Roger Varian reports Australis to be in fine shape as the lightly-raced gelding bids to justify his place at the head of the betting for the Betfair Northumberland Plate at Newcastle on Saturday.
The four-year-old made a winning reappearance at Wolverhampton earlier this month, on what was his first outing for 241 days.
He had looked progressive before his absence and the manner of his victory offered the promise of more yet to come.
“He’s a lovely horse. He didn’t race at two, he’s a late-maturing type. He had a good winter and looks to have strengthened up nicely as a four-year-old,” said the Newmarket trainer.
“He won a tidy little race at Wolverhampton a couple of weeks ago and we’ve been very happy with him since.
“Whether he can win on Saturday, I don’t know, but I do know he’s in good form and he’s probably at the right end of the weights.
“I’m confident he’d get the two miles.”
Charlie Fellowes feels the race is tailor-made for Carnwennan as the five-year-old bids to take the main event 12 months on from success in the consolation race.
Carnwennan showed the extended two miles on the artificial surface at Gosforth Park was right up his street when winning the Northumberland Vase decisively last summer.
He has already paid a visit to the north-east circuit this year, finishing a close second over the course and distance in February.
“He loves Newcastle. He obviously won the consolation last year and this has been the plan for a while,” said Fellowes.
“I did put him in at Ascot, but we decided we’d rather wait for this. A big field really suits him because they go a nice gallop and he loves the track.”
“Drawn 13 is fine. I don’t mind the draw. We’ll slot in wherever we can – there is plenty to be positive about.”
In contrast, Hugo Palmer was left ruing his luck with the draw as his two runners, Caravan Of Hope and Collide, were drawn 17 and 19 respectively.
Caravan Of Hope is the better-fancied of the pair, having run Australis to half a length at Wolverhampton.
“He’s got a good chance. He ran really well on his reappearance and things did not go well for him,” said Palmer.
“He got caught out wide from a bad draw all the way and he’s got a bad draw again. He’s got that to overcome, but both my horses have got bad draws, so if either of them win the jockey will receive an awful amount of praise.”
Collide only ran at Royal Ascot last week, but he has taken the race so well Palmer thought it would be best to give him his chance.
“He’s been so well since Ascot he just may as well run,” said the Newmarket handler.
“He’ll improve for the step up in trip.”
Mark Johnston is double-handed with King’s Advice and Anyonecanhaveitall as he aims for a second win in the historic contest after Quick Ransom in 1996.
King’s Advice was sixth 12 months ago and reverts to handicap company after running in better class races.
“He finished sixth in it last year. He’s found it a bit tough up in Group company, but he ran respectably in the Sagaro behind Nayef Road over the course and distance,” said Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father.
“He’s just struggled to make that transition from top handicaps into Group company so far this year.
“Trip, track and conditions are all fine for him and I’m sure he’ll acquit himself well, as he always does.”
PJ McDonald rides King’s Advice as Joe Fanning can do the required 8st on Anyonecanhaveitall.
“Joe is one of the very few jockeys now that can do 8st,” said Johnston.
“Obviously in normal circumstances he would have been riding King’s Advice, but with that horse getting in and having someone of Joe’s calibre who can do 8st is hard to find. That’s why he’s on Anyonecanhaveitall and PJ is on King’s Advice.
“We didn’t expect him to get in. We thought he’d be in the Vase. There’s only eight runners in that and would be an easy race to win.
“He’s getting in off a low weight. He ran well on his comeback run at Pontefract. I think he’ll come on quite a bit for that, this is a major leap up in class for him but he got in the race so we’ll see how he gets on.”