were very pleased. He’s as good as we can have him and hopefully everything goes right.
“He hasn’t won for a while, but they become very hard to place. He ran very well at Ascot, he finished second in a Group Two in Dubai earlier in the year and was third in a Group One out there last year, so he’s done it all and I think he’s the highest rated horse in the race.”
Charlie Appleby saddles Lazuli, who beat Acklam Express in the Blue Point Sprint at Meydan in February, but was slightly disappointing in finishing ninth in the King’s Stand.
“He’s most definitely come forward for his run at Ascot last time,” Appleby told the Godolphin website.
“He’s a natural five-furlong horse in a race in which experienced, battle-hardened sprinters come to the fore. Goodwood’s ‘five’ suits a natural speedster like him.”