Harbour ship shape for Ascot
St Leger hero Harbour Law makes his seasonal reappearance in the Longines Sagaro Stakes at Ascot on Wednesday – with trainer Laura Mongan admitting to a nervous excitement.
It will be an "emotional" afternoon for connections as Tom Queally replaces George Baker in the saddle after the latter suffered a serious injury following a fall on the ice at St Moritz.
While Mongan has no qualms about using Queally, who partnered the Classic winner in a gallop at Lingfield, she described Baker as "a big part of the jigsaw puzzle".
The Epsom handler said of Harbour Law: "He's in good heart and he's ready to go.
"He wintered well. He went to his owners, and then came back to us in mid-January.
"There's no doubt it will be emotional without George, though.
"While taking nothing away from Tom, who is an excellent jockey and rode him at Lingfield the other day, George is a big part of the jigsaw puzzle with this horse.
"Doncaster was such an amazing day, one we'll never forget, but we've always felt this horse would be even better with another winter on his back.
"He's matured physically and mentally and we think he's come on a lot.
"I'm excited, if a little nervous, but this looks the right race to start back in and he's in great shape.
"All being equal, I don't think he'd run again before the Gold Cup and we think he'll stay that far. After that, the races pick themselves.
"He's certainly easier to place than my horses at a much lower level!"
Hughie Morrison, fresh from a weekend Group Three victory in France with Marmelo, runs Cesarewitch winner Sweet Selection, Group Two scorer Nearly Caught and Vent De Force, second in this race two years ago.
Morrison said: "It's tragic, really, having to run all three of them in the same race, but it's the right place to start them off as there aren't many options for the good stayers.
"Any rain at all would help as they all want good ground.
"They've got to run sometime. We can't just keep waiting with them and they could end up in similar races all year.
"We've got to be realistic with Sweet Selection. It's a massive step up from handicaps into Group races.
"How she'll run I've no idea because she's a terrible worker at home. I won't be that worried if she's tailed off as her first run wasn't much good last year.
"She's from a decent family – her half-sister (Lightning Thunder) nearly won the Guineas -) so if we can get black type she becomes a valuable broodmare.
"Nearly Caught is a grand old soldier but usually takes four or five runs to reach a peak.
"Vent De Force lost his way a bit after he was gelded but is back in good form again.
"He nearly won this race two years ago and is a Group Three winner.
"If he came back to form he'd have a chance."
Roger Varian's Battersea has always threatened to be a top performer in these type of races but failed to progress last season after winning in Dubai during the winter.
"Battersea was gelded at the end of last season and the plan has always been to campaign him as a potential Cup horse," the Newmarket handler told www.varianstable.com
"He has an excellent record at the course and will love the ground, so this is the ideal starting point to discover if he stays."
Prince Of Arran has plenty to find on the figures but connections aim to find out if his Gold Cup entry is warranted.
Trainer Charlie Fellows said: "He is as good on turf if not better than on the all-weather, I'm in no doubt about that.
"We have always thought he was nice and he has been given an entry in the Gold Cup and we have got to try him out somewhere for that and this is the right place.
"He is taking on a St Leger winner and some proper horses but we have got to find out at some point if he is up to it."
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