David Simcock expects Spanish Mission to improve for the run when he makes his seasonal reappearance at Meydan on Thursday.
An impressive winner of the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket, the son of Noble Mission was last seen claiming a last-gasp victory in the valuable Jockey Club Derby at Belmont Park in New York in September.
The four-year-old is the highest-rated of nine horses declared for the Group Three Nad Al Sheba Trophy – and Simcock is looking forward to seeing his charge return to competitive action.
“He’s a lovely horse – a progressive horse last year,” the Newmarket handler told Sky Sports Racing
“It was nice to win the race in Belmont. That race was basically the plan from very early on – and then when he won the Bahrain Trophy as he did, the St Leger came into the equation, but we’re glad to have stuck to what we originally going to do.
“He did very well to get up in Belmont, coming from a long way back, and although the second (Pedro Cara) was an outsider that day, he’s more than franked the form since.
“Spanish Mission has strengthened up a little. He’s not the most robust horse – like a lot of stayers, he’s more of an athlete. He’s a very straightforward horse to train with a great temperament and a great constitution for travelling, as we’ve found out already.
“A lot depends on how much he’s going to need the run on Thursday. We’re not going to put all our eggs in one basket, obviously, and we’d expect him to come forward.”
Spanish Mission will race beyond a mile and a half for the first time in the one-mile-six-furlong contest, in preparation for a tilt at the two-mile Gold Cup on World Cup night at the end of March.
“The Gold Cup is the aim. The Sheema Classic has become a much stronger race in the last few years and we’ve got to take a reality check,” Simcock added.
“I think he can go through the ranks as a staying horse, but over a mile and a half, he would be outclassed at the moment.
“He’s probably going to be campaigned an awful lot abroad and the likelihood is he will become a Grade One horse over a mile and a half in America, because they just aren’t as good as they are here.
“We will go for certain staying races in England, but we’ll take it as it comes.”
Five of Spanish Mission’s eight rivals at Meydan carry the colours of Godolphin, with Saeed bin Suroor saddling Dubai Horizon, Gifts Of Gold and Dubai Future, and Charlie Appleby represented by Secret Advisor and Dubhe.
Salem bin Ghadayer’s Charles Kingsley, Mick Channon’s Koeman and Mick Halford’s Irish challenger Massif Central complete the line-up.