Crystal Ocean is aiming to repeat last year’s win in the bet365 Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown on Friday.
One of the highest-rated Flat horses in training, Sir Michael Stoute’s five-year-old landed the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot last June.
He went on to chase home stablemate Poet’s Word in the King George and finish second to Cracksman in the Champion Stakes.
It was hard work 12 months go when he scrambled home by a short head from Fabricate and the two meet again with Stoute chasing a tenth win in the race.
David Menuisier’s popular grey Thundering Blue is back for more this season after a very productive 2018.
The six-year-old won a Group Two at York, as well as the Stockholm Cup in Sweden, but he gained most credit for finishing third in the Juddmonte International behind Roaring Lion when in front of the likes of Saxon Warrior and Benbatl.
“He’s absolutely fine, he’s had a good winter – he’s pretty much the same as he’s always been and I’m very pleased with him,” said Menuisier.
“We know that he always needs his first run so it won’t be a matter of winning at any price.
“We want him to run well, but it’s his seasonal debut and if he gets tired he gets tired and we’ll take it from there.
“Obviously we want to win every possible race, but you have to respect the opposition and the penalty will make it tough.
“I’m hopeful of a good run and it’s a nice starting point. It’s only down the road, he loves the track, the ground should suit and he has a good jockey on board so we’re happy to go.
“I’m sure Sir Michael will say similar things regarding Crystal Ocean. We’ll probably need the run, by the same token I’m hoping he can win – but I’m not delusional!
“We’re going there with no pressure and it will be good to see him back in action.”
Andre Fabre sends over Trais Flours, while Harry Dunlop’s Knight To Behold makes his reappearance.
“He’s in good form. He’s come out of the winter well,” Dunlop said.
“It does look quite a tough race with Crystal Ocean and Thundering Blue in it, but it should be a good starting block for him and we can see where we are.”
Roger Charlton’s lightly-raced Extra Elusive steps in in class with Andrew Balding’s Pivoine also running.