The Royal Ascot curtain-raiser over the straight mile embodies all that is great about the five-day meeting, bringing together horses from all corners of the globe to clash with established domestic stars.
Hong Kong champion Able Friend is rated the best miler in the world, and has been unextended to win his last six races.
French raider Solow was the most impressive winner at Meydan on Dubai World Cup night and he landed the Group One Prix d’Ispahan without coming under any real pressure in his only race since. Trained by Freddy Head, no stranger to success at Ascot, Solow will aim to get favourite-backers off to a good start.
“He’s as well as he was when he won in Dubai, so I’m very confident, but I know it’s going to be a real tough race,” said Head.
“Able Friend has been impressive in all his races, but the only thing is he’s never run on this side of the world.
“The straight mile at Ascot is a stiff mile and that will be new for him.”
As well as travelling nearly 6,000 miles from Hong Kong, Able Friend will find Ascot’s vast expanse a new experience, compared to the sharp turns of Sha Tin.
Whatever the result, his connections should be commended for taking on the challenge with a horse who has nothing left to achieve at home. His jockey Joao Moreira told Racing UK: “Everyone asks me how much he has left at the end of his races when he wins so easily, but it’s hard to say, I haven’t fully asked him most of the time, because I haven’t needed to and I hope I won’t have to... There are lots of other great horses, but I’m full of confidence in my boy.”
“I rate Solow the main danger, his win in Dubai impressed me, as I’m sure it did everyone else. He won a few weeks ago in France and while he wasn’t that impressive it just looked like a run out.”
George Moore, assistant trainer to his father John Moore, said:
“He travelled really well from Hong Kong. The horse has proven himself the best miler in Hong Kong and with our season closing in July, Royal Ascot comes at the perfect time to prove himself the best horse in the world ratings-wise.”
It is not simply a two-horse race, as champion trainer Richard Hannon fields two major players in Night Of Thunder, last year’s 2000 Guineas winner who took the Lockinge on his return to action, and Toormore, the champion juvenile of 2013.
Hannon won the race last year with Toronado.
“Able Friend and Solow stand in our way, and they are two very good horses. So, while we went there last year expecting Toronado to win, this time around we are hoping more than expecting,” Hannon said.
“Night Of Thunder and Toormore finished one-two in the Lockinge, and whatever their fate here I feel that both will improve on what they did at Newbury, though to win they will probably have to.”
Andre Fabre should never be overlooked and he runs Esoterique, a comment that also applies to Aidan O’Brien, who saddles Cougar Mountain.