Richard Fahey is confident Gabrial’s Kaka is ready to take his game to another level this season ahead of his tilt at the William Hill Lincoln at Doncaster on Saturday.
The Dr Marwan Koukash-owned four-year-old won just once from eight appearances last term, but ran arguably his best race in defeat on his final start, finishing runner-up behind John Gosden’s subsequent Hollywood Derby hero Seek Again at York.
The son of Jeremy is set to be joined in this weekend’s traditional Flat season curtain-raiser by stable companion Hi There, but Brae Hill appears unlikely to make the cut, despite winning the race two years ago and being placed in 2011 and 2013.
After working and parading his trio in front of the press on a William Hill-organised Flat season launch morning, Fahey said: “Realistically, when you’re targeting a horse at the Lincoln, the preparation begins early in the year and then you just have to wait and see what the ground is like. Gabrial’s Kaka is in great order and hopefully he’ll run a big race.
“He has the right sort of profile for the race as a four-year-old and hopefully he’s still improving. He’ll need to have improved to win it, running off a mark of 95, but we think he has and we’re very happy with him at the moment.”
The Fahey-trained trio are among 79 horses to have stood their ground at the confirmation stage, with 19 horses being withdrawn.
Emell and Tinghir are a couple of the more significant absentees. Market leaders Whispering Warrior, Captain Cat and Irish challenger Paene Magnus all remain. As expected, the top-weight Penitent was taken out as he is going for the Godolphin Mile in Meydan on Dubai World Cup night. That leaves the penalised Chookie Royale and Tullius at the head of the list.
William Hill spokesman Jon Ivan-Duke said: “Following Robin Hoods Bay’s run at the weekend, we have seen some notable support for Captain Cat and at this stage he looks like he could line up as outright favourite for Saturday’s big race.”
Meanwhile, leading Crabbie’s Grand National hopefuls Tidal Bay and Rocky Creek pleased trainer Paul Nicholls in a racecourse gallop at Wincanton yesterday with their big-race jockeys in the saddle.
Sam Twiston-Davies gets the leg-up on the veteran Tidal Bay, with Noel Fehily partnering Rocky Creek in the two-mile workout at the Somerset venue.
Nicholls also took a few other members of his Ditcheat string to give them a working day out as part of preparations for Aintree early next month.
Tidal Bay is a general 16-1 chance for the National, with Rocky Creek available at a best-priced 25-1. David Pipe’s Midlands Grand National winner Goulanes will not run at Aintree.
The Roger Brookhouse-owned eight-year-old has been roughed off for the season and will return next winter with the Liverpool contest as his major target. Pipe said: “He was fine after the race, but has now gone back to his owner’s for a holiday and appeals as a likely type for the race next season.”