Nahaarr bids to continue his ascent up the sprinting ladder with victory in a typically competitive renewal of the Unibet Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood on Saturday.
The son of Dark Angel won his first four starts as a three-year-old last season, before rounding off his campaign by finishing third at Newmarket in August.
His return from a 10-month absence on the Rowley Mile was a little underwhelming – but his third in the Silver Wokingham at Royal Ascot was a step in the right direction, and he could hardly have been more impressive at Newbury a fortnight ago.
“He definitely has a chance,” said trainer William Haggas.
“I think fast ground will suit him, and he’s a progressive horse. He’s gone up a lot for winning at Newbury (7lb) – but hopefully he is improving, and a lot of horses in the race are running off high marks.
“I was late out of the hat, so I didn’t have much choice with the draw (stall 19). I would have liked to have gone lower, but we didn’t have a lot of choice.”
Nahaarr is the clear favourite for the handicap showpiece in the hands of Tom Marquand, with the similarly progressive Meraas next in the betting for Mark Johnston and Joe Fanning.
The three-year-old put a disappointing run at Newmarket behind him with a comfortable triumph in the Scottish Stewards’ Cup at Hamilton on his latest appearance.
Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father, said: “He’s a progressive horse, and the only blot on his copybook was the race at Newmarket. We sort of knew going there he probably wouldn’t like the soft ground, and that’s what happened, but you have to give these things a go.
“He bounced back to win at Hamilton, which is not dissimilar to Goodwood. I think the fast ground will be ideal for him, and we’re looking forward to it.
“He’s got to a mark of 103 by winning some fairly minor races, in truth. We hope he’s a Group-class sprinter in the making, and he’ll probably need to be if he’s going to win on Saturday.”
David O’Meara saddles the two horses at the head of the weights, in Summerghand and Gulliver.
He said: “Both horses are in good form, and there hasn’t been much between them for a few years – they’re very similar in terms of ability.
“The pair of them have plenty of weight, and there’s always a chance you’ll come up against something better handicapped, but they’re both in good order.”
Richard Hannon fires a five-pronged assault, with Lexington Dash and Wedding Date both carrying the colours of Middleham Park Racing.
Middleham Park’s Tim Palin said: “Lexington Dash looks like he’s on the improve, and he’s the sort of horse that should fit the profile, with three-year-olds winning three of the last five Stewards’ Cups.
“He just got bogged down a bit in the ground last time, but the ground should be faster for him on Saturday. Hopefully he can keep improving for the rest of the season and run well here.
“We thought Wedding Date wouldn’t make it into the big race – we thought she would end up in the consolation.
“She seems to stay the six furlongs – she ran ran OK at Ascot last time, because the first four home were all drawn high and we were low.”
Danzeno has been a regular in these big sprint handicaps over the last few years, and trainer Mick Appleby is expecting a bold showing from his stable stalwart – provided conditions are suitable.
“I think he definitely has a chance,” said the Rutland trainer, whose veteran also has an alternative engagement at Newcastle on Sunday.
“My main worry is the ground – if it goes too quick we might not run him.
“He’s a nine-year-old now. But he still has plenty of ability, and I don’t think he has a bad draw (stall nine).”