Circus Maximus bids to strike Royal Ascot gold for the second time, in the Queen Anne Stakes.
Having finished sixth over a mile and a half in the Investec Derby at Epsom on his previous start, Aidan O’Brien’s colt caused a minor upset when successfully dropping to a mile in first-time blinkers in a thrilling renewal of the St James’s Palace Stakes 12 months ago.
The son of Galileo went on to prove that performance was no fluke – suffering a narrow defeat at the hands of Too Darn Hot in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood before doubling his Group One tally in the Prix du Moulin and finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
He makes his first competitive appearance since that fine effort in California on Tuesday – the opening day of the Royal meeting – and the excellent recent form of the yard is giving connections confidence.
Alan Cooper, racing manager for part-owners the Niarchos Family, said: “Aidan is very happy with the horse. It is his first run since the Breeders’ Cup – his first run in just over seven months.
“The yard is in form, although every race is different of course.
“I think he’s a worthy favourite, and we’re hoping for the best.”
The only chief contender who has had a run this season is the John Gosden-trained Terebellum, who made an impressive comeback in the Dahlia Fillies’ Stakes at Newmarket.
The Sea The Stars filly returns to action just 10 days later, and drops in distance from a mile and a quarter, but Gosden does not expect the shorter trip to be an inconvenience.
He said: “We have decided to drop her back to a mile, because she has got a lot of speed, and I preferred Mehdaayih for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
“We think the stiff mile will suit Terebellum well. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I sat with Frankie (Dettori) and talked about it, and that is what we decided to do. It was a mutual decision.
“It is an open race, but if we get it wrong we will both take the blame. It is a quick turnaround, but she took her race at Newmarket well and is in good form.”
Duke Of Hazzard has been off the track since landing the Celebration Mile last August – his third win on the bounce at Stakes level
Oliver Cole, joint-trainer of the four-year-old along with his father Paul, said: “He’s in good order and all set to go.
“In a normal year we’d have been running in the Lockinge at Newbury last month – we got him ready for that.
“He wasn’t right for most of last year, before his last three runs, so hopefully he’s still unexposed.”
Paul Cole was leading trainer at Royal Ascot in 1994 and will aim to create history by becoming the first British-based trainer with a joint-licence to win at the meeting.
“It would be amazing, wouldn’t it? We’re looking forward to running him,” Cole junior added.
Marcus Tregoning believes Mohaather is peaking at just the right time for a race that forms part of the Qipco British Champion Series.
Last year’s Greenham Stakes winner subsequently missed much of the campaign through injury, before returning with a creditable fifth-placed finish in the QEII at Ascot in October.
Tregoning said: “We’ve had a good run with Mohaather, and he should be spot-on. He’s been working well, and I think he will go there with a decent chance.
“I’d like to have run him somewhere first, possibly, but I’m not too worried because the ground has been so firm everywhere. Jim Crowley sat on him about three weeks ago and was delighted with him.
“He’s a neat horse with bags of speed and brilliance. He’s got a good temperament, and his constitution is a fantastic.
“We are going in at the deep end again with him, I suppose – but from what I’ve seen at home and on the racecourse, I think he goes there with a good chance.”
Accidental Agent was a shock 33-1 winner of the Queen Anne two years ago, but refused to race when defending his crown in 2019.
Eve Johnson Houghton’s pride and joy has been gelded since his last run when third at Kempton in November.
“We thought there might not be a job for him at stud, so what was the point (of keeping him as an entire)? He seems sweeter since he’s been gelded, so hopefully it will work the oracle. He’s been working well and has gone well fresh in the past,” said the trainer.
“We’ve seen the best and worst of him in the race. He gave me my best day in racing two years ago, and I’m hoping we will see that again this time. He’s upset the apple cart before, and we hope he can do the same again.”
Fox Chairman is an interesting contender for Andrew Balding. The lightly-raced son of Kingman faces a steep rise in class on his first start since landing a Listed prize at Newbury last July.
Alastair Donald, racing manager for owners King Power Racing, told Sky Sports Racing: “He’s a horse we hold in high regard. He ran well at the meeting last year (second in Hampton Court Stakes) when he was a touch unlucky, but he had a few niggles so we looked after him.
“He’s stepping down in trip to a mile, but we feel he’s got the speed for it. It looks a relatively open Queen Anne, and he should be finishing strongly.”