Elarqam team confident recent rain will not impact colt's Classic preparations
Connections are confident the recent wet spell has not unduly hindered Elarqam's preparation for the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket next month. The three-year-old is certainly bred for the Rowley Mile Classic as a son of the brilliant Frankel, who won the 2000 Guineas seven years ago, out of trainer Mark Johnston's top-class racemare Attraction, who won five Group Ones including the 1000 Guineas in 2004.
A planned racecourse gallop at Pontefract at the start of April had to be shelved after the fixture was abandoned and with no turf Flat racing having taken place in Britain since Musselburgh's card on March 31, he has been restricted to working at home. However, Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father, reports the colt to be firing on all cylinders.
He said: "We had a few back-up plans after Pontefract was abandoned, but obviously we haven't had any turf racing on the Flat for nearly two weeks now. He hasn't had a chance to have that away-day, but he worked at home last Saturday and we were very, very happy with him. Joe (Fanning) came in and sat on him and everyone was delighted."
The Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned Elarqam is two from two for the Middleham-based trainer and has course form having won the Group Three Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket in September. He is set to make the journey to Headquarters again for next week's Craven meeting.
Johnston added: "The plan is still for him to go to the Craven meeting next week for a racecourse gallop. We haven't firmed up which day he'll go yet, but hopefully, that will give Jim (Crowley) an opportunity to sit on him and Sheikh Hamdan (Al Maktoum, owner) an opportunity to see him, if he's there. Plan A didn't quite come to fruition, but it hasn't held him up at all and it looks like the weather is going to pick up from Sunday, so hopefully, he'll be at Newmarket next week."
Elarqam is a best priced 7-1 joint second-favourite for the 2000 Guineas, but it was not until recently that Johnston junior started to believe he could be a major contender.
He said: "It's a funny one. From a personal point of view, it wasn't like a couple of years ago going into the season with Lumiere, when I felt we had a genuine (1000) Guineas winner on our hands. Elarqam had won at Group Three level and the bubble was very much intact, but it is a considerable step up to a 2000 Guineas. However, as we've got closer and his work has stepped up, we're all getting more excited and the anticipation is rising. The Guineas is less than four weeks away now and we're counting down the days."