Hugo Palmer’s Group One winner Ebro River returns to action on Wednesday in the Connaught Access Flooring Abernant Stakes at Newmarket.
The fox ran nine times last season and triumphed at the highest level when he won the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh in August, coming home three quarters of a length ahead of Ger Lyons’ Dr Zempf.
A third place finish in the Vincent O’Brien National Stakes followed, another Grade One event at the same track, before the Galileo Gold foal finished eighth at the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Paris Longchamp in October.
The last two races have been over a seven furlong journey, something Palmer will avoid with the horse this season, as he thinks he is best suited for a five or six furlong distance.
“We’re really looking forward to running him, he had a really busy year last year and if his last run was a sign he was overdoing it or if he just didn’t really stay those seven furlongs, I don’t know,” he said.
“We have decided to do everything we can to keep him, but I am really looking forward to leading him at Newmarket.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up going back to five for the King’s Stand if he’s good enough.”
The shape of Ebro River’s Curragh’s success recently took a boost when Dr. Zempf triumphed in the designated 2,000 Guineas Trial Stakes at Leopardstown, with Go Bears Go’s second-placed Breeders’ Cup run also encouraging as he was the third-placed horse in the Phoenix Bets.
Palmer said about Dr. Zempf: “He didn’t hurt the form at all and Go Bears Go did well in the Breeders’ Cup as well.”
Jane Chapple-Hyam’s Bellosa will also line up after previously winning twice at Newmarket.
The four-year-old won her maiden at the meeting last year and then took the Listed King Charles II Stakes at the same track before finishing 14th on soft ground in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Last seen finishing second in an all-weather Kempton handicap in December, the filly will be reduced to six furlongs, having fought strictly more than seven furlongs to date.
“There was nothing for her early doors above seven (furlongs), so we thought for a first run of the season, why not try it over six?” said Chapple Hyam.
The trainer remains unbiased about the horse’s ideal journey, saying, “Either or real, (depending on) what’s available and how good she is.
“Sometimes you can get a stiff six, or an easy seven, so I think we’ll just get through Wednesday’s race and then regroup.”
Chapple Hyam attributes Bellosa’s Jersey Stakes run to the tests and was delighted to see her running competitively at Kempton ahead of her winter break.
“It came way too soft for her in the Jersey and she was paddling, she just wasn’t enjoying it,” she said.
“So we gave her a break after that and just gave her the run at Kempton to remind her we’re racing before putting her away for the winter.”
Elsewhere in the race, Eve Johnson Houghton’s Jumby can be seen, a four-time winner who signed off with handicap success at the Rowley Mile last season.
in the Sue Human Celebration Handicap.
Chris Wall’s Double Or Bubble will seize its opportunity after winning the Listed Flying Fillies’ Stakes last term and Henry Candy’s Run To Freedom will switch to grass after running in all weather conditions on both of his most recent outings.
Stuart Williams’ Existent, Karl Burke’s Last Crusader and Charlie Hills-trained Garrus round out the field of eight.