Force on hat-trick mission in Maurice de Gheest

Lethal Force will face 13 rivals, including Tom Hogan’s Gordon Lord Byron and Aidan O’Brien’s Gale Force Ten, as he bids for a Group 1 hat-trick in tomorrow’s Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville.

Force on hat-trick mission in Maurice de Gheest

Clive Cox’s four-year-old has really come of age this season, stepping up on his narrow second in the Duke of York Stakes in May to land clear-cut victories in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot and the July Cup at Newmarket.

His one-and-a-half-length defeat of Society Rock last month confirmed his position at the top of the European sprinting tree but he steps up to six and a half furlongs this time.

However, having won the seven-furlong Hungerford Stakes at Newbury last year, Cox is confident the minor jump up in trip is far from a negative.

“I’m very happy with him, he’s been in excellent form since the July Cup,” he said.

“Obviously this is six and a half furlongs this time but we are pleased to move in that direction with him as he has won over seven in the Hungerford.

“I hope the ground continues to dry at Deauville. At the moment there’s a forecast for the possibility of thunder but then a dry forecast through to Sunday.

“If the forecast is correct, the ground should suit him and I hope it will as that’s why we’re going there.”

Moonlight Cloud has made this race her own in recent seasons, beating Society Rock by four lengths in 2011 before supplementing that success with a five-length defeat of Wizz Kid last year.

Trainer Freddie Head said: “I’m very happy with her, she’s very well. I would say she’s as well as she’s ever been.

“She has won this race twice before so I’m hoping she will win again this time too.

“Obviously Lethal Force looks a very good horse and I think he would be our main rival.”

While Lethal Force and Moonlight Cloud are drawn high in stalls nine and 11 respectively, Gordon Lord Byron will be in stall one.

The five-year-old finished third at York and was then fourth at Ascot, beaten four and three-quarter lengths by Lethal Force.

He subsequently dropped down to Group 3 company at the Curragh where he finished second to O’Brien’s high-profile American recruit Darwin.

Hogan said: “He seems spot-on. It’s a good race, all the good ones are in it.

“Moonlight Cloud and Lethal Force are two excepv tional sprinters, but we have to go there confident that if things go right we are capable of winning, otherwise there would be no point in going.

“I’d prefer to be drawn nearer those two, but there’s nothing we can do about that and we’ll just have to see how it plays out.

“The trip should be ideal and he does seem to run better on flatter tracks like this.

“Our horse goes on anything other than very heavy ground, so that shouldn’t be an issue.

“His last run was very good. Giving 12lb to a good three-year-old at this time of year is very difficult.”

Gordon Lord Byron will be ridden by Johnny Murtagh.

Hogan said: “William Buick wasn’t available, so we’ve gone for the super-sub.”

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