It could be a big afternoon for David Loughnane and Amo Racing at Goodwood on Wednesday as their high-class two-year-old Walbank looks to enhance his lofty reputation in the Markel Molecomb Stakes.
Second on debut behind the talented Noble Style, the expensive 525,000 guineas breeze-ups buy showed his worth when lighting up the Knavesmire with a facile seven-length victory on his second start, a performance that saw the son of Kodiac sent off the 7-4 favourite for the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot.
However, he had to settle for a silver medal in a contentious running of that five-furlong Group Two – a result that is still subject to an appeal.
Now he has the chance to put his blistering speed to the test once more as he joins a fleet-footed cast that have assembled for this Group Three event.
“It is going to be hard not to fancy him,” said Loughnane. “He hasn’t put a foot wrong. He’s got a very good record so far. He’s 2-1-2 from three starts and the form of all his races has worked out nicely.
“Rocket Rodney is the favourite and is clearly going there in good form following an impressive win in the Dragon Stakes, but we’re going there with a live chance.”
As identified by Loughnane, it could be Rocket Rodney that the other seven runners have to beat, with the form of his most recent outings looking rock solid.
Second behind subsequent Group-level scorer Little Big Bear in the Windsor Castle, he then accounted for the reopposing Eddie’s Boy (third) in the Dragon Stakes at Sandown, with Archie Watson’s charge franking the form when bolting up in Newbury’s Super Sprint.
Already a track-and-trip victor this season, trainer George Scott is confident of a bold showing and said: “We thought Rocket Rodney would show up well at Royal Ascot because he posted some good numbers before then, although I was surprised to see him so competitive.
“Little Big Bear was a pretty comfortable winner and has since taken a big step forward, but so has our horse.
“It will be a big help that he has already been to Goodwood, and he handled it great that day.
“We do a lot of data work with things like heart-rate monitors and cadence. It is very helpful to see how he is progressing between runs because you can compare the data from his work. I am as confident as I can be that he is still improving.
“It is really nice to be sat here talking about a good horse again. It has been a while between drinks for us and James Garfield is a bit of a distant memory now. He was a very good two-year-old, but this horse looks faster than him.”
Richard Hannon and Michael O’Callaghan have taken home the prize in the last two runnings of this contest and are represented by last-time winners Trillium and Studio City respectively.
The eight-strong line-up is completed by a trio of northern raiders – Kevin Ryan’s Thunder Moon, the Kark Burke-trained Looking For Lynda and Dickieburd from Craig Lidster’s yard.
The latter broke his duck with a dominant all-the-way display at Chester earlier this month and the Cracksman colt, who is now part-owned by Nick Bradley Racing, is a first runner at Group level for one of the newest names to the training ranks.
“He won well at Chester and this is a big step up,” said Lidster.
“It’s a bit of an unknown, but you’ve got to be in it to win it. Nick Bradley has come on board with the colt and it’s an exciting time for us all.
“He has plenty of speed, but it is going to be a speed contest by the looks of it. I don’t think we’ll get our own way out in front, it could be fast and furious so we might have to have plan A,B,C,D,E and F.”