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Sunlight will not be ready to defend the Newmarket Handicap but the star sprinting mare is back in training

Sunlight will not be ready to defend the Newmarket Handicap but the star sprinting mare is still being aimed at Royal Ascot after an off-season injury setback which required surgery.

Four-year-old Sunlight suffered a chip to the outside of a splint bone in a hind leg in a spelling paddock accident after her spring campaign.

Co-trainer Tony McEvoy believes it might have occurred from a kick by another horse or she knocked her leg on a post.

“It just took two little pieces off the bottom of the splint bone on the outside of a hind leg, and they came out very cleanly,” McEvoy said.

“The surgery went perfectly and I’ve seen quite a few of these and they have no issues.”

After three weeks box-rest and another three weeks of walking, Sunlight was ridden out for a trot on Monday morning at Flemington.

“She was back under saddle today, first day,” McEvoy said.

“She was very fresh and very excited to be back doing what she loves doing. So it’s just going to be a slow build-up now.”

Nominations for the $1.25 million Newmarket Handicap (1200m) on March 7 at Flemington were released on Monday with Sunlight, as expected, missing from the 60 entries.

The Newmarket Handicap was one of three Group One sprints Sunlight won last season.

McEvoy, who now trains in partnership with his son Calvin, wants to take the mare to Royal Ascot in June with both the King’s Stand Stakes and Diamond Jubilee Stakes during the five-meeting carnival her targets.

“I want to take her to Royal Ascot, so that’s the goal,” McEvoy said.

“I’ve got to plan a path into that which I haven’t done yet. I just want to get her back moving along a bit and making sure that that leg is not going to flare up, which can happen.

“If it flares up it means it’s all off and we’ve got to wait until the spring. But at this stage I’m pretty comfortable that she’s going to be fine.”

A new name will be added to the Newmarket honour roll with this year’s high profile nominations including Nature Strip, Everest winner Yes Yes Yes and Group One-winning colts Exceedance and Bivouac who are all high in early markets.

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