Live in the present with a Lockinge to set the blood pumping
Andrew Dietz on a compelling day's racing with a clear highlight
For weeks now we've been watching the action with one eye on the future. On Saturday we can fix our gaze squarely on a mesmerising Lockinge Stakes.
With the key Epsom trials at Chester and York done and dusted it is time to put away the crystal balls and tarot cards – the fortune tellers on Poundland Hill will have those on the day if needed – and fully appreciate Europe's early-season mile highlight for older horses.
With a sparkling roll of honour including such greats as Brigadier Gerard (1972), Kris (1980), Selkirk (1992) and Frankel (2012) it promises to be a spectacle to get the blood pumping and there won't be many more excited than the Al Shaqab Racing team.
Since 2015, a year after they won the race with Olympic Glory, the powerful owners have given their backing to the Lockinge, swelling prize-money by 64 per cent to £350,000, and they will be bidding to keep the cash at home with Galileo Gold.
As Al Shaqab's first Classic winner, last year's Qipco 2,000 Guineas hero has already carved out a special place in his owners' hearts and he will enhance his standing further should he prove successful on his first appearance as a four-year-old.
Victory would also provide trainer Hugo Palmer with a welcome boost following his quiet start to the season.
Lying in wait for Galileo Gold is regular sparring partner Ribchester, who has finished in front of his old rival on the last two occasions they have met, including when winning the Prix Jacques le Marois last August.
Prior to that Galileo Gold finished in front of Ribchester, in the Guineas and when finishing second in the Sussex Stakes, so the score is locked at two apiece.
If Al Shaqab are to claim a much-yearned-for success in 'their' race they will need to break the stranglehold of Ribchester's owners Godolphin, who have won the Lockinge more times than any other owner, including three of the last four runnings.
They mean business too as the race has long been the target for Ribchester and a battle plan has been drawn up well in advance, with a pacemaker shipped over to Richard Fahey's North Yorkshire base from Ireland in an attempt to help resolve the colt's headstrong tendencies. And not just any old speed-setter either but a Group 3-winning sprinting in Toscanini.
The greatest threats to the big two could come from Lightning Spear, who upped his game last year, and Somehow, representing Aidan O'Brien, whose sole Lockinge victory came in record-breaking fashion in 2003 with 11-length winner Hawk Wing.
A pointer to Group 1 success
For those who can't resist looking to the future, the Al Zubarah London Gold Cup is not to be missed.
The three-year-old handicap has provided a goldmine of pointers, as in the last seven years winners, or those in behind, have gone on to land, among other Group 1 showpieces, the Melbourne Cup, Dubai World Cup, Prince of Wales's Stakes and Coral-Eclipse.
Look for Royal Ascot clues
The opening Aston Park Stakes is bound to serve up some Royal Ascot clues with all six runners holding entries for the Hardwicke Stakes, among other big-race options.
Group 1 winners Hawkbill and My Dream Boat set the standard but need to prove they stay a mile and a half and in opposition Sir Michael Stoute sends out four-year-olds Across The Stars and Midterm (in a first-time visor), who had big reputations last year.
Oaks fillies on trial
The Listed Fillies' Trial Stakes contains four fillies with Investec Oaks and Ribblesdale Stakes entries, while at Newmarket Leshlaa and Call To Mind will need to produce something spectacular in the Listed Fairway Stakes to convince connections to take up their Investec Derby entries.
The ITV cameras will be at headquarters for two other races, including the Listed King Charles II Stakes, in which Larchmont Lad will attempt to give weight away to all his rivals.
Interesting puzzles to solve at every turn, but no doubt where the day's showstopper lies with the main focus on a fascinating Lockinge.