Irish Derby hero Santiago bids to get his campaign off to a winning start in the Group Three Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan on Sunday.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained colt was last seen finishing fourth to Galileo Chrome when sent off favourite for the St Leger at Doncaster in September.
He had an abortive trip to Australia after that, but connections expect him to make his mark in the staying division.
Santiago will be ridden by Ryan Moore, who believes this is a good race for him to start in 2021.
“It’s a good renewal of the Vintage Crop. My colt was obviously very good when winning the Queen’s Vase and Irish Derby and he ran up to that level in defeat in the Goodwood Cup and the St Leger afterwards,” the jockey told Betfair.
“He didn’t end up running when he travelled down to Australia in the autumn, but he is clearly a top staying prospect this year and this looks an ideal starting point for him. It’s a very good race though and he does have a 5lb penalty.”
Sunchart was eight and a half lengths behind Santiago when eighth in the St Leger.
He has since been gelded and made a promising reappearance when staying on well to take second place behind Santiago’s stable companion Broome over a mile and quarter at Naas last month.
Trainer Andy Slattery is expecting a good run from the son of Teofilo over this longer distance.
“He’s in great form. He will have needed the run the last day. It was his first gallop on grass the last day and he seems to have come on for it, so we’re looking forward to it,” said the Thurles trainer.
“The step up in trip will suit him. He was staying on well the last day.
“He does go on soft ground, but he seems better on good to firm ground. He seems a much-improved horse this year.”
Stratum made a pleasing start to the season with a cosy four-length success at Gowran earlier this month.
Connections of the Willie Mullins-trained gelding are looking for a bold display from the eight-year-old.
“He won his first run back on the Flat at Gowran recently. He should have improved for that,” said Mullins’ assistant, David Casey.
“The ground and track will suit. Hopefully he’ll run well.”
Joseph O’Brien is double-handed in the six-runner heat with Longchamp Group Two scorer Baron Samedi and Master Of Reality, winner of this race in 2019.
The County Kilkenny handler saddles Group Three-placed Thinking Of You in the Listed Irish Stallion Farms EBF Salsabil Stakes.
The daughter of American Pharoah took minor honours in the Weld Park Stakes at the Curragh in September.
Her rivals include Willow, trained by his father, Aidan, Dermot Weld’s promising Gowran winner Port Sunlight and Sacred Rhyme from Jessica Harrington’s stable.
The other Listed contest on the card is the Committed Stakes, which sees Aidan O’Brien’s Lipizzaner have his first race since finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Keeneland in November.
Johnny Murtagh’s Measure Of Magic, who was third in the Flying Childers Stakes at Doncaster in September, is among the nine declared runners.