By Nick Seddon
Roger Varian believes that the Listed Betfred Nifty Fifty Achilles Stakes (5f) at Haydock Park on Saturday represents a good opportunity for Dragon Symbol to get his season back on track.
The four year old was one of the leading sprinters of last term for the Archie Watson team, hitting the frame at the top level on multiple occasions during the summer – including when demoted to second after finishing first past the post in the Group One Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.
And while he was disappointing on his first start for Varian in the Group Two 1895 Duke Of York Stakes at York earlier this month, his trainer is hopeful that the son of Cable Bay can take a notable step forward for that outing in Saturday’s contest.
Varian said: “He’s come out of his run at York well and he’s worked nicely, so he’s ready to run again. We were disappointed at York but we can’t find a reason for it - perhaps he just ran a bit fresh and needed it.
“We are planning to go to Haydock and he looks in good shape, so hopefully we can get back on track on Saturday. It looks a good opportunity on paper and he should cope with the ground and the drop back to five furlongs, so we’re looking forward to running him again.”
Saturday’s card at Haydock Park is an excellent one and also contains two Group Three contests, including the Betfred Pinnacle Stakes for fillies and mares over a mile and a half. It’s a race which Varian has won in back-to-back years with Ferdoos in 2011 and Shimmering Surf in 2012 and he’s due to be represented by Lady Hayes this time around.
The four year old showed some smart form without winning last term, including when a close second in the Group Two Lancashire Oaks over course and distance last July. And Varian feels that form will stand his charge in good stead at the weekend.
He said: “She’s got good course and distance form at Haydock and I think a repeat of the form she showed in the Lancashire Oaks last year would give her a chance. It looks a warm race and she’s better with a bit of give in the ground, so we’ll hope some of the showers materialise but she is quite versatile so she’s a likely runner and I’m sure she’ll run well.”
Meanwhile, Varian could also be represented by the lightly-raced Laneqash in the feature race, the Group Three Betfred John of Gaunt Stakes over seven furlongs. The four year old has undergone a gelding operation since last being seen on the racecourse in the autumn and Varian explained that his participation would be reliant on the going at Haydock – which is currently Good, Good to Firm in places.
He said: “He’s done very well over the winter and he’s ready to run. He’s one who wouldn’t want any rain so if it came up Good or Good To Firm, he would be a runner. He’s a nice horse and we’re looking forward to coming back on the track with him.
“He never lacked focus and his character was always good, but he was never going to be a stalli
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