Ian Ogg's horse-by-horse guide to the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (sponsored by Betfair) at Ascot on Saturday.
Last season's St Leger second has a C&D win to his name courtesy of an impressive handicap success in the King George V. Put a lacklustre return behind him at Pontefract but facing an entirely different calibre of rival here and, although he finished in front of Sea Moon at Doncaster, will need a career best by some margin in order to go close.
Late developer who appeared to find his niche when stepped up in trip last term only to prove himself no slouch when following up his Melbourne Cup win in the Hong Kong Vase over 12f. Gradually finding his form this season and his latest effort - where he met trouble in running - doesn't leave him with a great deal to find.
Stayed on strongly to win the St Leger in a course record time despite running into a headwind but subsequently flopped in the Arc. His trainer has been adamant that he has the speed for this trip and, although not at his best for his two starts this term, the jury is still out on that one.
Took the step up to this grade in his stride when winning a dramatic renewal of this race last year and enhanced his burgeoning reputation on his seasonal reappearance over 10 furlongs in the Coral-Eclipse. He was expected to need that outing with this race in mind but it certainly wasn't a stroll in the park and there has to a concern as to whether this will come too quickly.
Made it three career wins from as many starts in the French Derby last season but the campaign rather ended on a low note with defeats in the Grand Prix de Paris and Arc and he wasn't anywhere near concert pitch on his first two starts of this season. His latest run offered a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel and it's not inconceivable that he could threaten if building on that.
Has mainly been performing the pacemaking role for stablemates this season and is expected to do so here.
Produced a hugely impressive performance in the Great Voltigeur on just his fourth career start but didn't build on that when third in the St Leger (met trouble in running) and was then readily put in his place by St Nicholas Abbey in the States. Got the job done on his reappearance but proved a different proposition over C&D in the Hardwicke to re-ignite dreams of an exciting future.
St Nicholas Abbey
Made to look very onepaced when finishing a four length third last year but has since won at the Breeders' Cup and finished second in the Sheema Classic while he was visually very impressive in the Coronation Cup. Connections believe that he's only now showing the same sparkle that lit up his juvenile season after a disastrous time at three but this is the acid test as far as the formbook's concerned.
Completed a hat-trick of Group One successes with a scintillating performance in the Arc with her subsequent slightly disappointing run in the Japan Cup easily forgiven. Harder to forgive is her latest effort although the race was run at a crawl and connections are adamant that the run can be ignored with their filly in need of a truly run race to show her best.
The only representative of the Classic generation will become only the fifth Japanese runner in this contest, with third the best his predecessors managed. Yet to finish outside the first three in six career starts, winning the Japanese Derby on his first run over 12f on the most recent of them. Clearly not easy to assess but he only just lasted home in Tokyo and this test will provide a sterner examination of his stamina.
A tremendous race but one that's not without it's share of question marks.
Nathaniel faces a quick turnaround, Sea Moon steps back up in grade, St Nicholas Abbey has to prove that he can hold his own against the best middle distance horses around and that's just for starters.
The latter was 6 lengths behind Danedream in the Arc so it's easy to make a case for backing the German filly who is a proven top-class middle distance performer at around three times the price.
Fiorente provided a timely reminder of Sir Michael Stoute's talents at Newmarket as well as boosting the Hardwicke Stakes form of Sea Moon who ran out an impressive winner that day.
Stoute should have a fair idea of where he stands with John Gosden's colt with runners from Freemason Lodge twice chasing him home last year so confidence behind the son of Beat Hollow would be intriguing.
Gosden had warned that Nathaniel was expected to need the run in the Eclipse over a distance that was deemed to be short of his best and, with that in mind, it's easy to believe that punters would be saying he'd run an ideal trial for this contest if he'd finished a close second but, having won at Sandown, a different slant has been put on the run with the suggestion that the effects of a hard race and a quick return could take their toll.
While recognising the concerns, a little more trust should be placed in his trainer and he makes plenty of appeal at around the 5-2 mark.