Malton trainer Brian Ellison is confident stable star Top Notch Tonto will bounce back to his best in the JLT Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on May 17.
The four-year-old was one of the success stories of last season, progressing from a Newmarket handicap triumph in late July to finishing a superb second in the Group One Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Champions Day.
He encountered his favoured testing conditions on his return to action in last week’s bet365 Mile at Sandown and although he was ultimately well beaten into fourth, Ellison is far from despondent.
“He’s come out of the race well and we’re happy with him,” said Ellison.
“I said beforehand he would improve for the run and I’m sure he will.
“It was almost an afterthought going to Sandown with him, but I’m glad we did.
“A couple of the horses that finished in front of him had already had a run this year.
“He’ll come on for it and provided all goes well in the meantime and there is some cut in the ground, he’ll go to Newbury.”
This coming weekend sees the first two Classics of the season take place and trainer John Gosden feels Kingman will have to win a Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday that is stacked full of quality contenders.
Red-hot favourite in the ante-post markets following his startling display in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury, the Khalid Abdullah-owned colt is aiming to give Gosden his first win in the Classic.
However, the Clarehaven handler is well aware of the task he faces as Aidan O’Brien has left no one in any doubt of the regard in which he holds Australia, who is a product of Galileo and Ouija Board.
Throw into the mix Richard Hannon’s unbeaten champion juvenile Toormore and Roger Varian’s Group One winner Kingston Hill, not to mention some fascinating overseas contenders, and Gosden has every right to be wary.
Kingman will have James Doyle in the saddle and while he has yet to win a Classic, he will arrive at Newmarket on the crest of a wave having ridden a treble at Lingfield, his third such feat on successive days.
“I think it is a really good Guineas. Australia is being talked of as a horse who is head and shoulders above the rest at Ballydoyle. Every year in the northern hemisphere that (Ballydoyle) is the best collection of three-year-olds that can be seen and the fact he is outclassing them all has got to be significant,” said Gosden, speaking at a lunch to promote the Guineas Festival at Newmarket.
“I like the Craven winner (Toormore). I think he is one of those really tough horses; if you go by him you will know you have had a race.
“There’s a lot of depth - there’s Roger Varian’s Racing Post Trophy winner. It’s a proper Guineas. We would have preferred the rain, but we haven’t had much rain (in Newmarket). You look at everywhere else and it’s soft or heavy. We are lucky we are racing on decent ground. As long as the ground is close to good, that’s fine. I just don’t want to run on firm.”