Dermot Weld has declared himself happy with Grey Swallow’s build-up towards a mouthwatering renewal of the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Newbury tomorrow.
The son of Daylami, who won the Budweiser Irish Derby last season, has already beaten four of his main rivals once during this campaign when taking Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh in May.
The four-year-old had Bago three-quarters of a length behind in second on that occasion, with Aidan O’Brien’s Ace third and ante-post King George favourite Azamour fourth.
Norse Dancer was fifth, but of that high-class quintet, only Grey Swallow is without a run since.
“He is in good shape and we are happy with him,” said Weld today. “But it’s always a great race and we have to worry about all of the others.”
However, the Curragh handler would not like to see the ground ride too fast at the Berkshire track.
He added: “The ground is obviously a concern – safe ground would be OK, but you wouldn’t want to run him too often on fast ground.”
The only filly in the race is Vodafone Oaks winner Eswarah, who has reportedly thrived since her Epsom success.
“She has run three times and has won three, all in a relatively short space of time. I know that she is improving and Michael Jarvis feels that she has improved since Epsom,” Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Hamdan Al Maktoum told At The Races.
“Michael could not be more pleased with her and we know she likes Newbury, but in a perfect world we would prefer good ground rather than anything on the fast side.
“She has the potential to be a very high-class filly, but at this moment we don’t know quite how good she is.
“Her Oaks form has taken a bit of a knock, particularly with Pictavia running an ordinary race last weekend, but she was never going at any stage. It wasn’t that she wasn’t good enough, as in my eye she never ran a race at all and one would have to discount that run.
“If our filly is as good as the filly who won the Irish Oaks (Shawanda) then we will be very happy and she would take a bit of beating tomorrow, but it is a big ask against the older colts.
“We do get a lot of weight, but with the likes of Azamour, Bago, Grey Swallow and Gamut it is going to be hard to do.
“She is at the top of her game at the moment, which she is going to need to be, and we will see tomorrow.”
Eswarah’s owner will also be represented by veteran of the field Mubtaker, who despite either winning or being placed in 19 of his 21 starts, has yet to win at the highest level.
“Marcus Tregoning and his team have done a fantastic job with this horse as he has had problems all of his life and hasn’t run very much,” Gold continued.
“They have managed to get him to win three Geoffrey Freers now and be second in the Arc.
“He is the most fantastic old horse, has a brilliant attitude, and I am a huge fan of his.
“However, he is eight-years-old and I am not going to say that he is going to go and win a King George at that age, but equally he seems in good form at the moment and it is a sensible target to have a crack at.
“He is a fantastically genuine horse who always runs to the best of his ability.”
Another member of the older brigade is Warrsan, with his trainer Clive Brittain warning that the old warrior is not “dead and buried,” despite the seven-year-old being beaten on his three starts this term.
“We took him to Lingfield a week ago to give him a gallop and all of the old spark was in him, so the horse certainly isn’t dead and buried,” he told Racing UK.
“I’m not writing him off and I wouldn’t run him if I didn’t think he could go on and beat the rest of them.
“He’s in good form and has been in good form all year, but just hasn’t hit his peak.
“We tried to give him an easier time this year and haven’t run him as much, but I sometimes think that you shoot yourself in the foot doing that as these old horses need something to stimulate them.”
Doyen will bid for back-to-back wins in the King George with trainer Saeed Bin Suroor hoping the entire has returned to his brilliant best after failing to score since his three-length win 12 months ago.
Doyen will wear blinkers for the first time in the midsummer showpiece.
“After the King George last year, we took Doyen to Ireland and then to Newmarket for the Champion Stakes and he disappointed so we decided to give him a rest,” Bin Suroor told www.godolphin.com.
“When he was in Dubai for the winter and until three weeks before he ran at Royal Ascot at York, he wasn’t showing us a lot.
“But then he started to work better and we were happy with him. He is a class horse and we thought he could go and run a big race in the Hardwicke Stakes.
“We checked him out thoroughly after he ran badly in Ireland and at Newmarket last year and also after York, but found nothing wrong. He was not the real Doyen in those races.
“We thought the ground could have been the reason for his disappointing display at York but I am not sure. He is working fine again and seems happy.
“We still believe that Doyen has plenty of class and hopefully he will perform better on Saturday.”