Raymond Tusk’s big target for this season will be another crack at the Ebor, hopefully at York.
The Richard Hannon-trained five-year-old was fourth in Europe’s richest handicap last season, having started off his campaign with an excellent second to Dee Ex Bee in the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot, where he also ran in the Gold Cup at the Royal meeting.
Owned by Middleham Park Racing, he went on to the Melbourne Cup and won before the end of the year on the all-weather surface at Newcastle, where the Sagaro Stakes will be held this season following the amendments to the fixture list when racing resumes, which is provisionally due to be on June 1.
The Sagaro is scheduled to be run on June 6, but while not ruled out, it is by no means certain Raymond Tusk – who was disappointing when last seen at Wolverhampton in January – will be going there.
Middleham Park director Tim Palin said: “I haven’t sat down and worked out what his next run will be, he did have a problem after Wolverhampton. I’m not sure that problem was there and then on the day, I think that was just him having had maybe one race too many.
“But he did have a little foot problem after that and that would have kept him out of (All-Weather) Finals Day (at Lingfield). He’s back cantering now, it just depends how much fitness he has lost in that time. It would be a race against time to get him ready for June 6, but it always amazes me how quickly the Hannons can get horses ready.
“The handicapper dropped him 2lb from the back end of the turf season and all roads lead to the Ebor, whether it’s worth £1million or £200,000 – whatever the Ebor is worth, that is his target.
“It will probably be – maybe two – but probably one run somewhere, and then the Ebor, and if we were trying to be clever it would be a run somewhere that wouldn’t have his handicap mark raised – we wouldn’t want to burden him with even a pound or two more in the Ebor and winning a Group Three might see him go up 2lb or 3lb.
“It could be in winning £20,000 we cost ourselves £600,000. We want to time our run so we come into the Ebor off his current mark.
“I think a more comfortable prep would be the third or fourth week in June and that might just lead him into a six-week break for the Ebor. I’m sure the Ebor will be run, we just don’t quite know when the date will be or the prize-money and arguably the venue, but you’d like to think it will be sometime in August at York and worth a flag-bearing figure of money.”
A boost for the Raymond Tusk team this year is the absence of the Group Two penalty he had to carry for a victory in Italy in October 2018.
Palin explained: “The difference this year is we gave Dee Ex Bee 5lb last year and this year we come into the season with no penalties – we had a Group Two penalty last year, so our hand was slightly forced.
“We couldn’t run in conditions races and so on, whereas this year we only have a conditions race penalty from Newcastle to shoulder, so even Listed races and Group Threes and conditions races are actually open to him this time around, so we might be able to bob and weave a bit.”