A lot was expected of the Frankel colt Elarqam this season following two impressive victories as a juvenile at York and Newmarket. Such was the high esteem in which trainer Mark Johnston held the unbeaten two-year-old that the son of the great champion was sent off no bigger than 5-1 for the Qipco 2000 Guineas on Saturday 5th May, his first start as a Classic contender.
A two and a quarter length fourth behind Saxon Warrior in the first Classic of the season was a satisfactory, if slightly disappointing starting point for the mount of Jim Crowley. That promising effort resulted in Elarqam being sent off the 2-1 market leader for the Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh three weeks later but what followed must have left his connections scratching their heads in disbelief.
After tracking the leader US Navy Flag in the early stages of the one mile contest the colt was being niggled along some way from home and the writing was on the wall well before the field of eleven had reached the final two furlongs with Elarqam eventually trailing home in sixth place, some seven and a quarter lengths behind shock 25-1 winner Romanised.
Whatever the reason for that disappointing performance it was clearly not that of the horse who had looked potentially top-class in his first three starts. Following a break of some two months Hamdan Al Maktoum’s colt can finally show what he is capable of by beating his elders in the Sky Bet York Stakes on the Knavesmire this Saturday afternoon.
As the only three-year-old in the race Elarqam receives between 3lb and 12lb from his rivals who, while talented, fall some way short of Classic standard. Thundering Blue has shown a liking for York but may not be suited by the small field and likely moderate pace so the biggest danger to Elarqam in the Group 2 one mile two and a half furlong contest could come in the shape of Smart Call who returned to something like her best form when winning at Newcastle last time.