Mirage Dancer back on familiar territory at Goodwood

Stoute five-year-old had tough time in Hong Kong in December

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Mirage Dancer will bid to maintain his unbeaten course record at Goodwood when attempting to become the first horse to claim successive victories in the Bet Your Way On The Betfair Exchange Tapster Stakes.

The Sir Michael Stoute-trained five-year-old, who is two from two at the track, makes his seasonal return in the Listed prize, which he captured 12 months ago under Pat Dobbs, who takes the ride once again.

Having failed to fire on his final start of last year in the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin, connections are hopeful a return to a happy hunting ground can reignite his old spark.

Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to owner Khalid Abdullah, said: “It is great to see him back, as he had a pretty horrible time in Hong Kong, what with the trip and everything.

“He just got back and had a temperature. He took a while to get right and needed a good break, so they have done tremendously well to bring him back. His work has been straightforward. This was the race he won last year, so that sets quite a nice precedent.

“I think the main thing is we are looking for him to get back on track and have a nice run. It is somewhere he knows and it is a track he handles, so that is always a good starting point.”

Richard Hannon hopes the ground does not dry out too much in order to give Danehill Kodiac the best chance of opening his account for the campaign.

The Marlborough handler said: “He is dropping back in trip, but he ran a good race the last day. We are very happy with him, but we don’t want the ground to be too firm. I will walk the track before he runs.

“We are going where the races are for him, as there are quite a few races coming up for him and we would like him to win one. This a tough race, so we will see how he gets on.

“He is very consistent and has come back from a long time off, so he might just have needed those first two runs, but we have been happy with him and he should run well.”

Connections of the Mark Johnston-trained Elarqam are optimistic he can revive his career and claim his first victory since winning a Group Three at Newmarket on his final start as a two-year-old in the Betfair Best Odds On ITV Races Festival Stakes.

Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, said: “He has been very frustrating, but his problems have been well documented. He maybe just needed the run the other day, but that form has certainly been boosted.

“He has always looked a rather heavy sort of horse, but I saw him last week and for the first time in a very long time I thought he looked much better. He looked a more athletic horse and I think a mile and a quarter is the way to go with him.

“I’m not sure he wants fast ground down a hill, so that would be my only caveat, but he is in good shape and we need to get on with him.”

David Menuisier expects his stable star Thundering Blue to strip fitter for his seasonal return at Sandown – but has warned he still may need the outing.

He said: “He needed the race badly the other day, he was keen for three furlongs then he relaxed, but then when they quickened again he had a blow and Andrea (Atzeni) just left him alone.

“His work has been good since the race and he will strip much fitter this time round. He has to give 5lb to the field, but it is not really a concern.

“He might still need it as I think he is on his way to full fitness, but we have got decent targets down the line, which include going back to Canada, and we want to build his fitness gently.”

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