Aidan O’Brien’s Johannesburg looks set to make a surprise reappearance in the unlikely surrounds of Lingfield Park next month.
Unbeaten in seven starts as a juvenile, the son of Hennessy stamped himself a leading contender for the Kentucky Derby when running out an impressive winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Belmont Park, New York, in October.
He is also quoted as 9-4 favourite ‘with a run’ by William Hill for the Sagitta 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 4, the same day as the American showpiece, a race his owner Michael Tabor won with Thunder Gulch in 1995.
A proposed £50,000 (€80,000) race over a mile on the Surrey venue’s Polytrack surface is reported to be the intended target for the colt on April 6, Martell Grand National day.
O’Brien told The Daily Telegraph: ‘‘This is a great opportunity to get a run into a horse like Johannesburg, indeed any horse being prepared for the Kentucky Derby or any other Classic race.
‘‘At this time of year, being able to run on a consistent, sound surface, whatever the weather happens to be, is most important.’’
Tabor added: ‘‘I think it is a great idea. The timing is ideal and it makes sense to keep Johannesburg on a safe surface for his first run of the year.’’
Conditions of the race have yet to be announced but Ian Renton, director of racing at Lingfield’s owners Arena Leisure, described the proposal as an ‘‘exciting prospect’’.
O’Brien is no stranger to Britain’s all-weather surfaces, and in the past has used Lingfield’s sister track, Southwell, to prepare the likes of Giant’s Causeway and Galileo for the Breeders’ Cup.