The Ed McMahon-trained filly could be a serious contender for the Qipco 1000 Guineas over the Rowley Mile next month should she pass this stern test.
Winning Express showed no signs of stopping when racing over six furlongs last season and was putting in her best work at the finish when only beaten a length by Rosdhu Queen in the Cheveley Park Stakes in the autumn.
“It’s exciting and nice to think we have got a bit of a squeak,” said McMahon.
“She’s wintered well, she probably hasn’t grown a lot, but she has filled out and hopefully the ground will dry up a little bit.
“I think she’ll get the seven furlongs. Last year when she won the Dick Poole (at Salisbury), Richard Hughes got off her and said she would definitely get seven and that was as a two-year-old. I don’t think the trip is a problem and I don’t think the ground will be either.”
Baileys Jubilee lost second spot to Winning Express by a nose in the Cheveley Park and her trainer Mark Johnston is uncertain if her stamina will last out.
” We’ve got this slight question of whether she will stay the trip,” said the handler.
The prospect of better ground for Sky Lantern persuaded trainer Richard Hannon to let her take her chance rather than go for the Dubai Duty Free Stakes, better known as the Fred Darling, at Newbury on Saturday.
While conditions may suit, Sky Lantern will carry a 3lb penalty for winning the Group One Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh.
“We did not want to risk waiting for Newbury, so we took a chance on the ground and opted for the Nell Gwyn over the Fred Darling for Sky Lantern, and it seems that we might get lucky as conditions seem to be drying up at Newmarket,” said the trainer.
“Sky Lantern has thrived through the winter, and she did her best piece of work yet on Monday morning, so we could not be happier with her.”
Richard Hughes, who rides the grey filly, said: “Sky Lantern can be lazy at home and she struggled to beat a 69-rated horse in her final gallop before the Moyglare, and she was again sluggish in her work when we took her to Kempton recently.
“But that away-day might have woken her up, as she flew yesterday. You sometimes have to make her do it in the mornings, but this time she grabbed hold of it at half-way without me having to ask her, and she quickened up and kept going right to the top of the gallop.
“She is coming good at the right time, and so is the ground.”
Henry Cecil is represented by Hot Snap, who won her only start in an all-weather maiden at Kempton in September, and is highly regarded by her connections.