Mark Johnston is fascinated to see how Sir Ron Priestley behaves when he comes back down on a trip to the Betfair Exchange Jockey Club Stakes in Newmarket on Saturday.
The lightly-run five-year-old has tackled a mile and three quarters in his last three races, including when he was a finalist at the 2019 St Leger in Doncaster.
He was out for 571 days after that fine effort, but made a triumphant return to action in the other Flight Stakes in Nottingham three and a half weeks ago.
Sir Ron Priestley is seen as a contender to stay in the spotlight this year, but Johnston believes that not all of Australia is devoid of speed.
“With Sir Ron Priestley’s last two runs being over a mile and six we thought we’d take him up over two miles, but he’s not short of speed and seems to have at least run to train in Nottingham,” did he declare .
“It will be very interesting to see him again over a mile away.”
The Middleham manager also saddles Thunderous, who made an early reappearance after running under par in the Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown last week.
Johnston added: “Thunderous was very disappointing the other day in Sandown, but there was no obvious reason for that, so we could not hesitate to bring him back quickly.”
Pyledriver finished third at St Leger last year and William Muir, who now trains in partnership with Chris Grassick, is eager to get the stable star back on track.
“Everything has been brilliant from the start. These are the days that you look forward to,” Muir said.
“The ground has never worried me about this horse. It’s so light, it just touches the ground. Soil doesn’t really concern me.
“If you look through his form he won on firm ground at Salisbury for the first time in two and then he won a Listed race on very soft ground at Haydock.
“He got stronger physically. I didn’t hurt him for that as his only race of the season – it’s a starting point.”
Despite not competing in last year’s Derby, a return to Epsom and the Group One company is on the agenda for Pyledriver, with Muir booking the Coronation Cup on June 4 as his next stop after Newmarket.
He added: “Without a shadow of a doubt, he will return to Epsom for the Coronation Cup, as long as he is well.
“When he came down the straight after being hampered early on, he did well. The track over there doesn’t concern me at all.”
The duo formed by William Haggas of Al Zaraqaan and Pablo Escobarr complete the small but selective selection, the former returning to the turf following a treble of victories in all times.
Charlie Appleby expects Lazuli to be a tough guy in the Betfair Palace House Stakes.
Winner of a group three at Newbury on his last start of 2020, the hungry son of Dubawi raced once at Meydan during the winter – finishing third behind Equilateral in the Dubai Dash.
“I’m thrilled with him and five stadiums is his trip,” Appleby said.
“He only had one start at Meydan. He encountered a little setback after that which meant he missed his second start there.
“His preparation for Saturday was excellent, he’s looking great and he’s fresh and healthy.
“I think he’s the one they have to beat.”
The judge is in good shape as he makes a fourth consecutive appearance in the Group 3 competition.
The regular sprinter Julie Camacho has finished second twice and seventh so far and has given encouraging signs that he will run another great race on Saturday.
Camacho’s husband and assistant Steve Brown said of the nine-year-old: “He’s in good shape and he’s training well. We haven’t seen anything that suggests he’s slowing down. had a smooth prep and we can’t wait for it.
“He has a positive history in this race and it’s always a good place to start it. Obviously there are some very useful horses in there, but nothing that stands out as being much better than him.
“It will be nice to see him on the track again and we hope he maintains his enthusiasm for the race.”
Robert Cowell’s trio of Arecibo, Aljady and Dubai Station are also in a group of nine.