After nearly seven months on the sidelines, Listed Warrnambool Cup (2350m) winner Akzar is set to have his first run this campaign in the Listed Lord Stakes (1600m) at Sandown Racecourse on Boxing Day.
The $120,000 mile race will kick off the seven-year-old gelding’s summer-autumn campaign that will likely revolve around a tilt in the Group 2 Adelaide Cup (3200m) in March.
Akzar’s trainer Darren Weir explained his absence was unrelated to injury, he just wanted to give the gelding a well-earned break after a busy winter campaign that saw the seven-year-old run in both Victoria and Queensland.
“He’s had a really good break and has been back in work 10 or 12 weeks, so he’s had a good prep so far,” Weir told TVN.
“Our aim has always been the Adelaide Cup and he’s right on target for that.”
Azkar finished in the first two in six of his consecutive starts at the beginning of the year, which included winning the Warrnambool Cup and a second placing in the Group 3 Easter Cup (2000m), before finishing just outside the placings in the Group 1 Doomben Cup (2000m) and Group 2 Eagle Farm Cup (2200m) in May.
While the potential stayer hasn’t run less than 2000m in eight starts, Weir is confident Azkar will be successful over the mile following a jumpout on the course proper Monday morning in which he was in “really good order”.
16 other horses are nominated for the 2014 Lord Stakes on Friday, including Tony McEvoy’s Mouro and the Mick Price-trained duo Mighty Like and Tango’s Daughter.
Six-year-old Mouro hasn’t had the best run of luck lately after dropping out of the Listed Recognition Stakes (1600m) in favour of the Listed Festival Stakes (1500m) only to finish end of the field in tenth place before having his Group 2 Villiers Stakes (1600m) plans put on hold due to the poor performance.
Mighty Like has won his two starts this campaign, including The Lola’s Gift Handicap (1400m) at Flemington Racecourse on December 13 while Tango’s Daughter has just missed out on a placing in all three of her last starts, including the Group 2 Momentum Energy Stakes (2000m) during the spring.
Other notable 2014 Lord Stakes nominations include David Hayes & Tom Dabernig’s Backstedt, Robbie Laing’s Audino, and Group 3 Eclipse Stakes (1800m) runner Jacquinot Bay.