The hugely exciting Al Aasy tests the water at Pattern level for the first time in the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket.
Trained by William Haggas, the son of Sea The Stars made a promising debut when a close-up third on his Rowley Mile debut last October, but could finish only fifth behind subsequent French Derby hero Mishriff on his return to action in last month’s Newmarket Stakes.
However, he could not have been more impressive when stepped up to a mile and a half three weeks ago – justifying odds-on favouritism with a 10-length demolition job to earn him a step up in class.
Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Hamdan Al Maktoum, said: “He won what was probably a fairly ordinary race in very good style a few weeks ago. This is a big step up, but we’ve got to see if he’s up to this sort of level or not.
“Richard Hills (ex-jockey) has ridden the horse a lot and has always had a high opinion of him. We had high hopes after his one run last year, but then he disappointed on his comeback.
“He was very good at Newmarket last time, so we’ll see where he fits in on Thursday.”
Al Aasy is set to face seven rivals in a one-mile-five-furlong Group Three which is widely regarded as one of the season’s key trials for the St Leger at Doncaster in September.
Charlie Appleby’s Al Dabaran holds strong claims too, judged on his third place behind subsequent Irish Derby winner Santiago in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot.
Appleby said: “He has come out of Ascot really well. He has showed us signs that he has stepped forward from that run and he looks a very live contender. The forecast conditions will suit him – he has no stamina doubts, and I am looking forward to running him.”
Aidan O’Brien’s Dawn Rising is an interesting challenger from Ireland – turning out 10 days after a 12-length verdict at Limerick.
Following a superb haul of six winners at the Royal meeting, it could be another big day for Sheikh Hamdan and his retained jockey Jim Crowley, with the pair also teaming up in the two Group Twos – the Tattersalls July Stakes and the Princess Of Wales’s Stakes.
The Mark Johnston-trained Qaader is a major contender for the July Stakes, having filled the runner-up spot behind 150-1 shot Nando Parrado in the Coventry Stakes just eight days after a winning debut at Newbury.
Gold said: “He ran very well at Ascot. We obviously ran him back pretty quick – which isn’t our usual way – but just because of the funny year we’re in, we didn’t really have any option.
“I’ve spoken to Mark and Charlie (Johnston), and they seem very happy with the horse.
“This is the next step and another tough race, but he deserves to be there.”
Qaader’s big threats appear to be the Queen’s Windsor Castle hero Tactical and O’Brien’s impressive Tipperary winner Swiss Ace.
In the Princess of Wales’s Stakes, Sheikh Hamdan’s unmistakable blue and white silks are carried by the Gosden-trained mare Enbihaar.
The daughter of Redoute’s Choice won four of her six starts in 2019 – scoring three times at Group Two level, in the Lancashire Oaks at Haydock, the Lillie Langtry at Goodwood and the Park Hill at Doncaster.
She came up a little short when stepped up to Group One level for the Prix de Royallieu at ParisLongchamp in October – and has been kept in training as a result, in the hope of breaking her top-level duck as a five-year-old.
Gold said: “It’s very exciting to see her back. She’s been striding out well at home – and rather like Enable, her enthusiasm and everything seems to be very much intact. She has this lovely, extravagant stride and seems to be working nicely.
“The ultimate aim for her this year is to try and win a Group One, but this looks a good place to start.
“We were thinking about running her in the Lancashire Oaks at Haydock last week, but she’s such a beautiful mover and we just felt the ground would be too soft for her up there, so we decided to run here instead.
“I’m sure John wouldn’t be running her if he didn’t think she was ready.”
Enbihaar is one of two mares in contention, along with Dame Malliot from Ed Vaughan’s yard.
Last year’s winner Communique defends his crown for Johnston, while Appleby saddles the high-class Old Persian.