Saturday 25 January 2020

Improving Hawkbill can swoop in York showpiece

Trainer Roger Varian. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Trainer Roger Varian. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Tom Peacock

Godolphin have gradually returned to being a factor in the Turf's main events this summer and there has been no better example than rising star Hawkbill, whose unbeaten run stretches back 13 months to when he landed a Lingfield all-weather maiden.

The three-year-old has progressed steadily and gave Sheikh Mohammed's string its first British Group One of the year when beating The Gurkha in a driving finish to the Coral-Eclipse.

Hawkbill may not need to improve much further to have a solid chance in today's Juddmonte International, the feature race on the opening day of York's Ebor meeting, given there are doubts about favourite Postponed.

Trainer Roger Varian described dealing with the health issues in his Newmarket yard as "challenging" this week.

A winner at Doncaster over the weekend does not necessarily herald a return to form, as he has been light on runners.

Postponed missed the King George with a respiratory infection and as much as he looked masterful over a mile and a half earlier in the year, he is being asked to drop back two furlongs on a flat track.

There's little between the top horses on official figures with Aidan O'Brien's Highland Reel, which took advantage of Postponed's absence at Ascot, another to have spent more time over the longer distance, whereas Mutakayyef's sweeping improvement has come over a mile.

Hawkbill's bright white face added to the impression of willingness in winning the Eclipse and at Royal Ascot, and it's sensible to stick with a horse on an upward curve.

Godolphin's contender for the Acomb Stakes is of the pre-packed variety, rather than one raised from seed. Best Of Days only changed hands last week to remain in Hugo Palmer's care. A six-length debut win puts him at the head of the reckoning.

Roger Charlton fields the fascinating Imperial Aviator in the Great Voltigeur Stakes, often the telling trial for the Doncaster St Leger. The colt is on a recovery mission after a poor run in the French Derby but a return to form could see him scare likely market leader O'Brien's Idaho.

The Ballydoyle maestro also runs Housesofparliament and The Major General, but Idaho's solid form, in finishing runner-up to Harzand in the Irish Derby, gives him the edge.

Meanwhile, prize money for the Boylesports Irish Grand National has been almost doubled, with €500,000 up for grabs in the 2017 renewal.

The race was worth €275,000 this year, but that value has taken a big jump due to increased funding from HRI and Fairyhouse.

Irish Independent

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