Roger Charlton reports Atty Persse “in good form” as he bids to overcome a 318-day absence in the bet365 Old Newton Cup at Haydock on Saturday.
However, because he is returning from a long lay-off, the Beckhampton trainer expects the Frankel gelding to come on for the race.
Atty Persse’s lack of a recent outing has not put punters off making the Godolphin-owned four-year-old favourite in the ante-post market.
He may not have beaten a rival in either the Bahrain Trophy or the Great Voltigeur Stakes on his final two starts last season, but he had looked smart when winning the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot.
“We just thought we’d give him a bit of time,” said Charlton.
”He hasn’t run for a long time so I guess he’ll improve for the race, but he seems in good form.”
Atty Persse looks to have a decent draw in stall three, but Charlton’s other runner, Blakeney Point, has drawn a wide berth (16).
He had a similarly poor gate 12 months ago when he finished fourth to Dylan Mouth.
“He had a bad draw last year and seems to have a bad draw again,” said Charlton.
“We’re taking 7lb off with Harry Burns. He’s a good jockey.
“I’m just hoping Haydock do a good job on the watering.”
Mark Johnston has won two of the last five runnings with Star Lahib (2013) and Notarised (2015).
The Middleham handler has four representatives this time round in Sofia’s Rock, Titi Makfi, Aclimatise and Rainbow Rebel.
The first-named won for the second time at the Merseyside venue when trotting up by seven lengths last month.
“Sofia’s Rock is towards the top of the pecking order, I’d have thought,” said Johnston’s son and assistant, Charlie.
“He seems to save his best for Haydock. He’s got a really good record there. This is the exact trip, track, ground – all the same factors he won there two starts ago.
“There are lots in his favour, so hopefully he should go well.”
Johnston is not discounting any of the stable’s team.
“Titi Makfi has been campaigning in Listed races mainly this year. She has been running well without winning,” he said.
“She’s back into handicap company and off a mark of 98, which I think is fair for her, she has got a good chance. A little bit of rain wouldn’t hurt her. She handles fast ground fine, but handles soft ground maybe better than most.”
“Rainbow Rebel won well at Pontefract. That would have been a weaker race than this, so he’s got to do more than that form.
“He’s in good form and he’s earned the right to have a go at a big pot like this.
“Aclimatise looked to be on an upward curve. He was a bit disappointing last twice. We are having a go at a big pot before he goes to the sales next Friday.
“Trying a new trip which hopefully might bring out some more improvement.”
Marco Botti has taken this prestigious handicap twice through De Rigueur (2014) and Dylan Mouth (2017) and goes for a third with Crowned Eagle.
The former John Gosden-trained gelding finished ahead of Atty Persse in the Bahrain Trophy last July and was sixth to Dash Of Spice in the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot.
“The ground is going to be on the quick side, but he is in good form and so we will take our chance,” said Botti.
“I thought he ran OK at Royal Ascot. He would prefer a more galloping track, with a longer straight, and Haydock should be ideal for him.
“I would say he is definitely up to the level of my two previous winners of this race. He has run consistently well all year.”
Iain Jardine is looking forward to running Atkinson Grimshaw, who was second on his first outing for the Dumfries trainer at Ayr two weeks ago.
“In hindsight, I think Atkinson Grimshaw should have won at Ayr. He was held up in a slow-run race and finished off really well,” he said.
“We are in a good race with a decent racing weight. We are hopeful. You can’t be confident in a race like this, but it is worth a strike and he stays a mile and a half.
“The track and ground will suit and we just need a bit of luck”