MansionBet Barry Hills Further Flight Stakes (Listed) | 1m6f | 4yo+ | RTV
The wait is over. After a 571-day absence, 2019 St Leger runner-up Sir Ron Priestley returns to the track, but he has been given no easy task in a competitive edition of the Listed Further Flight Stakes.
Considered one of the most improved horses of the season two years ago after five victories from seven starts, which led to a 26lb rise in the weights (112 from an initial mark of 86), Sir Ron Priestley suffered a couple of setbacks last term and now bids to get his career back on track.
Although his form is undoubtedly the best in this race, his long absence presents a huge question mark for punters. Sharpness and whether or not he retains his ability has to enter calculations, but watching the market has proved pivotal with similar types in the last five years.
Since the start of 2016, favourites or joint-favourites returning after 500 or more days off the track have a surprisingly good 46 per cent strike-rate (25-54, +£19.38 to a £1 level stake).
On the other hand, non-market leaders in the same time-frame have a poor three per cent strike-rate (37-1187, -£544.50). Support is crucial.
Sir Ron Priestley faces a number of improving stayers, headed by Ocean Wind and Win O'Clock, both of whom shot up the ranks last season.
Win O'Clock's successes largely came over shorter trips and, given he faced just one rival in a slow race on his sole start over 1m6f, his stamina still needs to be proved.
Ocean Wind doesn't have that issue. The 2020 Champion Bumper sixth and winner of last year's Cesarewitch trial over 2m2f will appreciate a test, and clearly didn't get that when second behind all-the-way leader Rainbow Dreamer on his return.
He is a leading player now back on turf, a surface on which he is unbeaten on the Flat (3-3).
Race analysis by Tom Collins
What they say
James Horton, assistant to Sir Michael Stoute, trainer of Laafy
He's a solid horse who runs his race every time. Softer ground stretches his stamina over a mile and three-quarters but he should be fine over the trip on good ground.
Roger Teal, trainer of Ocean Wind
He never shows a lot at home; it's only when he gets to the track he comes alive. It's a nice race and though it's not a massive field, it's a good one. Sir Ron Priestley is a quality one but I don’t know where the ceiling for Ocean Wind is.
Alan King, trainer of Raymond Tusk
He takes his chance just ten days after his encouraging debut for me when second at Doncaster. He seems to have come out of that race well and there was nothing else obvious on the horizon for him.
Charlie Johnston, assistant to Mark Johnston, trainer of Sir Ron Priestley
He's had two separate issues, one in the spring of 2020 and another in the autumn, which stopped us getting him on track last year. This is only a starting point and it's not the be-all and end-all.
Roger Charlton, trainer of Win O'Clock
He's not very big but is progressive. He's won over a mile and six, though I'm not convinced he wants that trip, but there aren't any other races. He's fit; we'll give him a run and see how he goes.
Reporting by James Burn