Charlie Hills will check on conditions ahead of Dutch Connection’s seasonal reappearance in the Weatherbys General Stud Book Earl Of Sefton Stakes at Newmarket today.
The Lambourn trainer is looking forward to stepping last season’s Jersey Stakes winner up in a trip and feels this nine-furlong contest is an ideal starting point, although the recent rain at the track is a concern.
Dutch Connection was putting in his best work at the finish over shorter distances last term and was not stopping when fifth to Grand Arch in the Grade One Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland on his final start in October.
“I’ve been very pleased with him. (On) his last two runs last year, it looked as though a mile and a quarter might be a possibility.” said Hills.
“Obviously with the rain they’ve had, we’ll have a look at the ground tomorrow to see if it’s OK for him.
“It’s a nice spot to start him off at and we will go and learn plenty.”
One trainer who has welcomed the rain is Ralph Beckett as he gives Air Pilot his first run of the campaign in this Group Three heat.
Air Pilot is suited by cut in the ground, has run well at Newmarket in the past and is a Group Three and Listed winner over a mile and a quarter.
“The rain’s come for him. He loves the Rowley Mile and his work this spring has been up to scratch,” said Beckett.
Mahsoob made a bright start over further in 2015, only to disappoint in his last two outings, but connections of the John Gosden-trained five-year-old have by no means lost faith.
“I saw him on Monday night at John Gosden’s and he looked fantastic,” said Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.
“He lost his way a bit last year, but hopefully we’ve freshened him up and the only thing with him, which is interesting, is the trip.
“John said he wouldn’t be surprised if we ended coming back to a mile with the horse.
“He seems to be getting more speed as he’s getting older, so we’ll start with him and see where we are. He’s in good form.”
David O’Meara feels Custom Cut’s 2lb penalty will make life difficult for the seven-year-old.
“He’s in good form and will improved a little bit for his run at Doncaster,” said the North Yorkshire handler.
“He has to carry a penalty wherever he goes because of his Group Two win last season. We are vulnerable with that penalty at the moment. He likes Newmarket but the one-mile-one might be a bit of a question mark.”
In contrast, Tullius has now lost his penalty giving connections of the Andrew Balding-trained eight-year-old plenty of hope.
“He’s had a penalty for his last couple of runs which has been quite hard, but he’s in good form and the ground looks like being on the slow side and he should enjoy it,” said Sam Hoskins, racing manager for owners Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds.
“Dutch Connection is the one to beat, but he’s first time out and we’ve got a fitness advantage on him and he’s going up in trip. He likes the track and I’d be cautiously optimistic. Other horses have got penalties as well. We’re not without a chance and he should run well.
“Nine furlongs is perfect for Tullius and I think he’s got each-way claims.”
Bossy Guest had a fruitless trip to Dubai over the winter, but had excellent form last season when he was fourth in the 2000 Guineas and third to Dutch Connection in the Jersey Stakes.
His trainer Mick Channon believes the four-year-old is capable of running a good race as long as the ground is not too soft.
“He’s fit as he’s been running in Dubai but nothing really went right for him over there, he didn’t really settle in,” said the West Ilsley handler.
“He’s a very talented horse on his day, as his run at Royal Ascot showed, but it’s getting him to show it.”
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