Varian stars target York
Roger Varian is planning to send a strong team to next week's Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival, which gets underway on Wednesday week.
Among them could be Racing Post Trophy winner Kingston Hill, who the Newmarket-based trainer will confirm for both the £800,000 Group One Juddmonte International Stakes and the £150,000 Group 2 Neptune Investment Management Great Voltigeur Stakes. Both races are scheduled for the opening day of the four-day fixture.
The Paul Smith-owned Mastercraftsman colt chased home Australia in the Epsom Derby before finishing fourth in the Coral Eclipse when last seen on a racecourse.
Varian said: “We gave Kingston Hill a short break after Sandown and he looks great for it. He is a high-class colt and I think he is set for a good autumn.
“The plan since Sandown has been to head to York. If we looked like getting a soft-ground Juddmonte International, he could go there. If the ground is good, we would more likely head to the Great Voltigeur over a mile and a half.
“He also has an entry this weekend at Newbury in the Geoffrey Freer and it is a case of watching the weather and taking a look at all the options.”
Unbeaten Albany Stakes winner Cursory Glance could be heading to the £150,000 Group 2 Pinsent Masons Lowther Stakes, on Thursday, August 21 for juvenile fillies over six furlongs.
The daughter of Distorted Humor put up a most impressive display at Royal Ascot and the form has since been boosted by the runner-up Sunset Glow winning a Grade 2 in America and also the fifth-placed Osaila taking the Group 3 Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot.
Varian added: “Cursory Glance has been working very well and her Albany Stakes victory remains one of the strongest pieces of form in 2014 for two-year-old fillies.
“The Lowther Stakes looks a good option for her although I wouldn’t run her on soft ground. She is also entered in the Debutante Stakes at The Curragh, which could be an alternative if the ground goes against us at York.”
Ambivalent struck at the Dante Festival when taking the Group 2 Betfred Middleton Stakes and she could be in for a return to the Knavesmire for a tilt at the £330,000 Group One Darley Yorkshire Oaks. She was last seen in late June when fourth of eight in the Pretty Polly Stakes at The Curragh.
“Ambivalent ran a little flat in the Irish Pretty Polly and we gave her a short break after that.” Varian said. “She looks in great shape and we would like to give her a run in Europe before targeting an international campaign this autumn.
“She is versatile regarding ground and has top-class form over ten and twelve furlongs. The Yorkshire Oaks would be a good spot for her – the track suits her. However, giving weight to Taghrooda is no easy task and we shall also look at the Prix Jean-Romanet which is restricted to four-year-old and upwards.”
Steps holds an entry in Friday, August 22's Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes.
The son of Verglas, now six, has been as good as ever this year, winning a Listed race at Haydock and also finishing a close-up sixth in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Varian added: “Steps has been better than ever this year and I think, when everything falls right for him, he is capable of winning a big one.
“A fast five furlongs suits him well but he really needs some ease in the ground to be at his best. If the ground comes up on the easy side at York, we’ll let him take his chance.”
Farraaj put up a terrific weight-carrying performance under 9st 11lb to win the John Smith’s Cup on the Knavesmire in early July.
The son of Dubai Destination is pencilled in for a tilt at Saturday, August 23's Betfred Strensall Stakes over nine furlongs.
Varian said: “I was very impressed by Farraaj in the John Smith’s Cup. He was drawn in stall 22 and carried 9st 11lb but still managed to win well.
“He benefited from racing handily that day but I believe he too is a better horse coming off a strong pace, which was the case when he won at Epsom and in last year’s Winter Derby.
“He is a gelding who loves fast ground, so we shall probably look to go abroad with him later in the season. If the ground is quick, the Strensall Stakes is an option for him but he will also get an entry in the Winter Hill Stakes at Windsor on the same day (Saturday, August 23). They are at different ends of the country so hopefully he’ll get his ground somewhere.”
This is just Varian’s fourth season with a training licence but he has already plundered some of the track’s biggest prizes. In addition to this year’s victories in the Betfred Middleton Stakes and the John Smith’s Cup, he also won last year’s Rockingham Stakes with Mushir and the Group 2 Sky Bet York Stakes with Sri Putra in 2012.
Varian said: “York is a great place to have runners and to take owners. This is a meeting we like to target and I think this is the strongest team we have assembled for it so far.”