Elarqam set for Earl of Sefton Stakes at Newmarket
Elarqam bids to get his career back on track in the bet365 Earl of Sefton Stakes at Newmarket on Thursday.
Last Updated: 17/04/19 2:28pm
A son of Frankel out of the brilliant racemare Attraction, Mark Johnston's charge looked like living up to his regal breeding after ending his juvenile campaign with two impressive wins from as many starts.
He was far from disgraced in finishing fourth in the 2000 Guineas, but disappointed when favourite for the Irish equivalent and was subsequently beaten at Group Two and Group Three level, at York and Salisbury respectively.
Having had wind surgery during the off-season, Elarqam makes his first competitive in over eight months in the nine-furlong Group Three contest and connections are hopeful of a positive start to the season.
Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, said: "I spoke to Mark Johnston on Monday and he is pleased with Elarqam's condition and is very happy with his work.
"Everything went wrong for him last year from the Irish Guineas onwards, so we pulled up stumps, touched up his wind and gave him a long break and now we are happy with him.
"He had a hairline fracture of his pelvis and you can never be sure how these things have healed, but his last pelvic scan, in December, was very good.
"Everything is a question mark for him. We just need to see him back as last year went downhill and we know he is better than that."
Elarqam is one of two contenders for Sheikh Hamdan along with the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Mustashry.
He won twice in Group Two company in September before finishing down the field behind stablemate Expert Eye in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
Gold added: "I saw Mustashry on Monday and he has started to come to himself and Sir Michael is happy with the way he is going.
"He is a very solid performer who has been a great servant to us and hopefully he will go on again this year.
"Jim Crowley had the choice of which one to ride and has plumped for Elarqam. Dane O'Neill will be aboard Mustashry."
Last year's winner Forest Ranger is back to defend his crown for Richard Fahey.
He, too, has a point to prove after failing to fire at Meydan last month.
"He likes the course and the intermediate trip of a mile and one furlong and although I would prefer a drop of rain for him, I am sure that officials at Newmarket will do a good job of watering," said Fahey.
"He was a bit disappointing in Dubai last time - I had hoped he would stay out there for World Cup night - but he just didn't take to the place as well as I had expected.
"He's been in great form since he got home and he's something of a favourite around the yard - he's such a big horse with a great mind and everyone likes riding him."
Charlie Appleby saddles First Contact (William Buick), First Nation (James Doyle) and Vintager (Adam Kirby).
Appleby said: "First Contact was third in the Jebel Hatta on his latest appearance. He's fit and well and a reproduction of that run should make him competitive.
"First Nation also ran well out in Dubai and I don't think coming back in trip should be any problem to him.
"Vintager only had the one run for us in Dubai and was a bit disappointing, but I don't think the way the race was run really suited him.
"That race was over 10 furlongs and I think coming back to nine furlongs will suit him."
Roger Varian's Zabeel Prince, Hugo Palmer's Fajjaj, Harry Dunlop's Robin Of Navan, the Martyn Meade-trained Chilean and Circus Couture from Jane Chapple-Hyam's yard complete the line-up.