Escobar set to bid for title defence in Balmoral
Escobar is likely to try and defend his crown in the Balmoral Handicap at Ascot on Qipco British Champions Day.
David O’Meara’s six-year-old is without success since beating subsequent Prince of Wales’s Stakes winner Lord North in the race last year – but he has been set some stiff tasks.
Now rated just 3lb higher than 12 months ago, he also has the option of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by Qipco) – but O’Meara favours the handicap option.
“Escobar’s a little bit caught between two stools at the moment, but he will run in one race or the other on Champions Day,” said O’Meara, who also won the race in 2017 with Lord Glitters.
“He’s in the QEII, but that’s probably going to be a little too hard for him, and the Balmoral is probably a more realistic target. We thought he was (fast) ground dependent, but he won it well on heavy last year, so he’s versatile in that respect.
“He won it off 105 and is now on 108. That might make him more vulnerable, but he ran OK in Ireland last time – and this seems to be his time of the year.”
Stablemate Orbaan is likely to join him too – with Shelir, Hortzadar (who won at Goodwood on Wednesday) and Sagauteur also in the mix.
A surprise entry is Jim Goldie’s Euchen Glen, who won the Old Borough Cup on his penultimate outing over six furlongs further.
“We thought we would have a look,” said Goldie.
“It’s a stiff mile, he’s got winning form at the track (won over two miles at the Shergar Cup meeting in 2017) and he goes on anything.
“Soft ground would make it more of a staying race, but I would not be worried if it was good to firm, either.
“He nearly had his first run of this year in the Royal Hunt Cup, and the owner said he was going to get the white jacket out for me! But we keep speed in their legs, and fast-run races suit him.
“He’s in good nick, and the handicapper will probably tell you he ran a career-best at the weekend (behind Addeybb). We will also consider the Cumberland Lodge for him beforehand.”
There are 69 entries in total – including Al Rufaa, Haqeeqy and Magical Morning from John Gosden’s yard.
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