Second Step bids to lower colours of Crystal Ocean
Crystal Ocean, prominent on many punters' lists of horses to follow for 2018, duly made a winning start to the campaign when edging out Fabricate by a short head in Group 3 company at Sandown last month.
The Sir Michael Stoute-trained four-year-old, who holds Group 1 entries in Royal Ascot’s Prince of Wales's Stakes plus the Coral-Eclipse and Tattersalls Gold Cup, is likely to take plenty of beating in the Group 3 Al Rayyan Stakes (2.25) at Newbury under Ryan Moore.
However, the likes of Second Step, who won a Group 1 in Germany as a four-year-old, Raheen House and Scarlet Dragon provide solid opposition in a race better known as the Aston Park, and he is unlikely to have things all his own way.
Roger Charlton, trainer of Second Step, said: "I'm looking forward to running him. He has taken time to come to hand this spring but now looks well. If he can be as consistent this year as he was last season then he will go well."
Scarlet Dragon's trainer Alan King said: "Conditions were too testing for him in the Grade 1 at Aintree and he'll relish being back on good ground for his return to the Flat.
"We have it to do on the ratings but he is a high-class gelding who was twice placed in this grade last season and has also run some of his best races at Newbury."
Stoute also fields the likely favourite for the Listed Haras De Bouquetot Fillies' Trial Stakes (4.50) in Crystal Hope, but don't underestimate the William Haggas-trained Sea Of Class.
Although narrowly defeated when sent off 5-4 for a Newmarket maiden last month, she shaped with a deal of promise and it is surely significant she is pitched straight into Listed company.
Haggas said: "She's a lovely filly. The one we all have to beat is Crystal Hope as the form of her Sandown win looks strong, but our filly has a lot of talent. She's well worth her place in this field."
Stream Song, winner of a Windsor handicap last time, represents John Gosden, who said: "She wasn't quite right before Lingfield last week, but she breezed nicely on Thursday and is back in good form.
"She should be suited by the track and hopefully she can get some black type."
Aidan O'Brien runs Athena and said: "She ran well in a Curragh maiden last time and has come forward from that run."
Owen Burrows is hoping that Shabaaby could earn a place in Royal Ascot's Group 1 Commonwealth Cup by running well in the Listed Shalaa Carnarvon Stakes (1.50).
After winning at Newmarket and Doncaster last summer, Shabaaby's hat-trick bid came unstuck in Listed company at York, and Burrows believes that could have been one race too many.
"He was a bit disappointing at York last backend," said the trainer. "He was drawn on the far side and everything happened away from him. In any case, he may have had enough by then.
"He's in the Commonwealth at Royal Ascot, so we'll see where we stand on Saturday."
Gosden has been happy with Juliet Capulet in the build-up to this race.
"There are no fillies-only races over six furlongs for three-year-olds at this time of year, which is why we're having to run her against colts carrying a penalty," he said.
"She has been pleasing us at home and is ready to start back."
The O'Brien-trained 2,000 Guineas ninth Murillo reverts to sprinting and his trainer said: "He ran well for a long way at Newmarket and we feel this extra emphasis on speed will suit him."
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