Glen Shiel is reported to be “cherry-ripe” ahead of his bid for a fourth victory at Newcastle in Saturday’s Pertemps Network Chipchase Stakes.
While winless in eight starts since memorably providing jockey Hollie Doyle with a first Group One success in the 2020 Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot, the sprinter has been running well in defeat – notably finishing second at Royal Ascot and on Champions Day last term.
Now an eight-year-old, the Hambleton Racing-owned gelding again filled the runner-up spot on his return at Haydock before finishing fourth in the Group Two Greenlands Stakes in Ireland a fortnight later.
Glen Shiel struck gold three times at Newcastle between January and August of 2020 and Hambleton’s head racing manager, Cosmo Charlton, is anticipating another bold showing on his return to Gosforth Park.
He said: “He’s in great form at home, Archie (Watson, trainer) has got him bouncing.
“He’s an eight-year-old now and a big old unit. He always needs his first run, but I think he arguably needed that last run a little bit as well.
“I think he’s cherry-ripe now. We didn’t go to Ascot last week because of the ground, so we said we’d look towards the Chipchase and fingers crossed for a good run.
“I think it’s a good Group Three. There’s some improvers in there and it’s a strong-looking race, but our horse has got good course form and has to go there with a really good each-way chance.”
Hambleton have a second string to their bow in the form of Magical Spirit, who is also a previous winner over the course and distance.
“Again he goes really well at the track. Obviously he’ll be a bit of an outsider and it’s a hard task, but he could run well at a decent price,” Charlton added.
Karl Burke has high hopes for Spycatcher, who was beaten just a head at Newcastle on All-Weather Championships Finals Day following a tardy start.
The four-year-old subsequently finished second to Highfield Princess in the Duke of York Stakes, but disappointed when stepped up to seven furlongs for Haydock’s John of Gaunt on his latest outing.
Burke hopes the combination of a return to Newcastle and the application of headgear will enable Spycatcher get his season back on track.
“He’s in great form and looks really well. He wears cheekpieces for the first time, which we think will help him and sharpen him up,” the trainer told Sky Sports Racing.
“He’s one of those that just misses the kick sometimes, but he’s jumped very well with the cheekpieces on. I don’t think he’s ungenuine, I think he just lacks concentration sometimes.
“After his disappointing last run, I thought it made sense to go back to the all-weather and back to Newcastle. We know he handles the track well.
“He was unlucky on Good Friday – he’d have definitely won if he’d jumped with the field.”
Sense Of Duty is a leading contender for William Haggas, having taken her record to three wins from four starts when defeating subsequent Commonwealth Cup third Flotus at Haydock last month.
Hugo Palmer’s Ebro River and the Julie Camacho-trained Judicial – winner of the race in 2020 – also feature in a competitive contest.