Hugo Palmer is hoping to raise the bar again after posting a personal best tally of winners in 2018.
The Newmarket trainer sent out 87 domestic victors last year, and has formulated big plans too for the current campaign – both at home and abroad.
Unbeaten Qipco 2000 Guineas entry Set Piece shoulders much expectation, and he may line up in the bet365 Craven at Newmarket next week.
Palmer said: “Set Piece is in great nick, and his work was very good when we took him away to Chelmsford the other week.
“If we think we can win a Craven, then we will look at it – because if you win a Craven, you are likely to be 10-1 or shorter for the Guineas.
“If we think he would run OK in the Craven without winning, we might go a more considered route and aim for something like the Burradon Stakes.
“We could just let him win a 0-85 handicap, hopefully, and get him rated in the mid 90s for the Britannia at Royal Ascot – because Prince Khalid loves having runners there.”
Set Piece is one of 20 Craven entries, published on Thursday afternoon, while Mootasadir is set to run in Saturday’s John Porter Stakes at Newbury.
A trip to Australia for the Melbourne Cup has been mentioned as a target for Mootasadir – but Palmer is keen to see the son of Dansili, who is six from six on the all-weather, open his account on turf first.
He said: “He won a Group Three at the end of last season and he seems to be going forward. He was very impressive at Kempton, but he has now got to convert that to turf. He will go to Newbury for the John Porter if they have nice ground.
“He has only run twice on turf – once at Doncaster, when they had a cloud burst and it was like running a bog which he hated, and once at Newmarket when he ran on very fast ground and Frankie almost pulled him up.
“He needs to qualify for the Melbourne Cup if we are going to go there. He has got some way to go.
“He also has a Yorkshire Cup entry – but if he didn’t stay in the Yorkshire Cup, he could come back for the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot.”
Since making a winning debut at Newmarket four years ago, Gifted Master has cemented his status as a stable stalwart – and although he is now a six-year-old, Palmer feels last summer’s Stewards’ Cup winner still has plenty to offer.
He said: “He has won Group races over six furlongs and a mile, and he has won Listed races. To win the Stewards’ Cup off top weight and make all was a huge performance, and you don’t see them very often.
“He was sixth in Dubai and he has come back really well. I think there is still more progress to come. He is back to 110, and he won two handicaps off 109 and 111 last year, so he is back in that danger zone.
“He will start in the Abernant, and we hope he wins that – but if he runs poorly, he could then run in a handicap. He is loving life.”
Luck was against Fajjaj in last year’s German 2000 Guineas when he had to settle for second best – but after having him gelded over the winter, his trainer believes there is a nice prize in him.
Palmer said: “He was second in the German Guineas. He met a horse in the race that was in first-time blinkers, and the jockey couldn’t hold him, and he looped the field and bolted.
“He might start in the Earl Of Sefton. He is rated 109, and you would think he should be competitive in a race like that – and if not, you would hope the handicapper would give a bit back and that he might be a John Smith’s Cup horse.
“I would love to think he can win a Listed race at least, though.”
While things did not work out for Fajjaj in Germany, Palmer hopes he will enjoy better fortune when running Hot Team in the Dr Busch-Memorial at Krefeld later this month.
He said: “Hot Team was a real fun horse last year and he bolted up in a Listed race in France at the back-end.
“He may not have the scope and potential of some, but he has the form in the book. He will probably go to the Dr Busch-Memorial, which is a German 2000 Guineas trial at Krefeld on April 28.
“He could be a Britannia horse. He has done well over the winter, and Germany would be a nice starting point.”
If there is one horse that falls into the ‘could-be-anything’ bracket this season then first-time-out Chelmsford winner Power Of States may be it.
Palmer said: “What we know is he is a nice maiden winner from last year. The most likely is that he will be a handicapper.
“He is another horse that will stay, and we will start at 10 furlongs with him. He could possibly go to Chester, if he won first time back, for a trial.”