Celebration Mile preview: Zonderland back on track at Goodwood

Fri 25 Aug 2017

Clive Cox is looking forward to seeing Zonderland make his long-awaited seasonal return in the Grosvenor Sport Celebration Mile Stakes at Goodwood on Saturday.

In what has so far been a season of frustration with the four-year-old son of Dutch Art, the Lambourn handler hopes he can make up for lost time by going one better than when he finished second in the Group Two contest 12 months ago on what was his final racecourse appearance.

Cox said: "Zonderland is training well and I am very much looking forward to seeing him run. I hope conditions continue to dry out for him but I have been pleased with his work. Obviously he ran very well in this race last year."

The trainer continued: "It's just taken us time to get him right as he had a hold-up in the spring. Unfortunately, the ground was far too soft in the Sussex Stakes at the Glorious meeting.

"He has always been an impressive individual from his two-year-old days and he's a big-framed horse. Although he has been off the track for a long time, he is a bigger, stronger horse.

"He ran well in the race last year and the form has worked out especially well so it's proved he is a top-class performer."

Connections of Hathal are hoping the ground contains enough give in it to allow the William Haggas-trained colt the opportunity to run.

The son of Speightstown, who has been limited to two starts this season, will be dropping back in trip after finishing third over an extended mile and a quarter at York.

Harry Herbert, racing manager to owners Al Shaqab Racing, said: "Hathal is in very good form but he loves it soft. If it is anything quicker than good he will probably not run, but that decision will be up to William.

"It is always frustrating with him as he must have it on the easy side.

"He is a good horse and he ran well at York last time and it looks the right race over a mile for him. The ground is just the issue with him."

While Opal Tiara has found life difficult since scoring at the same level at Meydan in February, trainer Mick Channon is hoping a short break since she trailed home last in the Falmouth Stakes can revive her fortunes.

Channon said: "It has been hard since Dubai and it has been very difficult to place her with her penalty. We did look at the Strensall Stakes but wherever we go, she has this penalty.

"She could have gone to Turkey and we might still do that, but it could be a bit tight. We've given her a bit of a break since Newmarket so that should help.

"Once you go to Dubai, it is hard to get a proper break into them. It looks like we have got her ground, though. The drying ground might not suit a couple of them and Zonderland has been off for a year.

"It is tough and we are under no illusions that we have got to be at the top of our game and they have got to be at the bottom of theirs. We know the score but she is really tough."

Last year's winner Lightning Spear, from the yard of David Simcock, will bid to become the first horse since Chic in 2004-05 to win successive renewals of the race.

The field is completed by the John Gosden-trained Richard Pankhurst and Richard Hannon's Oh This Is Us.

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