Matterhorn, one of the stars of this year’s All-Weather Championships, gets the chance to prove he is just as effective on turf when he runs in the Homeserve Huxley Stakes at Chester on Friday.
Mark Johnston’s four-year-old made incredible progress on all the artificial surfaces, rising from a handicap mark of 80 and culminating with a wide-margin success over John Gosden’s Winter Derby winner Wissahickon in the Easter Classic on Good Friday.
A winner of seven of his 10 races, only one of those has been on turf, when he was beaten on his debut at Pontefract, and while assistant trainer Charlie Johnston does not think in the future that grass will be an issue, he does have reservations about soft ground.
“I’m confident that he’ll act on turf, but whether he’ll act on what we’ll get on Friday is a completely different kettle of fish,” he said.
“Hopefully we’ll have a bit of fresh ground, which would be beneficial, but it doesn’t take a lot of rain to get quite testing at Chester.
“Given he’s shown such a high level of ability on the all-weather, translating that form to turf doesn’t worry me too much but translating it to testing ground after three busy days is not what we wanted.
“This was the obvious race after the all-weather campaign, though, as a stepping stone to the big summer targets. It was this or the Brigadier Gerard and this is worth much more money.
“The horse is in phenomenal order and we’re just looking forward to getting him out again.”
Unraced at two and having not made his debut until the October of his three-year-old career, Matterhorn could easily have slipped through the net, as Johnston explained.
“I’d be lying if when he made his handicap debut off 80 I said I thought he had 35lb in hand, but at the same time he’d had two major injuries at two and three and we could easily have got rid of him,” he said.
“He was a horse we liked all along and felt he was above average, so we wanted to keep him, despite the fact he was unraced in the October of his three-year-old career.”
His major market rival is William Haggas’ Addeybb, last season’s Lincoln winner.
He is at the other end of the scale to Matterhorn in that he missed a recent run at Sandown as the ground was too quick.
Haggas said: “He’s been desperate to run for so long that I’m just running him. I’m not sure this is the right race, although it doesn’t look the strongest renewal.
“He needs to get out, he is getting bored as he’s been on the go a long time so I hope he’s fresh enough and fit enough, especially over this trip – which I think he wants.”
The likely pace-setter is Irish raider Success Days, now into the veteran stage of his career at seven.
He won the Ballysax Stakes and Derrinstown Derby Trial for Ken Condon way back in 2015.
“He doesn’t seem to be the force he was, but he’ll relish the ground and the tight track might suit him,” said Condon.
“He ran hard on his comeback, they went a very good gallop and he paid the price late on, but I was happy – the enthusiasm is still there.
“He has a little bit to do to get back to where he was but under these circumstances, soft ground and a different track, hopefully there might be life in the old boy yet.
“I think he’ll corner well, he’ll like the ground and he might take some pegging back. He’ll be a big price, but if the cards fall his way he’s capable of a decent run.”
Richard Fahey runs last year’s winner Forest Ranger and Chester regular Gabrial, while Chief Ironside (William Jarvis) completes the field.