Trainer Noel Doyle admits his early assessment of Celtic Dancer has yet to be realised, but he still holds out hope for the future.
Doyle rated Celtic Dancer, who resumes in the Zarrafas Coffee Handicap (1200m) at Eagle Farm on Saturday, as one of the best sprinters he’s trained.
As a two and three-year-old Doyle compared Celtic Dancer favourably to his former top sprinter Don’t Play.
Don’t Play won a Listed Cameron Handicap at Newcastle and finished second in the Group One Stradbroke Handicap in 1989.
“I thought he was as good as Don’t Play early on but he’s got to lift a bit more yet to be as good as him,” Doyle said.
“I’m not giving up on him yet and I think there’s a good race in him.”
Celtic Dancer hasn’t started since finishing eighth to Torio’s Quest in the Group Two Queensland Guineas (1600m) at Eagle Farm in June.
His Queensland Guineas defeat followed failures in the Listed Daybreak Lover at Eagle Farm and Group Three BTC Classic at Doomben during his winter campaign which included a close second to Military Rose in the Group Three Gold Coast Guineas (1200m) in May.
“His winter form was good considering he had a couple of bad alleys,” Doyle said.
“We planned for him to take a sit in the Guineas but he began too brilliantly and was forced to lead.
“Hopefully I can teach him to settle more this campaign.”
Celtic Dancer has been given a barrier trial to prepare him for his comeback but Doyle feels he won’t be at his top for his return.
“He ran third without being knocked around too much in the barrier trial and it was a nice effort,” Doyle said.
Apprentice Tim Bell rode Celtic Dancer in the trial and will have first race ride on the son of Choisir at Eagle Farm.
Doyle has no plans to head interstate with Celtic Dancer whose main mission will be in the summer.
“Eventually I want to get him ready for the summer races and possibly the Magic Millions Cup,” Doyle said.
The summer series begins with the Group Three George Moore Stakes (1200m) in December while the Magic Millions Cup (1400m) will be run at the Gold Coast in January.
Although Celtic Dancer has been in work almost three months, Doyle is concerned the four-year-old is still short of “match practice”.
“He’s still a little above himself in condition and he’ll improve out of sight after this run,” he said.