A colt Tony McEvoy has always held in high regard begins his Caulfield Guineas campaign at Melbourne’s first city meeting of the season.
Azazel resumes in Saturday’s 1000m handicap for three-year-olds at Flemington, his first start since his trainer scratched him from the Group One Blue Diamond Stakes in February.
“I just wasn’t happy with him and I thought he had just come to the end of it,” McEvoy said.
“Whilst he wasn’t sore, he was just a little jarred up through his back and you don’t win Blue Diamonds unless you’re 100 per cent.
“I protected the horse and gave him a break.”
Azazel has also had a throat procedure since.
“He had a little bit of work done on his throat. We went in and cauterised his throat and he’s come back really well,” McEvoy said.
“We could have got away without doing it, but I elected to do it because I thought it would help the horse.”
The winner of one of his four starts and runner-up in a Blue Diamond Preview, Azazel has had two recent jump-outs at Flemington including a solid hit-out to win a heat down the straight last Friday.
“It looks like he has come back really nicely,” McEvoy said.
“He’s gone from a boy to a man in the brain and matured up a bit.
“Whilst I don’t think he’s a 1000-metre horse, being a gross colt I think the race will be really good for him going forward.
“I’m expecting him to be right in the finish.”
McEvoy is keen to get Azazel to 1600m and possibly beyond this spring.
“He’s always been at the front of the bus with all my babies this year and I’ve seen nothing to change my mind about that,” McEvoy said.
Royal Symphony has emerged late in his juvenile season with three impressive wins to earn Guineas favouritism but McEvoy still considers Azazel near the top of the pecking order.
“I like the horse. I think he’s got a lot of talent,” he said.
“I think the most important thing is he’s got a pedigree to be at his best above a mile.
“It’s an area I want to give him an opportunity to go to this time, with the Caulfield Guineas and then see where it takes us.”