Smart handicapper Top Rank steps up to Group Three company for the first time in the Betfair Superior Mile at Haydock on Saturday.
The James Tate-trained colt was defeated for the first time at York’s Ebor meeting, finishing third behind Monatham in the one-mile Clipper Logistics Handicap.
Prior to that the son of Dark Angel had accumulated four victories from four starts, winning his maiden and a novice contest before comfortably taking two class three handicaps.
Tate is now looking to prove the colt’s Pattern-race credentials, with the grey faring well after his performance on the Knavesmire.
“He’s fantastic after York,” Tate said.
“I think, to be honest, York was probably the first real race of his life. He’d never really had a race before, all his other races had been relatively easy for him.
“He seems to have come out of it really well, it’s sharpened him up so he’s running at Haydock on Saturday.
“Obviously he’ll need to take a step forward, but we’re pretty confident he will do.”
Tate also confirmed that Top Rank will remain in training next season, with similar Group races likely to be pencilled in for his five-year-old campaign.
“I think he is a Group horse, we very much hope so,” he said.
“Whatever he does this year, he should be able to equal it or hopefully improve on it next year.”
Among what promises to be strong opposition to the grey on Merseyside are the Roger Varian-trained Khaloosy and My Oberon, from the yard of William Haggas.
Khaloosy enjoyed his finest moment to date when landing the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot, after which he was third in the Group Three Thoroughbred Stakes at Glorious Goodwood – one place behind My Oberon, who found himself badly hampered by the winner on the day, Tilsit.
Varian said: “Khaloosy is doing great and is training really well of late. He should handle the ground it looks like they are going to get at Haydock on Saturday.
“He won at Royal Ascot like a very good horse. It just didn’t happen for him at Goodwood, but I think he will bounce back on Saturday.
“It was a messy five-runner race at Goodwood and the ground was very firm. I think he will be much more professional this time.
“There are no easy Group races and this is no different as the competition looks stiff, but I think he is a very smart horse.”
Also taking his chance is Ed Walker’s stable stalwart Stormy Antarctic, who ran one of the best races of his career last time out to be second to Persian King in the Prix d’Ispahan at Chantilly.
Adding further strength in depth in the Ralph Beckett-trained Kinross, who has been tried at the highest level this season finishing sixth in the Derby and eighth in the Prix Jean Prat, while there is another Royal Ascot victor in the line-up in the shape of Mark Johnston’s Dark Vision, winner of the Hunt Cup.
Richard Hannon is keen on the prospects of both Fancy Man and River Alwen in the Betfair Exchange Ascendant Stakes.
Fancy Man made a winning debut on this course over seven furlongs and ran an excellent race in defeat behind Cobh when stepped up to this trip of a mile in a Listed event at Salisbury.
Hannon said: “He won on soft ground on his debut at the track then he ran a very good race upped to a mile in Listed company last time out.
“The front two that day pulled nicely clear and he is improving all the time. We’ve been happy with him since Salisbury and he looks the one to beat in the race.”
River Alwen has a course and distance success to his name and should not be discounted, according to the Marlborough handler.
“He is a very nice colt who improved from his first to second start and is also going there as a course winner,” he said.
“The ground and trip we know will suit him and we expect him to go well. The step up to a mile last time definitely helped him and he handled it really well.”
Others of note in this Listed contest include the Keith Dalgleish-trained Broxi, who was third in York’s Acomb Stakes, and William Haggas’ Alenquer, a smooth winner of his only start at Newbury three weeks ago.