Shouldvebeenaring is in “the form of his life” ahead of his bid to land another decisive Newmarket blow in the Connaught Access Flooring Abernant Stakes.

Richard Hannon’s four-year-old has been a real money-spinner for his owners Middleham Park Racing and claimed Listed honours on the Rowley Mile last spring in the King Charles II Stakes.

The most consistent of performers, the son of Havana Grey finished the season plying his trade in Group One company, beaten a neck in Haydock’s Sprint Cup before finishing off with a placed effort in the Prix de la Foret.

Having blown away the cobwebs on the all-weather at Wolverhampton last month, connections are now predicting an improved display over his optimum conditions, which they hope will tee-up further top-table outings later in the campaign.

“Six furlongs on decent ground in group company is probably him playing at home,” said Middleham Park’s Tim Palin.

“He’s won on the Rowley Mile before and Richard reports him to be in the form of his life and this has been the target ever since the Lady Wulfruna. We deliberately got an early call into him so we could get him fit and fresh for Thursday’s mission and hopefully he will run another big race.

“We rolled a few big dice with him last year and he never quite got his head in front at Group One level. But on a couple of occasions he threatened to be a Group One winner and hopefully he can be at some point in the future.

“He has a habit of going really well in competitive big-field races and it does look really competitive. Sean Levey gets on well with him and Richard thinks he has improved since last season, so we go there very hopeful.”

Commanche Falls finished second in this 12 months ago before going on to strike three times later in the summer.

The form of his Ascot second to Annaf last autumn was franked on the international stage and although trainer Michael Dods is unsure whether the seven-year-old will be primed to perfection for this Group Three event, the Darlington handler is looking forward to getting another campaign up and running.

“He looks ready for a run and it has been very difficult to get him ready with the bad weather up north and you have got to start somewhere,” explained Dods.

“We just want to get him started and he’ll improve for the run and come on for it and there will be plenty more races later on in the season. He is ready for a run though, so hopefully he runs well.

“He sort of wakes up later in the season and he’s quite a lazy worker at home, so it’s hard to have him fully wound up and he takes a bit of getting ready. He has to go to the races, otherwise we’d never get him fit.”

Getting the better of Commanche Falls in last year’s race was Charlie Hills’ Garrus, who like in 2023, will be partnered by leading rider Ryan Moore.

“I rode him when he won this race last season and he went on to run some good races in defeat,” the jockey told Betfair.

“This is his grade, though he was placed in the Group One Prix Maurice de Gheest a couple of years ago, so he has a solid chance once again.”

Karl Burke is poised to saddle two in the race, with Spycatcher and Marshman both on the team sheet for the Middleham handler.

The former twice hit the frame at the highest level last term and will be attempting to pick up from where he left off, while Marshman failed to build on some top juvenile form in a 2023 curtailed by injury, but returned in rude health when just touched off in Doncaster’s Cammidge Trophy last month.

“Spycatcher wouldn’t want any firm in the description, otherwise he’ll be out, but both horses are in great form,” said Burke.

“Marshman ran a great race at Doncaster and will improve a lot fitness-wise for that run. He handled the heavy ground that day, but it wouldn’t be his preferred choice and good ground over six furlongs should be ideal.

“He goes out in the hood every day at home, he’s always had that. As you could see at Doncaster, he travels very strongly and I think he needs to relax early to get home over the stiffer six furlongs at Newmarket. Cliff (Lee, jockey) was keen to put the hood on, so we’ll see what happens.”

Richard Hannon possesses a strong hand in Saturday’s BetMGM Lady Wulfruna Stakes at Wolverhampton – but stresses Group One performer Shouldvebeenaring will not be in optimum condition for his seasonal reappearance.

Owned by Middleham Park Racing, the four-year-old sets a clear standard on what he achieved last season, finishing the campaign by placing in top tier events both at Haydock and ParisLongchamp.

He drops to Listed level for his return to action, but with many big days and a long summer ahead of him, Hannon has warned the mount of Sean Levey will not be fully tuned up for his Dunstall Park appearance.

Hannon said: “He’s going to need it badly, it is going to be quite a busy year for him and we’re just giving him a run to get him ready for some of the bigger races later in the year.

“He’ll enjoy having a run round there and he might still win, but I imagine he will improve massively on this whatever he does.”

Hannon has won this race twice in the last four years and is also represented by 2021 champion Mums Tipple, who although well held after meeting trouble in running at Lingfield recently, is expected to come on for the run in the hands of Hollie Doyle.

“Mums Tipple has had the advantage of having a run and he won’t be far away, he’s working great,” continued Hannon.

While both Shouldvebeenaring and Mums Tipple are proven performers, Geoff Oldroyd’s Doctor Khan Junior is very much taking a step into the unknown on his first try in Pattern company.

Proven in the West Midlands, the five-year-old is unbeaten in his last four outings – all on the all-weather – and his handler feels there is no better time than the present to test the waters at a higher level.

“He just keeps progressing and we’ve got to the stage now where he is rated 99 and it is probably going to be hard in handicaps,” explained Oldroyd.

“There aren’t that many races around for him at the moment, so we’re just going to pop him up into a Listed race and see how we get on.

“He likes Wolverhampton and comes alive around there, so while he’s healthy and in good nick, it’s probably a good time to find out if he is good enough to go up in that grade.”

Another attempting to make her mark at this level is Nine Tenths, who has always been a consistent performer for trainer William Haggas and owners St Albans Bloodstock and having gained black type when second to Dear My Friend at Lingfield last month, will now bid to go one better.

“She’s quite lightly raced for a four-year-old but she has been very consistent and I think she has only been out of the first four once in her career to date,” said the owners’ racing manager Richard Brown.

“She got her black type last time which is important and she looks to have a fair chance of getting some more. Whether that is winning black type though, I don’t know and we will find out.

“Richard Hannon’s horse will be hard to beat on the ratings, but she’s fit and well and ready to go and we’ve obviously got William (Buick) on board which is always a great help. We’re hoping for a big run and she goes there match fit, which we hope will give us some bit of advantage.”

Course-and-distance winners Misty Grey (David O’Meara) and Intervention (Mick Appleby) complete the sextet heading to post for this seven-furlong feature.

Middleham Park Racing are not shying away from a sprint rematch at Royal Ascot between Shouldvebeenaring and Little Big Bear.

The two horses contested the Sandy Lane at Haydock when last seen, with Little Big Bear prevailing as the even-money favourite with Shouldvebeenaring giving him a run for his money a length and a quarter back in second.

Having started at 11-1 for Richard Hannon and Sean Levey, the runner-up ran a mighty race and continued what is proving to be an incredibly fruitful season for him.

Though his Haydock performance was something of a pleasant surprise for the grey’s owners, Hannon was less shocked as the colt had impressed him in his work beforehand.

“It did catch us a little bit by surprise but we felt he warranted his place in the race, he deserved his shot at the big time,” said Tim Palin of Middleham Park.

“He’d been crashing around in Listed races and doing that particularly well and we just thought we’d pop his head above the parapet and see where he ended up.

“He did it in spades, didn’t he? He stepped up to the plate in spades.

“I was pleasantly surprised, to get so close to the champion two-year-old is an immense achievement for a £40,000 yearling that we bought from Goffs UK.

“Richard had said to me on the Tuesday after his final piece of work, ‘Tim, this horse is better than ever. He’s never done what he’s just done there in front of me’.

“It probably wasn’t as much as a surprise to Richard that he was able to step up because he’s seen it in front of his very eyes.”

Shouldvebeenaring is now pencilled in for the Commonwealth Cup, a Group One sprint where he will likely cross paths with Aidan O’Brien’s Little Big Bear again.

Palin said: “It’s great to be mixing it in these lofty places, where do we go now? There’s some talk about the Jersey, but Sean (Levey) did say that he wouldn’t mind another go at the winner when he got off.

“That’s what we may well do, if he’s (Little Big Bear) the 13-8 favourite and we’re just a couple of lengths off him then he would probably deserve a place in the Commonwealth Cup.

“He’d have to mix it with even more blue-blooded types and time will tell but he does deserve it, a stiff six furlongs is probably Shouldvebeenaring playing at home.

“With a nice patient ride we’ll see where we end up and if we could nick a place, that’d be great. If he did happen to turn it around with the winner then it’s a stallion-making opportunity.”

A £40,000 purchase, Shouldvebeenaring has earned over £250,000 in prize money already and is quickly becoming a popular horse as his ability is matched by his consistency.

“He wears his heart on his sleeve, he has the heart of a lion and puts so much effort into all of his races, even the days he’s been beaten,” said Palin.

“He still has that enthusiasm and he’s still improving, he’s not the biggest, he’s a bit of a pony.

“His diminutive stature is certainly belied by his heart and tenacity, he’d run through a brick wall for you, he’s a superstar.”

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