Alkaased takes what trainer Luca Cumani describes as the next “logical step” when trying his hand at Group One level in the Vodafone Coronation Cup at Epsom tomorrow.
The Kingmambo entire has not stopped improving since joining Cumani at the end of his three-year-old career in 2003 and landed the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket on his seasonal debut.
The five-year-old was a decisive winner of the Group Two contest and was value for more than the length and a half by which he beat Gamut, with tomorrow’s rivals Bandari and Warrsan both in arrears.
Connections immediately nominated the Coronation Cup as Alkaased’s next engagement and having finished in the first two on nine of his 11 starts, William Hill are taking no chances and make him their 5-2 favourite.
“He is in good form and it would be nice to think that he can improve for his first run,” said Cumani.
“He has done nothing but improve mentally and physically since joining us and I have been very pleased with his progress. Having won a Group Two, the logical step is to go for a Group One.
“I don’t think the track will be a problem as he is a very big and balanced horse.”
One of Alkaased’s main rivals is last year’s Gold Cup hero Papineau, who will be dropping back to a mile and half after making a pleasing seasonal reappearance when fifth in the Yorkshire Cup.
The five-year-old missed the second half of last season after ankle surgery and connections today admitted he has not had an ideal preparation for tomorrow’s outing.
“Papineau has been working very well and is in good form, but he recently suffered a bruised foot and missed two days’ training,” trainer Saeed Bin Suroor told www.godolphin.com. “He is back in training now.”
In addition to his Ascot victory, Papineau also landed last year’s Henry II Stakes and scored over tomorrow’s distance in a conditions race at Goodwood.
Godolphin are looking for their third Coronation Cup victory following Daylami in 1999 and Mutafaweq in 2001.
A total of eight will go to post for the race, worth £145,000 to the winner, after German raider Shirocco was taken out.
His trainer Andreas Schutz said: “The horse is fine but he won’t be running due to the fast ground.
“There’s an option to supplement him for the Hardwicke now or there is also the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and a race in Baden Baden we might look at.
“We won’t be targeting Ascot, but we will certainly have one eye on it.”
Warrsan is bidding for a hat-trick, having won in 2003 and 2004, and trainer Clive Brittain feels the seven-year-old will strip fitter for his seasonal debut when fourth to Alkaased.
“He needed the race at Newmarket and has definitely benefited from it. He has to reverse Jockey Club Stakes form, but he did have a 5lb penalty there,” said the veteran trainer.
“We are really looking forward to it and he’s certainly in very good form.
“The ground should be perfect for him and he must go there with as good a chance as any, and all the signs are there that he’s up for this.
“He has an ideal draw (five) for the way we want to ride it.
“It would be tremendous to achieve a third win – not just for us but for the horse himself, as he has been such a solid performer.”
One-time Derby favourite Yeats will represent Aidan O’Brien after the four-year-old made an encouraging comeback when runner-up on heavy ground in the Mooresbridge Stakes at the Curragh last month.
Alkaadhem is Marcus Tregoning’s runner, while Jockey Club Stakes third Bandari, who finished fourth to Warrsan in the 2003 contest, will again take his chance.
Richard Hills had the choice between the Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned pair and has gone for the latter in view of his guaranteed stamina.
“They are two good friends of mine – they’ve helped me out a lot,” Hills told At The Races.
“Bandari is guaranteed to stay a mile and a half and I thought he ran a very good race in the Jockey Club.
“I think he’s 2lb better off for three-quarters of a length beating and he acts round the track, while Alkaadhem is not guaranteed to stay.
“ Alkaadhem won some nice races in the winter and it’s always hard to get off horses that you have won nice races on, but I had to make a choice and I went for Bandari.”
The field is completed by French challengers Reefscape and Pride, who were last seen when runner-up and sixth respectively to Bago in the Prix Ganay.
Vodafone Coronation Cup, William Hill bet: 5-2 Alkaased, 4-1 Warrsan, 11-2 Papineau, Yeats, 7-1 Reefscape, 8-1 Bandari, 10-1 Pride, 25-1 Alkhaadem.