Parachute’s emphatic Newmarket victory has put Ed Walker in a quandary as he assesses Royal Ascot options for his Derby entry.
Walker admits ‘Plan A’ for the son of Sea The Stars involved a trip to Lingfield for this weekend’s Derby Trial – a race the Lambourn trainer won last year with English King, who was then fifth at Epsom.
But those ambitions were abandoned when Parachute could manage only a disappointing – albeit close – third on his first run of the season in a 10-furlong Redcar handicap.
He therefore headed instead for another handicap at Newmarket on Sunday, up to a mile and a half, and duly dominated just a three-runner field to win emphatically from a Godolphin odds-on favourite.
Parachute’s career trajectory is therefore very much upwards again, leaving Walker to ponder three Ascot possibilities – at Group Two and handicap level – while he reluctantly concedes the Derby is probably no longer viable.
“He was a horse we had very high hopes for coming into the year,” said Walker.
“He did nothing wrong last year, was very green on debut and then ran a big race behind (unbeaten Godolphin Derby contender) Hurricane Lane in the mud at Newmarket and won well at Lingfield.
“The plan was to go to Redcar and win well, and pitch him in a trial.
“If he didn’t win well, then we haven’t blown his handicap mark by throwing him straight in a trial.
“He obviously didn’t win well at Redcar, and we went down the handicap route – then he has gone and won well!”
Parachute has therefore presented Walker with a conundrum.
“If he’d done that at Redcar, we probably might be a bit more ambitious,” he added.
“The clock is ticking and time to get to a trial is running out – I suppose he could run in the Cocked Hat at Goodwood (on May 22), that could be an option.
“But that’s back a furlong in trip, on quite an easy track, so that might not be ideal – or we could see what mark he gets next week and maybe freshen him up for the King George V (Handicap at Ascot) if it looks like he’ll get in.”
A clear path has yet to be decided, though – and discussions are pending with owners Highclere Racing.
“It’s tricky really – but I think a lot will depend on how he trains in the next week or so, and what mark he gets, then we can make some plans from there,” said Walker.
“He’s a really exciting horse. We dreamt of putting him in a trial – what I really wanted to do was win at Redcar and put him in at Lingfield this weekend.
“But Plan A went out of the window.”
The call of a Group campaign remains nonetheless.
“There’s still a temptation to go down the stakes route,” added Walker.
“He’d have to go straight from here to the Derby, there’s not time to get a run in between, so I think we have to put a line through that.
“There are probably three possible races for him at Ascot – the King George V, the (Queen’s) Vase – assuming he’ll stay a mile six, which he looks like he probably will – or the King Edward VII if he were to go and win a Cocked Hat for example.
“But I need to chat to the owners and work out which route we want to go down.
“Those handicaps at Ascot, even if you are very well-handicapped, they’re still very, very hard to win. You need a lot of luck.
“So half of me is tempted to wrap him up for a big handicap and the other half thinks ‘well, you can wait from now until Ascot and then not get a gap when you need it in a big-field handicap and walk away very frustrated’ – having blown six or seven weeks of the summer.”
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