Thunder Moon bids to double his top-level tally in a mouthwatering renewal of the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.
A runaway winner on his Curragh debut in early August, Joseph O’Brien’s juvenile then rocketed to the head of ante-post lists for next year’s 2000 Guineas after displaying a blistering turn of foot to land last month’s National Stakes at the Curragh.
O’Brien managed to win the Dewhurst as a jockey aboard his father Aidan’s War Command in 2013, and has high hopes of getting his name on the roll of honour as a trainer on Saturday.
“We’re looking forward to the race. Hopefully the ground dries out as much as possible and we’ll see what happens,” said O’Brien, who took the Fillies’ Mile on Friday with Pretty Gorgeous.
“We were delighted with him at the Curragh and he’s been in good form since.
“The Dewhurst is always a very good race and I’m sure it will be again.”
Aidan O’Brien saddles National Stakes second and third, Wembley and St Mark’s Basilica, in a bid for a seventh Dewhurst success.
He said: “Both ran very nice races last time out in the National Stakes, obviously St Mark’s Basilica was supposed to run in France last week and they would have been kept apart, but that’s the way it is.
“Both have been in good form since their last runs.”
Jim Bolger also has a fine Dewhurst record with five victories and is represented by an interesting outsider in Poetic Flare, who has not been seen since making a winning debut in the very first race of the Irish Flat turf season at Naas in March.
Bolger said: “He hasn’t run because he started to grow – he’s grown two inches since March and I didn’t want to push him.
“That’s all settled down now. He’s been fine since the beginning of August and we’ve had an uninterrupted preparation since.
“I thought it would be good to get him away before the end of the year. I think he’ll go on any ground.”
A formidable Irish challenge is headed by Jessica Harrington’s Group Two winner Cadillac.
The home team is headed by the Richard Hannon-trained Chindit, who extended his unbeaten record to three in the Group Two Champagne Stakes at Doncaster last month.
The Marlborough maestro also saddles a second unbeaten colt in Etonian, who has won twice at Sandown, most recently claiming the Group Three Solario Stakes in August.
“Both horses are fit and well and good to go. We’ve not managed to win the Dewhurst yet, so let’s hope this is our chance,” said Hannon.
“Chindit’s last bit of work with a couple of older horses was very good for a two-year-old. He seems in very good form.
“Etonian has done nothing wrong either. It’s a shame we have to run them against each other really, but this is the right race for both horses and the Dewhurst is always the best two-year-old race of the year.”
Leading owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum has a strong hand after Marcus Tregoning’s impressive Mill Reef scorer Alkumait was supplemented to join the Owen Burrows-trained Albasheer. The owner’s retained rider Jim Crowley has sided with Alkumait.
Tregoning said: “I think he’ll stay seven furlongs fine. I suppose seven furlongs in soft ground makes it more of a test, but Showcasing’s progeny are versatile.
“He’ll give himself every chance of getting the trip because he settles well, or at least he did at Newbury, and if he settles as well again, I can’t see seven being a problem
“I think Chindit might be the one to beat. He looked tough at Doncaster, he had to battle but came through it well.
“It’s the right race for us, though, and I’m pleased he’s running.”
Albasheer was beaten just a length into second place by Chindit at Doncaster four weeks ago, having run out an impressive winner on his debut on Town Moor. With Crowley opting for Alkumait, Dane O’Neill takes the ride.
Burrows said: “I’ve been happy with him since Doncaster. He did his last proper piece of work on Saturday and had a breeze midweek.
“He is inexperienced and this will be different for him. I’d like to think wherever Chindit finishes, we would be bang there with him – whether or not that is good enough to win, time will tell.
“On his pedigree he should get a mile next year and we will look to go down that route. God willing he is good enough to be talked as a Guineas horse, but we will learn a lot more on Saturday.”
Andrew Balding has two chance in the shape of Mill Reef runner-up Fivethousandtoone and the Queen’s Tactical, who was fourth in the Middle Park having earlier won the July Stakes at Newmarket and the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot.
Balding said: “Both horses have shown a good level of form and seem in good form.
“Ground conditions could be different to what they’ve encountered before and that is going to play a part, but they’re both in good shape.”
A stellar field is completed by Decisive Edge (Brian Meehan), Devilwala (Ralph Beckett) and Devious Company (Tom Dascombe).