Connections of Stratum feel he has plenty in his favour as he goes for glory in the Sky Bet Ebor at York on Saturday.
Trainer Willie Mullins lifted this historic staying contest with Sesenta in 2009 and has a strong contender in Stratum, who has headed the ante-post market on the back of a convincing victory in the JLT Cup at Newbury five weeks ago.
The strongly-fancied five-year-old was not guaranteed a place in the line-up, but managed to get in at the final declaration stage – much to the relief of the Mullins camp and his supporters. He will again be ridden by Robert Winston.
“We’re very pleased, firstly that he got into the race. It’s obviously been the aim since Newbury and he’s been in great form since then,” said Mullins’ son and assistant, Patrick.
“He gets in at the bottom of the weights and he has a nice draw (four). He seems to tick a lot of the boxes.
“He looks to have a fantastic chance. You have to have luck in running, but we’re more than happy with him and we’re really looking forward to the race.”
The Closutton stable have another solid contender in Whiskey Sour, who is a Grade One-winning hurdler as well as being a prolific scorer on the Flat.
He is one of those rarities that took in both Royal Ascot and the Galway Festival this summer, finishing fifth in the Ascot Stakes and seventh in the Galway Hurdle won by stablemate Sharjah, ridden by Mullins junior.
“I think he’s still open to improvement,” he said.
“He had two good victories in Galway last year. He ran very well in Ascot with a lot of weight.
“This time instead of having top-weight, he gets in at the bottom and he’s not a big horse so I think that will help him. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he is better than his mark.
“The race didn’t go to plan for him in the Galway Hurdle. Danny (Mullins) was clever and didn’t give him a hard race when it didn’t work out.
“I think hopefully now we’ll see the benefit of Danny looking after him at Galway when he runs on Saturday.”
There are two other Irish challengers with Ger Lyons running Mustajeer, and Sea The Lion making the journey from Jarlath Fahey’s stable in County Kildare.
Fahey revealed he has had this race in mind since Sea The Lion completed a hat-trick at the Curragh eight weeks ago.
“Everything’s going grand. He’s in good form so we’re hoping for a big run,” said Fahey.
“It’s been on the cards since he won at the Curragh. He was high enough for it so we thought we’d have a go.
“I’m hoping the step up in trip will be no problem.
“We’d have preferred to have been drawn a bit better than that (17), but hopefully Ronan (Whelan) doesn’t have to be in a hurry now to get into a position and hopefully he won’t have any traffic problems.”
Marco Botti admits he finds it difficult to separate his two runners, Dylan Mouth and Crowned Eagle, but expects both to run big races.
“Dylan Mouth is in good form. He won at York and definitely likes the track,” said the Newmarket trainer.
“He’s drawn in the middle. That’s fine. The other horse is a bit wider in 19, which is probably not great, but at the same time I’m hoping it’s not a big disadvantage.
“Crowned Eagle has some good form. He steps up an extra two furlongs, which I don’t think is an issue, but you never know.
“Dylan Mouth is a course winner and I think he’s bounced back to his best. He showed that when he won at York and battled to the line.
“You always wonder with horses if they have gone off the boil a little, but he’s back to his best and couldn’t be in better form.
“Both horses have been in good form and the ground won’t hopefully change much. Both need good ground. I couldn’t split the two. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Iain Jardine reports Nakeeta ready to defend his crown as the seven-year-old attempts to become only the second horse to win two Ebors after Flint Jack in 1922-23.
Nakeeta went to Australia after winning the Ebor and was a fine fifth in the Melbourne Cup. He made little show in the Chester Cup and Northumberland Plate, but there were distinct signs of a revival when he was fifth to Stratum at Newbury.
“Australia was all new to us, we didn’t know how much the travelling would affect him, but he wasn’t trained hard over there and ran a great race,” said Jardine.
“He had a break when he came back as he’d had a long season and then started training him at the end of January.
“He probably needed the run at Chester and things didn’t work out in the Northumberland Plate, but the Newbury race was good, he showed signs that he was bouncing back and I feel he’s better for this weekend as well.”