Michael Tabor's High Chaparral signaled his readiness for an autumn campaign with a three-quarters length victory in Sunday's Royal Whip Stakes (Ire-II) at The Curragh.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien's dual derby winner of last year is one of the leading contenders for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) Oct. 5, though O'Brien has not committed to the race. High Chaparral was third in last year's edition.
But O'Brien was relieved to get the 4-year-old son of Sadler's Wells back to the races with a well-timed victory.
"I'm just glad that it's over," he told the Racing Post
. "The first thing we will have to do is see how he is in the morning and over the next few days. If we are happy with him then we will train him for either the Irish Champion Stakes or the Prix Foy.
"He is an unusual horse in that he has shown that he handles all types of ground. But at this stage of the year we need him to stay around so we won't be running him on really firm ground."
Sent away at 9-10 in the 11/4-mile Royal Whip, which attracted six runners, High Chaparral stalked In Time's Eye and Private Charter through the opening mile. He pressured the leaders with less than two furlongs to go and grabbed the lead near the eighth marker after being shaken up by rider Mick Kinane, who urged him to the wire.
Kinane was pleased, saying, "He moved great through the race. He picked up well when I asked him and then pricked his ears and got a bit tired towards the finish which was understandable in view of the length of time he was off."
Imperial Dancer, with Richard Hughes aboard, came on late to finish second, but never reached even terms with the winner. In Time's Eye, ridden by Patrick Smullen, was a neck back in third, with Mkuzi fourth. The final time on a good to firm course was 2:01.8.