The John Gosden-trained colt made it four from four with an authoritative victory in the Wolferton Handicap at last month’s Royal meeting and steps up in class and distance for the Group Two Princess Of Wales’s Arqana Racing Club Stakes on the opening day of the July Festival at Flat racing’s headquarters.
Owner Hamdan Al Maktoum’s racing manager, Angus Gold, remains keen on a tilt at King George glory on July 25, provided the four-year-old comes through his latest test.
“I think we’re looking forward to seeing how he gets on at this level and over this trip. It will be interesting,” said Gold.
“John has been very pleased with him since Ascot and tells me he came out of that race very well. Hopefully he can continue his upward swing.
“The King George was an idea we had after the Wolferton, but John thinks the horse is very well and takes quite a lot of work, so it makes sense to try and let him win a Pattern race and see how he goes over a mile and a half.
“If all goes well, we can still think about the King George afterwards.”
Luca Cumani has not won the Princess of Wales’s Stakes since Celestial Storm struck gold in 1987 and feels this year’s representative, Second Step, has plenty on his plate.
The Dalakhani gelding has not been seen since beating Telescope in the Jockey Club Stakes on the Rowley Mile at the start of May.
Cumani said: “Second Step is in good form, he has been working very well and we are happy with him.
“But he is up against some decent horses on Thursday and has to carry a 3lb penalty so it will be difficult.
“He hasn’t run for more than two months, simply because of the lack of suitable races. The only possibility was the Hardwicke Stakes but I don’t think that he is suited by Ascot with its short straight as he ran disappointingly there in a handicap last September so we decided to wait. He improved a great deal at the end of last year and I always thought that he could improve further as a four-year-old.
“He’s entered in the Irish St Leger but I am not sure what will end up being his best trip – we are just taking it one race at a time.”
Michael Stoute has trained a record nine previous winners of the race and is double-handed.
Gospel Choir turns out just under a fortnight after making a successful reappearance in the Fred Archer Stakes over the course and distance.
The master of Freemason Lodge also runs Hardwicke Stakes fifth Hillstar.
Roger Varian and Frankie Dettori team up with Ayrad, who runs for the first time since winning at Goodwod in May. Sheikhzayedroad, Niceofyoutotellme and Big Orange complete the eight-strong field.
Meanwhile Leading owner Hamdan Al Maktoum is set to launch a formidable twin assault on the Darley July Cup, with Muthmir ready to join Muhaarar at Newmarket on Saturday.
The Charlie Hills-trained Muhaarar disputes favouritism with Australian challenger Brazen Beau for the six-furlong Group One following a stunning display in the inaugural Commonwealth Cup.
Muthmir, trained by William Haggas, was narrowly denied Royal Ascot glory in the King’s Stand and connections are ready to let him step back up in distance.
The owner’s retained jockey Paul Hanagan ditched Muhaarar in Berkshire in favour of Adaay, but Sheikh Hamdan’s racing manager, Angus Gold, expects him to get back on board, leaving Dane O’Neill to partner Muthmir.
Gold said: “I need to clear it with Sheikh Hamdan, but William is quite keen to run Muthmir, so there’s every chance we’ll have the two of them there.
“I think it would be very hard for Paul not to ride Muhaarar after what he did at Ascot.
“He understandably chose Adaay in the Commonwealth as he looked a progressive sprinter who’d won his last two races over six furlongs, whereas Muhaaarar was coming back from a mile.
“But it would be hard for Paul to get off him again.”