Born With Pride starts what could be a high-profile season in the Unibet Classic Trial at Kempton on Wednesday.
Tom Marquand will ride the daughter of Born To Sea in the Group Three affair, looking to replicate her excellent debut victory in Listed company at Newmarket in November – a success that has left her prominent in the ante-post market for the Investec Oaks.
Up against the Ralph Beckett-trained Max Vega and John Gosden’s Hypothetical, Born With Pride will also have to contend with a slightly longer distance and an all-weather surface for the first time.
“We are hopeful of a good run,” said trainer William Haggas. “It is a tough race. It’s against the colts which I don’t like, but our hands are tied to get some experience into her before the bigger races, so we’ve got to go.
“We will see what happens. It’s not an ideal race for her, but she has to start somewhere and we have to get on.
“If you look at her pedigree, she is totally better at a mile and a quarter than a mile, so we’re hoping that’s right.”
The second-favourite behind Born With Pride is Max Vega, the winner of two of his three starts as a juvenile.
A son of Lope De Vega, Beckett’s charge was an impressive winner of Zetland Stakes at Newmarket in October and Kempton was decided as the best starting point to get him up and running ahead of a potential Derby bid.
Beckett said: “It is not going to be easy around there for him as it is a tight 10 furlongs, not like the galloping one he won over at Newmarket.
“He will enjoy the surface and I see him running well and getting involved. We decided to run him here rather than in the Lingfield Derby Trial as I didn’t want to run him on fast ground and there weren’t many other options, and he needs a run before we go to Epsom.
“If he gets beat it isn’t the end of the world, as this is only a prep run for the Derby. This will be a good trial for him.”
He will be ridden by Harry Bentley, who said: “I’ve ridden him quite a few times at home and he seems to be in good spirits. He has not run on the all-weather and that is very much the question mark. He seems to be in good form, though we will know a lot more after this.
“He is rated 110, so on paper he is certainly the one to beat. William Haggas’ filly Born With Pride looked very impressive first time out, but I wouldn’t swap my ride.”
A colt that is unlikely to be at Epsom is Pyledriver, with trainer William Muir looking more towards targets in France.
“I am in the French Derby, but not the English Derby, although we still could enter because entries have gone back to six days,” he said.
“He is in great form, I’m really pleased with him and he is going to do us well this year.
“We were going to go with the Irish Guineas, but it is virtually impossible to go there and quarantine for two weeks with nowhere for him, so we decided to go here and see what happens.”
Pyledriver ran out a fine winner at Haydock in September before he concluded the season with a below-par effort in the Group Two Royal Lodge at Newmarket.
But Muir added: “His last run, you can forget it. He lost his strength. He is a big, tall horse and lost his strength and Martin (Dwyer) looked after him. He had a great winter, so I am looking forward to it.”
The other feature on the card is the EBF/Unibet Snowdrop Fillies’ Stakes, which sees the reappearance of Richard Hannon’s Billesdon Brook, winner of the 1000 Guineas two years ago and victorious last season in the Sun Chariot Stakes.
Hannon said: “I took her to Kempton for a gallop and she worked well.
“She’s in the Windsor Forest at Royal Ascot and we’ll have a good look at the Sun Chariot again and the owners are quite keen to travel. There’s a good few options, the Rothschild is there as well.
“She takes her racing well and it’s lovely to have her there for another year. It’s very sporting of Mrs McCreery to keep a horse like that in training for people to keep seeing.
“She gives her a lot of pleasure and is a beautiful filly. She’s the sort of filly that when she’s on form, she never looks like getting beat, she’s that sort of quality. When she won the Guineas she looked awesome and it was nice to see her do that again in the Sun Chariot.”