Adrian Nicholls is hopeful Tees Spirit can continue on his upward curve and maintain the family’s fine record in Saturday’s Simpex Express ‘Dash’ at Epsom.
The North Yorkshire handler is no stranger to success in the five-furlong handicap, having scored aboard Rudi’s Pet in 2002 for his late father, Dandy Nicholls, who won the race five times between 1997 and 2009.
Tees Spirit has won both his starts this term for owners Ingleby Bloodstock and The Ivy League, cruising to success at Beverley and Nottingham over a similar trip.
Nicholls said: “Like most of those races, when dad wasn’t winning it, he was finishing second.
“It was a race, a bit like the Ayr Gold Cup, that if you won on something, you knew exactly where you’d be going.
“He has come on and seems to have improved. He showed that at Beverley, when Barry McHugh won on him and obviously the second horse at Nottingham (Four Adaay) won again, beating one of mine, so it is like anything – you need a bit of luck and everything has to fall right.”
Tees Spirit has yet to encounter Epsom, where the sprint track runs markedly downhill until the last 100 yards and is reputed to be the fastest of its kind in the world.
Nicholls says the gelding, who has an official rating of 83 following his recent victory, is worthy of his place in the ultra-competitive sprint, won last year by Epsom specialist Mokaatil, who is back to defend his title for Ian Williams.
“It is the right time to step him up in class,” said the Sessay-based handler.
“There is only one Dash. With all due respect, if he gets beat, I can always go back to a 0-85, but there is only one Derby day.
“If they are good enough, they can go. Obviously there are a couple in there are coming into the race in good form, but he won as he liked the last time.
“I rode him work on Tuesday morning and he is absolutely bouncing. The bookies don’t get it wrong too many times and he’s a 10-1 shot.
“When I was riding, I would always want to side with something that is in form or something that I thought is on the upgrade.
“There are some of them who we know, if they run to their mark, they will hard to beat. But some of them haven’t been.”
With isolated heavy showers a possibility ahead of the race, the 95-rated Fine Wine may well have ideal conditions and his trainer Scott Dixon thinks that the Dream Ahead gelding has the temperament to cope with the big crowd and hullabaloo of Cazoo Derby day.
“He is super straightforward,” said Dixon. “His knees rise and he is not overly-keen in his work. You get some sprinters like him and some are all ‘go-go-go’, but he’s very chill and he will do what you want him to do.
“He really does show up and in his work at home he is very relaxed. He has a lovely character is a good ‘doer’ and doesn’t really put a foot wrong.
“What targets he will have depends on how high he climbs from now. If he starts to get up to the high 90s or early 100s, then you could think about maybe stepping him up into black type races, whether it is Listed or Group Three.”
Adam West saddles both Live In The Dream and Live in The Moment for Steve and Jolene De’Lemos.
The former, a son of Prince Of Lir, has won the last two of his five career starts, justifying favouritism in a competitive Chester handicap last time out.
“I’m really excited, we’ve been thrilled with Live In The Dream,” said West.
“Obviously, he’s a three-year-old and they don’t have the best strike-rate in the Dash, and it is quite hard taking on the older horse despite how good he looks, so everything would have to be right.
“But his battle-hardened half-brother (Live In The Moment) had a good blow at Goodwood last time and probably needed it after a little lay-off after Dubai. He’s back down to something near his last winning mark and should be really competitive.
“He got on well out in Dubai but got outclassed in a few of the Group races.
“He’s back down into handicap company now, so it would be really interesting and great for the horse to spark a revival. He would handle all the changes in pace and everything that race can throw at you.”