Following victories in the 1000 Guineas on the Rowley Mile and the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, three-year-old grey Sky Lantern was an odds-on favourite to complete the hat-trick as she tackled her elders for the first time in the Falmouth Stakes on Newmarket’s July course.
Richard Hannon’s filly was produced with what looked like a winning run by Richard Hughes but, after a heated tussle and much barging, the John Gosden-trained Elusive Kate and William Buick held on by a neck, surviving a stewards’ inquiry and a subsequent appeal from the Hannon camp.
Results have been mixed for the duo since, with Elusive Kate going on to clinch her fourth Group 1 verdict in the Prix Rothschild, before finishing well beaten in the Prix Jacques le Marois.
Sky Lantern finished down the field in the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood on her only subsequent start, although she may have finished much closer but for a troubled passage.
Patrick Barbe, bloodstock agent for Elusive Kate’s owner Teruya Yoshida, is keeping his fingers crossed the four-year-old can win the argument with her younger opponent once more this weekend.
Barbe said: “I hope it will be the same result as it was on the July course, but let’s wait and see.
“There have been no problems with Elusive Kate since her last run, she likes the course and likes the ground. There is not much more to say.
“It is a matter of generations. Sky Lantern is the star three-year-old and Elusive Kate is the best older filly.
“Sky Lantern could be a bit fresher than she was in July. She had a Classic campaign early in the season and now she should be fresher and is back over her best distance.
“I don’t know what will happen. It could be a bit of bumping again or a bit of interference (that separates them), we will see.
“Elusive Kate probably should have won this race last year. She stumbled coming out of the gate and lost a shoe, but still ran very well.
“Let’s hope she can do it.”
Hannon is confident Sky Lantern is in the best possible shape and feels the return to a mile from a mile and a quarter will see her in her best light.
He told his website www.richardhannonracing.co.uk: “Elusive Kate is just one of six classy fillies that we have to beat, but everything we have seen at home suggests that Sky Lantern is at the top of her game.
“We were worried earlier in the week about the prospect of rain and whether they would risk watering if it did not arrive, but the jockeys are adamant that the ground is riding on the fast side of good and with a dry forecast, Sky Lantern should get her perfect underfoot conditions.
“She has thrived through the summer and now weighs in at an awesome 495 kilos and, while it was not lack of stamina which beat her in the Nassau Stakes, she has proved herself a champion over the mile, so it makes sense to come back in trip here.”
La Collina was supplemented for the race at a cost of £16,000 following a surprise Group 1 triumph in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown three weeks ago.
Kevin Prendergast is hoping his filly can finish in the first three, in which case she would pay for her supplementary fee and earn more prize-money for her connections.
Prendergast said: “She’s in good shape and arrived there (at Newmarket) well, so we’re looking for a big run.
“It’s a very hot race – there’ll be no hiding place – but we’re hoping we can get our money back and then maybe get a bit more.
“She seems to come to herself from August onwards – she seems to be a backend filly rather than a spring filly.
“Everything looks good for her. It’s just a question of whether she’s good enough.”
La Collina is joined on the trip from Ireland by the David Wachman-trained Duntle, who returns to a mile after a slightly disappointing display in the Beverly D. Stakes in America last month.
Wachman said: “She’s in good form and she’s entitled to take her chance.
“Hopefully conditions will suit her and she probably is (better over a mile than a mile and a quarter).
“We’ll see how she goes.”