Celebrity owner Glen Johnson can look forward to an exciting campaign ahead with his high-class sprinter Encore D’Or.
Trainer Robert Cowell is convinced a successful time is in store for the seven-year-old, part-owned by former Chelsea, Liverpool and England full-back Johnson and a cosy winner of Tuesday’s Betway Conditions Stakes fast-track qualifier at Newcastle.
All roads will lead to Good Friday’s sprint championship at Lingfield, with one run in a Listed event at the same track en route.
Cowell admits Encore D’Or was very much short of race fitness on his first outing since finishing runner-up in a Group Three at Dundalk in mid-October.
He is therefore optimistic about the big-race targets to come and the fun to be had by Johnson, who announced his retirement from professional football this week after a stellar career which brought him 54 international caps.
“He has had horses with us for a while, and he’s an absolutely top bloke to deal with,” said the Cambridgeshire trainer.
“He is very enthusiastic about his horses, always has been – and now he has retired from football, maybe he will have a bit more time to get more involved .
“I’m really glad he’s got such a good horse.”
Encore D’Or is already the winner of 11 races, all but one over the minimum distance.
“I cannot stress enough how much he needed that run,” Cowell added, reflecting on the neck success from former stablemate Ornate.
“He is such a big horse, and we knew it was a close-run thing if he was fit enough. But class pulled through, and he will come on stacks.
“He will improve so much, and I’m pretty confident this is going to be a big year for him.”
Cowell will be keeping things simple, impressed with Encore D’Or’s latest win and satisfied just one more race will be required before his Easter date.
“Ornate is not a bad horse at all – I used to train him, and he was rated 104 or 105 – and Andrew Balding’s horse (Stone Of Destiny) was always likely to run up to his mark,” he said.
“So he’ll now go for a Listed race at Lingfield in February, and I don’t think he’s going to need anything else beforehand.”