Expert Eye bids to provide Sir Michael Stoute with an eighth Breeders’ Cup success when he lines up for the Mile on Saturday.
The master of Freemason Lodge has saddled four winners of the Turf in Pilsudski (1996), Kalanisi (2000) and dual victor Conduit (2008 and 2009), while Islington (2003), Dank (2013) and Queen’s Trust (2016) have all struck gold in the Filly & Mare Turf.
Expert Eye looked every inch a top-class prospect after winning his first two starts as a juvenile.
And while he subsequently disappointed in the Dewhurst and in the 2000 Guineas, he has since won twice at Group Three level and been placed in two Group Ones, most recently when third in the Prix du Moulin at ParisLongchamp.
Stoute said: “The Breeders’ Cup has had a lot of ups and some downs for me, but of course I keep coming back.
“Expert Eye was checked and didn’t get a run in the Moulin, but after getting over his stalls problem he has run some great races.
“He is in great form and has shipped well, but I hope the ground isn’t too soft. I doubt he’d want it soft – good to soft would be acceptable.
“He is a horse with Group One potential, and is equally as effective over seven or eight furlongs. I’m pleased with his draw in the middle of the pack.”
Stoute has a second string to his bow in outsider Mustashry, and added: “Mustashry faces a tall order, breaking from 14, and we’ll just have to see with him.
“He’s been progressive this year and deserves a shot at it.”
Aidan O’Brien has four chances of a first Mile success of his own, with Happily, Gustav Klimt, I Can Fly and Clemmie all in the mix – the latter getting a run as a reserve after the withdrawal of likely favourite Polydream.
He said: “We’ve been happy with Happily since the last day and she seems to be in good form.
“A flat mile would suit her well, although that is as far as she would want to go. We are looking forward to seeing her run.
“Gustav Klimt finished a very good third in the Group One sprint at Haydock (Sprint Cup) and I had it in mind that a fast mile would suit him. At Longchamp (fourth in Prix de la Foret) he finished on the bridle.
“I Can Fly had a tough race at Ascot (second behind Roaring Lion in the QEII). She will handle the ground, but things have to fall for her.”
The William Haggas-trained One Master and David Simcock’s veteran Lightning Spear are the other European contenders.
Wild Illusion bids to cap a memorable season with victory in the Filly & Mare Turf.
Charlie Appleby’s three-year-old has struck twice at the highest level this term, landing the the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood and the Prix de l’Opera on Arc day at ParisLongchamp.
The Godolphin-owned three-year-old has maintained her form tremendously well, having also finished fourth in the 1000 Guineas and second in the Oaks earlier in the campaign.
While the recent heavy rain at Churchill Downs is a concern for some, Appleby – who claimed last year’s renewal with Wuheida – does not expect underfoot conditions to trouble his charge.
Appleby – on the mark on Friday night with Line Of Duty – said: “Her preparation has been good and she shipped well and we’re looking forward to it.
“Obviously the ground is going to be soft, but she does have Group One form on soft ground, so that isn’t a concern.
“She’s got a nice draw and on all known form she is the one to beat.
“She’s had a great year and if she can cap it off with a win on Saturday it will be fantastic.”
O’Brien appears to hold a strong hand as he bids for a first victory in the race.
Magic Wand was second to Wild Illusion in France, while Athena already has a Grade One victory to her name in America.
He said: “Magic Wand is a big filly who has been unlucky. A mile and three furlongs might be as far as she wants to go, so Ryan (Moore) will take his time on her.
“She is progressing as the year has gone on. She seems to be good. She ran on Arc weekend and she seems to be in good form and everyone is happy with her.
“Athena is in good form and won a Group One in America early on. She is a good traveller that quickens well.”
Eziyra (Dermot Weld) and Princess Yaiza (Gavin Cromwell) are other Irish raiders.
Frankie Dettori takes the ride for Weld, and told his Ladbrokes blog: “The only bad thing is the draw – 14 of 14. It is a mile and three, so we will have to fiddle our way through the field.
“It looks a super strong race, but Dermot Weld would not take her here if he didn’t think she had a chance.”
O’Brien is represented by the enigmatic Lost Treasure in the Turf Sprint.
A son of War Front, the three-year-old ran a huge race at big odds to be fifth in the Prix de l’Abbaye, but has twice been a beaten favourite since.
O’Brien said: “He has unbelievable ability, but when he gets there (the front) he waits. He often travels very well, but things have to fall exactly right for him.”
Among the opposition is the Karl Burke-trained Havana Grey, who added his mark to a fantastic season for his North Yorkshire-based handler when taking the Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh on Irish Champions Weekend.