Roger Teal’s Ocean Wind returns after 771 days out of action in the Coral Marathon at Sandown on Friday.
The gelding, now a seven-year-old, was a high-class bumper horse who made the switch to the Flat after finishing sixth behind Ferny Hollow in the 2020 Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.
His first Flat term was a success as he won a couple of valuable handicaps, including the Cesarewitch Trial at Newmarket, and in 2021 he stepped up a grade to finish second in the Listed Further Flight Stakes and second again in the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot – a Group Three in which he came within a length of staying hero Stradivarius.
Injury curtailed that season after his third in the Henry II Stakes and he has not been seen on course since, meaning his return to racing for Sandown’s two-mile Listed event comes after an unusually lengthy absence.
“He’s been off for a couple of years so it’ll be good to see him back on the track,” said Teal.
“He’s bound to be a bit rusty after being off for so long, he’s not the most enthusiastic work horse and he’s a bit lazy at home but he always seems to wake up on the track.
“He’s as fit as we can get him and obviously he’ll come on 100 per cent for the run.
“It’s a nice little race for him and hopefully he can run well, come on for the run and we can go forward from that.
“You’ve got to take into account that it’s such a long time off, he saves a bit for himself so you can’t really assess him quite as well as you’d want to.
“Hopefully he puts his best foot forward on Friday and runs a solid race.”
Ocean Wind will cross paths with Godolphin’s Yibir, a multiple Group winner who was most recently sixth in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.
Trainer Charlie Appleby said via the Godolphin website: “We have been happy with Yibir since the Gold Cup, which was a good first effort over a proper staying trip.
“We were encouraged with what we saw that day and dropping back to two miles should suit. If he can build on his last run, he should be very competitive.”
There is further Listed action on the card in the five-furlong Dragon Stakes, where Sean Woods’ Nazalan looks to back up a course and distance success last time out.
The chestnut was third on his debut and then won smartly in Esher on the next time of asking, with both the runner-up and the sixth-placed horse from that event going on to win again since.
Woods said: “He’s an uncomplicated little horse, he’s been training very well and it’s a natural progression to go back to the Dragon Stakes as he handled Sandown very well last time.
“He’s a very straightforward colt, Tom (Marquand) rode him first time up at Nottingham so he rides him again and we’re looking forward to it.
“The runner-up from Sandown (Notta Nother) has gone out and won and the sixth-placed horse of Roger Varian’s (Markakol) has as well so it looks a pretty good form line.”
Opposing Nazalan will be Alice Haynes’ Hala Emaraaty, a Kodiac colt who beat Mick Appleby’s Big Evs in a Redcar novice in May.
Both horses headed next for the Windsor Castle at Ascot, where Big Evs was the winner but Hala Emaraaty still ran with credit to finish seventh of 23.
“He came out of the Windsor Castle great, obviously a couple of these he beat in the Windsor Castle and there’s a couple to beat,” said Haynes.
“Ideally we did want to step him up to six, but the stiff five will definitely suit him and we’re hoping for another big run.
“The form is all there, I know he turned that round in the Windsor Castle but I definitely feel like it’s worth taking a shot at this race.
“He was flat out all the way, he’s a tough horse who handles his races well and it’s great to be going there with a live chance.”
The third Listed race of the day at the Esher venue is the 10-furlong Davies Insurance Solutions Gala Stakes.
Sure to be popular will be Wolferton Stakes fifth Saga, trained by John and Thady Gosden and owned by the King and Queen. Ryan Moore takes over from the suspended Frankie Dettori.
Following him in the market is Simon and Ed Crisford’s Poker Face, who finished down the field with a luckless run in the Wolferton but has Group form under his belt from earlier this season.
Ed Crisford said: “Poker Face was slightly disappointing in the Wolferton but he was quite far back that day and not much was coming from further back off what was a strong pace. You can put a line through that.
“He is a lightly-raced horse that is climbing up the ladder and he has been very well since that run. There is a small field for this race as well and he has to have a chance in it.”
Woods is represented by Savvy Victory, another who was also well beaten in the Wolferton but this time due to interference.
“He was very unlucky at Ascot, he got knocked over when he was making his run,” the trainer said.
“Any rain will help him, I’m very happy with him.
“He got blocked at Kempton (Magnolia Stakes) and he got beaten a length at Chester, but he stays in really good form and we’re looking forward to running him. Hpefully there’ll be a few more showers before Friday.”