Belardo ready to shine in Newbury drama
Varian colt fancied to score on suitably slow ground
Ger Lyons vies for Group One glory with Endless Drama in today's Lockinge Stakes.
It's hard to believe that nearly five years have passed since the highly efficient Co Meath operator saddled his breakthrough win at elite level when Lightening Pearl triumphed in the Cheveley Park Stakes.
We often see how many trainers have the capacity to operate in the highest echelon when the right material comes along. The trick, it seems, isn't merely getting to the top, but staying there.
Endless Drama might be the horse to step up for Lyons, who has other chances at Newbury with Medicine Jack and Spader.
This Lope De Vega colt showed great tenacity to go down by less than a length to Gleneagles in last year's Irish Guineas. He has long looked a fine prospect, and the hope would be that Lyons' patience will be suitably rewarded.
However, he may have to wait a little longer. Given that the Lockinge lacks a marquee presence, Endless Drama could well deliver for Colin Keane, and his versatility in relation to ground conditions is a plus. Still, it is a competitive edition comprising a tightly bunched group of second-tier Group One horses.
Toormore is a worthy favourite on the back of its Sandown reappearance win, and the Richard Hannon stable is bidding for a third win in a row in the £350,000 mile contest.
Limato and Arod are also up there on ratings, but conditions may not be quite fast enough for them, while Kodi Bear still has something to prove at this level.
Belardo could be the one. Another son of Lope De Vega, Roger Varian's colt is already a winner at the highest level, having given Kodi Bear a good beating in the 2014 Dewhurst.
He was just behind Endless Drama at the Curragh last year, before distinguishing himself well in open company thereafter.
At Ascot in October, Belardo finished up with a cracking turn to be second to Solow in the QE II.
On his favoured slow ground, he galloped home strongly to be closest to Solow at the line, and he built on that with a ready success at Doncaster on his return.
At Sandown next time, he couldn't get into a race that James Doyle might like to have over.
Doyle positioned Belardo at the rear, a long way behind their pacemaker, which gave Toormore and the eventual runner-up Dutch Connection a lovely tow.
Belardo was simply out of his ground, but emerged with credit to be beaten just two lengths.
While he has to turn the tables on the first two now, he is three pounds better off with Toormore, and Andrea Atzeni, who hasn't ridden him since their Dewhurst victory, will be tactically wiser.
With the ground suitably soft, then, odds of 8/1 about Belardo are too big.
Atzeni is also expected to cause an upset aboard Ayrad. Roger Charlton's charge is up against Eagle Top in a 12-furlong Group Three. At its peak, Eagle Top would be un-opposable, but he has something to prove at this stage.
Ayrad has the benefit of a run, having last month been third in a similar event over 10 furlongs at Sandown. He will be more effective over this trip, so he is worth a venture at odds of around 6/1.