With Most Improved starting his four-year-old season in the care of new trainer Aidan O’Brien there will be high hopes he can finally fulfil the promise that many a shrewd judge saw in him last season.
Such was his glittering reputation entering the 2012 campaign there can have been few more frustrating horses to follow last term than Most Improved.
Reports of pigeon-catching work on the Manton gallops abounded and Brian Meehan’s colt was one of the hottest ante-post tickets for the 2000 Guineas eventually won by Camelot.
He swerved his proposed warm up in the Craven Stakes at Newmarket due to injury and went on to miss the Guineas too, eventually kicking off his three-year-old campaign belatedly in the French Derby at Chantilly.
A hampered 14th of 20 finish in that contest seemed to suggest that the Newmarket hype machine may have malfunctioned, but next time out he proved his ability by taking an admittedly weak renewal of the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
All seemed set fair for a good season after that victory, but the son of Lawman was beaten by an aggregate of more than 75 lengths on his three remaining starts of the campaign.
However now under the tutelage of Aidan O’Brien – having been bought by the Coolmore breeding organisation in January – there will be much hope that he can begin to realise the potential he showed so fleetingly in his Classic campaign.
O’Brien has a fine track record of eking out extra ability from his charges at four and beyond, with the likes of Dylan Thomas and Duke Of Marmalade stepping up on their strong Classic seasons to make multiple Group 1-winning four-year-olds.
More recently O’Brien took over the training of Excelebration from Marco Botti, gaining the colt two Group 1 victories that had proved elusive under his former tariner.
One look at the entries for the new recruit will tell punters that the Ballydoyle outfit suspect he will live up to his moniker and kick-on at four, with the Group 1 Sussex Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes on the menu as the season progresses.
Before those assignments there’s every chance Most Improved will take in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot and a potential battle with Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom, for which he is as short as 10/1 third favourite – a clear acknowledgement of the bookmakers’ respect for O’Brien’s ability to find improvement in his four-year-olds.