Richard Hannon hopes Urban Icon can make his presence felt on his all-weather debut in the Bombardier British Hopped Amber Beer Lady Wulfruna Stakes at Wolverhampton.
The son of Cityscape will return in the seven-furlong Listed contest – which is a fast-track qualifier for All-Weather Championships Finals Day at Lingfield on Good Friday – as he bids for a first victory in over 18 months.
Although out of luck in five starts last year, Urban Icon ran a number of solid races in defeat, including finishing eighth in the 2000 Guineas, third in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury and fourth in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Hannon said: “He ran some very solid races at a good level last year. We were undecided whether to go six furlongs or a mile, so we have gone in between. Ryan Moore rides him, which is always a plus, and he has been working well at home.
“I’ve taken him to Kempton to do a piece of work there and I know it is a different surface to Wolverhampton, but he seemed to enjoy it. He is a big lad though and he is likely to need it.
“This is a win-and-you’re-in race and if he did win, we could look at Good Friday, but alternatively we might take him to Doncaster for the Spring Mile or Cammidge Trophy.
“I thought he would run well in the Guineas, but he wasn’t quite good enough on the day. I hope he is a Group horse, but he needs to show that he is.”
Former Group Two scorer Cardsharp, one of three runners in the race for trainer Mark Johnston, finished third on his seasonal return in the seven-furlong prize 12 months ago.
Assistant trainer Charlie Johnston said: “He finished third in the race last year first time out and he ran solidly all last year in the top handicaps.
“Seven furlongs on the all-weather is spot on for him, but he will definitely come on for the run and this is not the be-all and end-all.”
Marie’s Diamond has something to prove after pulling up on his final start last year at Salisbury, but connections are hopeful he can return to the sort of form that saw him strike at Listed level at Pontefract on his penultimate run.
Johnston said: “He had run well to win at Pontefract and the jockey wasn’t happy at Salisbury, so he pulled him up as he had an injury in behind.
“We have given him plenty of time off and he has recovered from that. This race has been his target for a while.
“Arguably he has some of the best form and seven there should be spot on.”
Having claimed victory at Musselburgh on his final appearance last season, Blown By Wind will look to make it two from two under Joe Fanning on his first start since being gelded.
Johnston said: “Joe won on him last year and, unusually for one of ours, he was slow away the last day at Musselburgh, but he ended up coming through, passing the entire field and winning impressively.
“Joe seemed to get a good tune out of Blown By Wind, so that is why he is on him. He has been working nicely, but he has a bit to find on figures.”
The Hannon-trained Fox Power bids to return to winning ways in the Bombardier Golden Beer Lincoln Trial Handicap.
Hannon said: “He likes the surface and the extended mile trip. He went hammer and tongs last time and after getting in front of the one he took on, it set the race up for a late-closing horse.
“He is drawn well and I expect him to be competitive.
“If he does run well here, we would obviously look at the Lincoln.”
It is hoped the application of a first-time visor will help Smile A Mile produce a career best and end a run of three consecutive seconds.
Johnston said: “He has been running consistently well in lower grade races than this and he will have to step forward to be competitive, but he is fit and well.
“We have put the visor on for the first time and hopefully that will make him travel a bit better.”
Tom Dascombe believes Arcanada needs a little assistance from the handicapper to help end his eight-race losing streak.
He said: “He is possibly not the same horse as he once was. We are claiming 7lb off his back to try to help him, as he does need some help off the handicapper.
“I’m not worried about the draw for him, it simply means he will have a wide trip. “