Irish racing returns after a 76-day absence on Monday at Naas, where Sceptical bids to complete a four-timer in the Listed Anglesey Lodge Equine Hospital Woodlands Stakes.
The Denis Hogan-trained sprinter was bought unraced by James McAuley for just £2,800 from Godolphin last August but has improved out of all recognition following a debut third at Dundalk in October.
The Exceed And Excel gelding has won all three starts since at the same venue and was hugely impressive when taking a handicap by over six lengths off a mark of 101 in March.
Hogan is happy with the progressive four-year-old and said: “He’s in great form. We had to let him down a bit with the lay-off and then pick him back up. He’s done a few bits of work and has had a day or two away.
“He’s been very impressive in handicaps, but will have to step up now as he’s mixing in different company.
“We’ll see how he gets on at Naas, but Ascot could still be in our plans for the King’s Stand or the Diamond Jubilee.
“We don’t have to enter until Wednesday, so we will have a day to think after Naas and we’ll know a lot more after he runs.
“He’s never been on grass and we weren’t even able to work him on it before because of the ground. This is a nice starting point and he’s a natural to train – a real gentleman of a horse with a lovely attitude.”
Talented apprentice Joey Sheridan is again entrusted with the mount on Sceptical and Hogan has every confidence in the teenager.
He added: “Joey rides this horse every day and was on him the last day at Dundalk. The owners are very sweet on Joey and we all have a lot of confidence in him.
“He’s in the deep end now not being able to claim the 7lb, but he’s a good kid.”
The Woodlands has attracted a strong line-up with the likes of Sergei Prokofiev and Commonwealth Cup runner-up Forever In Dreams also among the 11 declared.
The Kuroshio At Compass Stallions Committed Stakes is the other Listed sprint on a competitive card and Summer Sands makes his debut for Joseph O’Brien after being bought out of Richard Fahey’s yard for 625,000 guineas at the end of last year.
Pistoletto and Southern Hills are also among those likely to play a prominent role in the 17 declared.
There are 134 horses (not including reserves) declared on the eight-race card and the opening two juvenile maidens should prove informative with many well-bred individuals.
Battleground catches the eye in the colts maiden as a son of War Front out of Arc winner Found.