Khaadem bids to bridge the gap between handicap company and Group One level in the Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock.
The Charlie Hills-trained three-year-old was a shade disappointing on his only previous appearance in Group One company when seventh in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot in June.
However, a runner-up finish behind German raider Waldpfad in the Hackwood Stakes at Newbury was a step in the right direction and he turned the usually competitive Stewards’ Cup into a procession at Goodwood on his latest appearance.
With Commonwealth Cup and Prix Maurice de Gheest hero Advertise a late withdrawal due an unsatisfactory scope, and July Cup winner Ten Sovereigns taken out on account of the rain-softened ground, Khaadem is now a clear favourite for this weekend’s feature on Merseyside.
“He’s doing great. I’m been very pleased with him,” said Hills.
“I’ve delighted with his work, he’s come on a good bit for Goodwood and everyone is very happy with him.
“The ground shouldn’t be a problem, I wouldn’t have thought. I don’t think there’s a huge amount of rain forecast.”
Khaadem is set to renew rivalry with his Hackwood Stakes conqueror Waldpfad.
The son of Shamardal was last seen finishing second behind Ed Walker’s British challenger Royal Intervention in a Group Two in Germany a fortnight ago – and trainer Dominik Moser believes his charge will be well suited by Haydock.
He said: “Waldpfad is in good form and we have been delighted with his preparation.
“We have been happy with him since his run at Baden-Baden. He came out of it very well and this has been the plan since.
“Soft conditions will suit him and I think that will see him to good effect. I think six furlongs is his ideal trip, but he stays seven furlongs. It should be a stiff six-furlong test at Haydock and that will suit Waldpfad.”
In the absence of Ten Sovereigns, Aidan O’Brien relies on So Perfect and Fairyland, who finished third and 10th respectively in the Nunthorpe last month.
O’Brien said: “So Perfect is in good form. She seems to be coming forward with every run and we think she might be okay with an ease in the ground.
“Fairyland is also in good form. She was loaded very early in York, got upset and banged her head and it was swollen when she pulled up.
“That was the reason, we think, for that disappointing run, but she seems to be in good form since.”
There is a third Irish challenger in the shape of Aidan Fogarty’s Forever In Dreams, who won over this course and distance in May before filling the runner-up spot behind Advertise in the Commonwealth Cup.
“There’s a bit rain due before race day which should suit her compared to the rest of them. She’s in great form and it’s all systems go,” said the Tipperary handler.
“We gave her a little break after Ascot. She deserved it really. She’s only a three-year-old filly so we thought we’d do that. She’s been in super form since. She seems well, so we’re hoping for the best.
“She’s won over the course and distance and it’s a nice trip from Ireland. It’s only a half off the boat to Haydock, so it’s not a tough trip for them. That helps.
“She’s taking on the older sprinters, but she’s there with her chance. The form of the Commonwealth Cup is living up. She’s got an each-way chance and she’s a good price. Hopefully she’ll be there or thereabouts.”
Kevin Ryan has a three-strong team, headed by last year’s runner-up Brando, who chased home Advertise in France last month.
Commonwealth Cup third and course and distance winner Hello Youmzain and Major Jumbo complete the trainer’s trio.
“They are all in good form. They will all go on the softish ground. It’s a tough race, but we’re happy with them going into it,” said Ryan.
“It was always the plan to wait for Haydock with Hello Youmzain after Ascot. He ran a great race when third in the Commonwealth Cup after missing the break.
“Brando ran a great race in France when the ground was just quick enough for him. He’s as good as ever and has won a Group One plus been runner-up in three more.
“Major Jumbo won very well last time, but this is another big step he has to take.”
James Tate has Invincible Army in good shape and is “very hopeful” of a good run.
“He’s in very good form. It’s finally nice to be going into a Group One with him on some some soft ground, which we thinks he likes. He’s got a pair of cheek-pieces just to give him a bit of confidence as well,” said the Newmarket trainer.
“Things didn’t happen for him at Deauville (behind Advertise). It was fast ground and he got a bump when he was challenging.
“He’s been in great form. His last piece of work was the best he’s done all year, so we’re very hopeful.”
The field is completed by James Fanshawe’s defending champion The Tin Man and the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Dream Of Dreams, who pushed the now-retired Blue Point all the way in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot but was a big disappointment in the July Cup last time.