Came From The Dark ruled out of Champions Day engagement

Smart sprinter Came From The Dark has been ruled out of the Qipco British Champions Sprint.

A Group Three at Sandown in July when taking the Coral Charge, the Ed Walker-trained gelding was a general 20-1 shot for Ascot next month.

However, Walker reports the five-year-old to be finished for the season after undergoing surgery on an injury.

He said: “He got injured in the Palace House, it was a strange injury. We did all sorts of diagnostics, he was lame after that race and we couldn’t find a thing.

“We eventually found a very small ligament injury in his hock, the vets did a tremendous job of getting him right – so much so he went to Sandown and won a Group Three there.

“Unfortunately it reoccurred after that race, so I’ve had to draw stumps with him. He’s had surgery and is out for the year.

“It’s frustrating because he was really getting it together this year and hopefully he’ll be around next year for a shot at some of those big five-furlong races.”

Stablemate Primo Bacio could drop in class for her next outing, with Walker eager to get her back on the winning trail.

The filly was beaten just two and a half lengths by triple Group One winner Alcohol Free on her first start of the campaign, when remarkably she was sent off a 100-1 shot in the Fred Darling at Newbury.

Primo Bacio then claimed a Listed race in eyecatching fashion at York, with subsequent Falmouth Stakes winner Snow Lantern back in third, but that form was reversed at Newmarket when she finished fifth.

The Awtaad filly has since been seventh in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville and disappointed when beating home just one rival in last month’s City of York Stakes, with Walker believing Primo Bacio was feeling the effects of a busy period.

He said: “I don’t know what happened at York, I think I messed up and over-faced her and under estimated how hard a race she had in the Falmouth and then the Rothschild.

“Those three tough races and then backing her up against the boys at York. She’s a very exuberant filly at home and showed all the signs of being fine, but we found nothing to explain her very lacklustre and unlike-her run at York.

“We’re just freshening her up now, but do I want to pitch her back into a Group One on the back of that? Probably not, really.

“I think the worst thing you can do with these horses is chase the tail – she’s only a Listed winner.

“She’s going to stick in training and I think she will be a very good filly next year. I don’t think there’s necessarily any need to be chasing a dream that she can potentially fulfil next year.

“I’d like to get her back winning – maybe find a Group Three somewhere for her to win.”

Came From The Dark well and truly out of the shadows

Came From The Dark registered the biggest success of his career as Ed Walker’s grey just got up to deny Arecibo in the Coral Charge at Sandown.

The five-year-old only won one of his five outings last season, but since being gelded he has improved no end.

Unlucky in the Palace House at Newmarket, having won at Newbury before then, Walker had hoped to run him in the King’s Stand Stakes at Ascot after that, but a setback prevented him from doing so.

Instead he lined up in this Group Three and Tom Marquand always looked in control.

While Arecibo hit the front with a furlong to run having taken over from Lazuli, Marquand did not even have to resort to the whip, riding out his mount with just hands and heels to reel in the King’s Stand runner-up and win by a neck at 5-1.

“It was frustrating to miss Ascot, he picked up a niggle after Newmarket but fair play to the team at home and the vets, they gave me the confidence to drive on to today,” said Walker.

“I was gutted to miss the King’s Stand as I think it would have been perfect for him, but it worked out perfectly today and we can go for some nice races later in the year.

“He’s been frustrating until this year, I always felt he was better than he was showing. I think I took a year too long to geld him, that’s been the making of him. It’s all come together this year.

“He loves Haydock, for whatever reason. The easy six suits, so we’ll work back from there (Sprint Cup), but I’m not sure where next. If we go to the Nunthorpe he might get too far out of his ground, so we’ve a bit of head scratching to do.”

The winner was cut to 5-1 from 12s for the King George Stakes at Goodwood by Paddy Power.

Walker anticipating favourable ground for Starman at Newmarket

Trainer Ed Walker is confident conditions will be suitable for Starman in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket on Saturday week.

The Upper Lambourn handler was ruing his luck when rain fell at Royal Ascot, forcing him to withdraw his crack sprinter from the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.

The four-year-old was a leading fancy for that six-furlong Group One feature on the back of victory in the Duke of York Stakes on the Knavesmire.

His only defeat in five career starts came on soft ground at Ascot when he was well-beaten in the Qipco British Champions Sprint in October.

“He’s on track for the July Cup. He’s in good nick and he’ll work on Wednesday,” said Walker.

“I think we’ll be all right with the ground. Newmarket was very quick last week and they tend not to get much of the rain. I’d be very surprised if it’s any softer than it was when he won at York.

“We’d be seriously unlucky if we had to re-think again. It would be hard to re-think again as he hasn’t got many options. I’m sure it will be fine.”

A setback prevented Came From The Dark from running at the Royal meeting but he is fully recovered and on course to return to action in the Coral Charge at Sandown on Saturday.

Came From The Dark (second left) is set to return to action in the Coral Charge at Sandown
Came From The Dark (second left) is set to return to action in the Coral Charge at Sandown (David Davies/PA)

The five-year-old has his second attempt at a Group Three contest after finishing second in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket in May.

“I think we’re going to head to Sandown. It should be nice ground there,” said Walker.

“It was a real shame we missed Royal Ascot with him because the five there would have been perfect, but this stiff five will suit.

“You just tend to need a bit more luck at Sandown. I hope the race pans out for him but he’s in great shape. I’m looking forward to seeing him back.

“He had a setback after Newmarket which was not a major one but we couldn’t train him for 10 days or so. It was frustrating rather than disastrous.”

Sprint stars have Walker dreaming of Royal Ascot glory

Ed Walker has twin Royal Ascot targets firmly in focus for his two smart sprinters Came From The Dark and Starman.

Came From The Dark is an intended runner in the King’s Stand Stakes next month – irrespective of whether the mighty Battaash is fit again in time to defend his title – and Walker hopes to have Starman in action at the top level too, four days later in the Diamond Jubilee.

The Lambourn trainer just needs to fine-tune their respective routes to Ascot first, of course – which in Came From The Dark’s case is likely to be a Haydock assignment this month, or a rest, while Starman is all set to return at York next week.

Came From The Dark found things just going against him at a crucial time in last weekend’s Palace House Stakes, in which he had to settle for a neck second behind Lazuli after meeting trouble in running.

“I think he was desperately unlucky,” said Walker.

“I was obviously thrilled with the way he ran, but I can’t help but feel we should have won.”

It was nonetheless a performance full of promise from the grey, who in three runs so far at the start of his five-year-old campaign is beginning to fulfil his potential.

“He’s done nothing but improve all year since being gelded,” added Walker.

“It looks like he could reach the heights we hoped he might – which was why we never gelded him (initially).

“Last year was a disaster. He had proper feet issues, but we’ve just got him right this year – and obviously the gelding has helped, and the wind op has probably helped a bit.

Brilliant champion Battaash may be waiting for Came From The Dark at Ascot
Brilliant champion Battaash may be waiting for Came From The Dark at Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Between staff, vet, farrier, everyone has played their part to get him to his best.

“He really has improved – and now that his feet are so much better as well, he’s more versatile as regards to ground.

“I think that’s going to be his real strength, he’s versatile – and whatever the ground comes up at Ascot, Haydock or wherever, he should be fine.”

Starman is more ground dependent – which is one of the reasons he is unlikely to take up his entry at Haydock this weekend and instead wait another four days to return in the Group Two Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes.

Haydock may fit the bill for Came From The Dark, however, in either the Temple Stakes on May 22 or a Listed alternative there a week later.

“I put him in the Temple, which has just closed,” said Walker.

“That’s a three-week turnaround – he’s run three times in four weeks, so he’s had a busy month to start the year.

“Whether we take in the Temple or wait an extra week and go to the Achilles again at Haydock, or go straight to Ascot, my mind will be made up by how he is.”

The signs so far are encouraging, with his big date in Berkshire already looming large.

“He seems to have come out of the race very well – with the King’s Stand being the real target,” said Walker.

“I think even if Battaash goes, we’d go. He (Battaash) is obviously going to have a slightly rushed prep if he does get there, and I don’t think it would be any shame finishing second to him – he’s been phenomenal, that horse.”

Starman was unbeaten in his first three career starts – including a Listed race at York – and Walker has high hopes again for his six-furlong specialist, starting back at the Knavesmire.

“The plan has always been York,” he said.

Starman (leading) is set to return to York next week - with Ascot then next on his agenda
Starman (leading) is set to return to York next week – with Ascot then next on his agenda (Mark Cranham/PA)

“The weather is a worry – I entered him at Haydock, and that will probably be even wetter.

“So I think the plan is very much still to start him off at York and see where we go.

“He’s massively exciting, and it’s great to see a few of his work companions doing so well on the track – so that bodes well for him.”

Walker is aware he is setting the four-year-old a searching task, but is keen to give him necessary extra practice.

He said: “The Duke of York is obviously going to be a very tough starting point, and he’s still a relatively inexperienced sprinter – and I think experience counts for a lot with them, which is why they tend to get better with age.

“They get stronger, but (also) they get more battle-hardened.

“So Duke of York, then straight to Ascot, is a big ask – but he’s exceptionally talented. We’re massively excited about seeing him out – but he does really want top of the ground, so it could be a bit tricky.”

Jockey Tom Marquand reported that Starman was unable to handle the very soft ground at Ascot last year
Jockey Tom Marquand reported that Starman was unable to handle the very soft ground at Ascot last year (Bill Selwyn/PA)

Starman’s vulnerability in testing conditions was apparent when he met with the only defeat of his career so far, albeit in the highest class when well-beaten in the British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot in October.

Walker said: “Tom (Marquand) just said he never went a yard, and his wheels were just spinning – (but) it was very soft there on Champions Day.

“It was the slow side of good at York when he beat Dakota Gold, and that was a proper performance.

“So he’s not an absolute must to have fast ground, but he definitely doesn’t want it very soft. We’d be happy enough with good or good to soft.”