City Of Troy is a heavy odds-on favourite for his eagerly anticipated return to action in Saturday week’s Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.
It’s going to be three months between drinks for the Aidan O’Brien-trained star who catapulted himself to the top of betting for next year’s Classics with a spectacular success in the Superlative Stakes in mid-July but hasn’t been seen since.
A late withdrawal from last month’s National Stakes at the Irish Champions Festival due to soft ground conditions, City of Troy was immediately pointed instead towards England’s premier two-year-old contest, the Native Trails Dewhurst.
O’Brien doesn’t believe the lengthy gap is an issue with the son of Justify, who is favourite for next year’s Guineas and Derby.
“Everything is going good with him so far and we’re looking at Newmarket,” O’Brien confirmed on Tuesday.
Despite the unbeaten English star Vandeek being ruled out of the race on Tuesday, City Of Troy’s reappearance alone is sure to attract huge attention.
His Dewhurst odds were cut to as low as 4-7 as O’Brien pursues what would be record-equalling eighth success in the race.
Although both the Champagne Stakes winner Iberian and last weekend’s impressive Newmarket winner Alyanaabi look like going to the Dewhurst, what shaped as City Of Troy’s biggest danger disappeared when the Vandeek team opted to draw stumps for the year.
Unbeaten in four starts, culminating in Saturday’s Middle Park rout, Vandeek will be pointed to a sprinting career in 2024 rather than attempt to stretch his stamina to a mile for the 2,000 Guineas.
Chris Wall, racing manager for Vandeek’s owners KHK Racing, said: “Sheikh Khalid has decided to stick to sprinting. We had long discussions last night and that was the way he wanted to go and that is fine, we’re all supportive of it.
“There’s nothing else for Vandeek to run in now so we hope he winters well and he’ll come back with a view to the Commonwealth Cup as his principal early-season target.
“I think he’s all about speed so I think we should play to his strengths rather than ask him to do something out of his comfort zone.”
Another big-race Irish favourite on Saturday week will be Gordon Elliott’s high-class hurdler Pied Piper, who will attempt to exploit a potentially favourable flat handicap mark in the Cesarewitch.
Runner-up in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, Pied Piper is a general 8-1 market leader for Newmarket’s marathon contest after warming up with a run on the level at Killarney in August.
“Killarney was his first run back, Gordon wanted to give him a run and he ran great, he just blew up and hopefully he’ll improve a lot from it. There seems to be a lot of jumpers, mainly dual-purpose horses, in there this year and I think the ground will suit him,” reported the owner’s representative, Joey Logan.
“The big thing this year is that he’s had a break. When we bought him the year before we just kept him going, he ran at Cheltenham, Aintree and then Royal Ascot – we did an awful lot with him.
“We decided to give him a good break this year through the summer and hopefully he’ll have got stronger and will be a fresher horse,” he added.
This Saturday’s Curragh action includes the Group Three Staffordstown Stud Stakes, where the unbeaten Kitty Rose could cement her own Classic credentials for next year.
The mile contest has thrown up top-class winners such as Fancy Blue, Homecoming Queen and City Of Troy’s dam Together Forever in the last dozen years.
Kitty Rose represents Banbridge, Co Down-based trainer Natalia Lupini, who will hope to land a first Group race victory with a filly who is as short as 16-1 in some lists for next year’s 1,000 Guineas.
Following her maiden victory at Naas, Kitty Rose scored in the Listed Ingabelle Stakes at the Irish Champions Festival in Leopardstown last month.
It was a career highlight for Lupini, originally from Milan, who has held a licence here since 2014.
A total of 13 fillies remain in the race after Tuesday’s latest acceptance stage and they also include Gavin Cromwell’s Royal Ascot winner Snellen.
She was victorious in the Chesham Stakes at Ascot in June but was last in her only subsequent start behind Vespertilio in August’s Debutante Stakes at the Curragh.