Connections of Shaquille are optimistic the dual Group One-winning speedster can show his true colours in the Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot on Saturday.
Julie Camacho’s stable star was brilliant in winning in his first four starts of the season, a run which included top-level wins in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot and the July Cup at Newmarket.
He was a warm order to complete a Group One hat-trick in last month’s Haydock Sprint Cup, but after making much of the running, the three-year-old weakened quickly to finish last of 16 runners, meaning he will head to Berkshire on the comeback trail this weekend.
Speaking to Sky Sports Racing, Camacho’s husband and assistant, Steve Brown, said: “Unfortunately we didn’t get an absolute reason as to why he ran so poorly (at Haydock), it’s become a little bit of a mystery despite all the tests he had.
“We were quite open and honest that the yard was out of form at the time and the thing we suspect we had around the yard was very difficult to pick up. It was a tricky time for us, but thankfully the yard is in better form now and things look a little bit more normal.”
The team seemingly gained more confidence after Shaquille enjoyed a pleasing pre-racing gallop at York on Friday under his big-race jockey James Doyle.
Brown added: “He’s not the flashiest workhorse at home, so we were very keen to take him away for a racecourse gallop. James kindly came up to partner him at York, he worked with a useful lead horse and James was really pleased with him.
“I think that was what we wanted to see, he worked nicely in a racecourse environment and I think that was as much as we can do really. He’s a horse who doesn’t set the world alight at home and when he goes racing he’s a different animal.”
It is a clear indication of Shaquille’s extraordinary ability that he managed to win both the Commonwealth Cup and the July Cup despite completely blowing the start on both occasions.
Despite being fractious beforehand, he did jump off on terms at Haydock before faltering and Brown admits only time will tell how he fares in the starting stalls on Saturday.
He said: “I think with Shaquille it’s always a wait and see situation, but what you do know is when everything goes right he’s a really good racehorse. We are so blessed to be associated with him and hope to see him back to his best on Saturday.”
On tackling what are likely to be testing conditions, Brown added: “It’s not ideal at all, but it’s the same for everything and we know on Champions Day you can sometimes expect this sort of ground.
“When he won on Guineas day I’d say the ground was soft to heavy, but he was just running against handicappers and it will be a different test again on Saturday.
“We’ll be in the lap of the gods, but knowing Martin (Hughes, part-owner) and the sportsman he is, I think he’ll be keen for him to take his chance as long as we’re happy with the horse.”