Dream Of Dreams bids to cap an excellent couple of months with victory in the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot.
The six-year-old had gone close in many big races, including finishing second in the last two Diamond Jubilee Stakes, before lifting the Group One Sprint Cup at Haydock – having previously demolished the opposition in Newbury’s Hungerford Stakes.
Those two wins came after a gelding operation, but connections feel that is not the only reason Sir Michael Stoute’s charge appears to have improved.
“The gelding operation has helped, but most sprinters improve as they get older – and he’s the same,” said Bruce Raymond, racing manager to owner Saeed Suhail.
“I wouldn’t say he was fragile, but he used to come back from his races a bit sore and things, and he’s just more mature now.
“I think he’s a worthy favourite. He had a little breeze on Wednesday morning under Ted Durcan, and he was very happy with him.
“I don’t think he would want really heavy ground, but soft ground is fine.”
The Archie Watson-trained Glen Shiel stayed on well to get within a length and a quarter of Dream Of Dreams at Haydock.
The Pivotal gelding, the mount of Hollie Doyle, carries plenty of confidence on Saturday.
Cosmo Charlton, head racing manager for owners Hambleton Racing, said: “He’s in great form – his last few bits of work have been really good, and Archie has been very happy with him since Haydock.
“The more rain they get, the better. The ground will be fine for him, I’m sure, but we know he handles heavy ground particularly well and will stay further.
“Hopefully he’s going there with a good each-way chance. We’re massive fans of Hollie’s, and it would be brilliant if we could provide her with her first Group One winner.”
A below-par Oxted was forced to bypass the Merseyside challenge, but trainer Roger Teal reports his July Cup hero to be ready to return to action.
“We were unfortunate to miss Haydock, but he seems back on song now. Conditions are probably going to be his biggest hurdle,” he said.
“It suits other horses like Dream Of Dreams and One Master. They have got solid form on soft ground – but if we do handle conditions we’re in with a fighting chance.
“You’re a Group One horse now, so you have to go where the opportunities are. It’s either that, or we don’t run at all.
“The owners are keen to find out – and I’m keen, and he’s in good shape. It’s fingers crossed he handles it and he can put up a performance and mix it with the best of them.
“He’s only had two races this year so we’ve been pretty steady with him and he’s a horse who runs well fresh.”
One Master was runner-up in this race 12 months ago and showed her well-being when winning the Prix de la Foret at ParisLongchamp for the third year running.
Her trainer William Haggas expects she will do herself justice.
“She should run a good race. She’s done her bit now,” said the Newmarket handler.
“This is a bonus, but she ran such a good race last year and she seems in really good form. She’s got a chance.”
Starman is the unknown quantity in the line-up, having won all his three starts to date in impressive fashion.
The three-year-old claimed the scalp of the smart Dakota Gold in a Listed race at York last time out, and trainer Ed Walker cannot wait to see how he fares in this elite company.
“He’s done nothing wrong – and Dakota Gold, who he beat at York last time, has won the Bengough and the Rous Stakes since,” said Walker.
“To go into a Group One like this on his fourth start is a big ask, but he deserves to take his shot – he’s in great form, and this has been the plan since he won at York.
“The ground probably won’t be ideal, but we’ll see. There was cut in the ground when he won at York, but this will be different again.
“It’s exciting, and we’re looking forward to it.”
Tim Easterby is happy with Art Power as the Sprint Cup fourth returns to the scene of his eyecatching triumph over five furlongs at the Royal meeting.
“He seems in good form. We’ve been happy with him since Haydock and we’re looking forward to it,” said the North Yorkshire trainer.
“It’s a good race – and he has a bit of ground to make up on those that finished in front of him (in the Sprint Cup) – but he’s won at Ascot before, and six furlongs there should be OK for him.
“He’s in good form anyway, so we’ll see.”
Silvestre De Sousa partners Art Power meaning the ride on Andrew Balding’s Happy Power, also owned by King Power Racing, has gone to James Doyle.
“He’s a nice spare – his last run at Newmarket was pretty good,” said Doyle.
“He’s coming in having won his last three starts – it was a good performance the last day. Obviously he’s backing up quite quickly, but the team must be happy to let him take his chance.”
Lope Y Fernandez was only seventh at Haydock, but Aidan O’Brien has not lost faith and is hoping this stiff six furlongs on testing ground may help him.
The son of Lope De Vega was one of the O’Brien horses unable to run during Arc weekend because of issues with contaminated feed.
“We always thought he was a very smart horse. We just weren’t sure about his trip – whether he wanted six or seven furlongs or a mile,” said the Ballydoyle trainer.
“He probably wants a very strongly-run mile, and we thought the seven furlongs in the Foret might have been ideal for him.
“The plan was to go for the Foret and then maybe go for the Breeders’ Cup Mile, (but) when he didn’t have the run in France we left him in at Ascot, thinking the ground might be heavy and the six furlongs might be more like seven furlongs.”