Salouen heads 16 contenders for Churchill Stakes at Lingfield Park
G1 runner-up Salouen features among 16 entries for the £40,000 Listed Betway Churchill Stakes (2.45pm), one of two Fast-Track Qualifiers at Lingfield Park this Saturday.
The winner of this 10-furlong Polytrack contest receives a free and automatic place in the £200,000 Betway Easter Classic over the same course and distance on All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Good Friday, March 30.
Salouen, second in last year's G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on turf, has enjoyed an excellent three-year-old campaign for Lambourn handler Sylvester Kirk, including when chasing home Eminent in the 10-furlong G2 Prix Guillaume d'Ornano on turf at Deauville in August.
He also ran an excellent race over a mile and a quarter in France on his latest appearance in the G2 Prix Dollar at Chantilly on October 1, finishing third, but missed out on the G2 Premio Roma on November 5 after the meeting at Capannelle, Italy, was abandoned due to torrential rain.
Kirk reported: "I am seriously thinking about running Salouen at Lingfield Park on Saturday, although I need to speak to the owner first and have a look at the race.
"He travelled out to Italy for the Premio Roma, which was called off because the track looked like a river, but he is in great form at the moment.
"We decided to give him an entry here because we got him ready for his run in Italy and he is jumping out of his skin.
"We haven't got any plans for him over the winter - he wasn't entered for Hong Kong - and we want to keep him straightforward for a nice four-year-old campaign.
"We could look at the Betway Winter Derby, although that would involve starting him off early next season.
"He should be fine on the All-Weather as he trains on it all the time. It's always a worry when they haven't raced on it before, but most horses cope with it fine."
Salouen winning at Windsor in 2016
Red Verdon (Ed Dunlop) has also filled the runner-up spot at G1 level on turf in France, in the 2016 Grand Prix de Paris, and the four-year-old was beaten a head by Titi Makfi (Mark Johnston) in the Listed 32Red Floodlit Stakes on Polytrack at Kempton Park on November 6.
Victory Bond (William Haggas) and G2 winner Boynton (Charlie Appleby) could re-oppose after fighting out the finish to a 10-furlong Chelmsford City Polytrack conditions race on October 12, while 2014 Betway Churchill Stakes scorer Battalion (Jamie Osborne) may aim for a fifth course and distance success.
Other leading contenders for the Listed Betway Churchill Stakes include Ayrad (Roger Charlton) and Khafoo Shememi (Richard Hannon), who have each scored twice at Listed level on turf, plus Betfred Mile winner Master The World (David Elsworth).
Saturday's other Fast-Track Qualifier is the six-furlong £37,000 Listed Betway Golden Rose Stakes (3.15pm), with a free and automatic place on offer for the £150,000 Betway All-Weather Sprint Championships over the same course and distance on Good Friday.
The 28 entries for this year's renewal include Caspian Prince (Tony Coyle), who beat Marsha when taking the G2 Sapphire Stakes on turf at the Curragh, Ireland in July and the 2016 G2 Duke Of York Stakes winner Magical Memory (Charlie Hills).
Progressive three-year-old filly Diagnostic (William Haggas) is unbeaten in three All-Weather appearances, while Blue De Vega, third in last year's G1 Irish 2,000 Guineas, could make his second start since switching to trainer Robert Cowell.
A seven-race card also includes the mile £19,000 sunbets.co.uk Handicap (2.10pm, 31 entries), which could feature Balmoral Handicap fifth Gabrial (Richard Fahey), Khafoo Shememi and 32Red Burradon Conditions Stakes third Utmost (John Gosden).