Hugo Palmer’s three-year-old was a decisive winner of the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and is a hot favourite to follow up in the hands of Frankie Dettori.
Aidan O’Brien saddled a record 10th winner of the race when Gleneagles struck gold 12 months ago and this year the master of Ballydoyle saddles four runners.
Air Force Blue was bitterly disappointing when odds-on at Newmarket, but is well fancied in some quarters to bounce back.
O’Brien is also represented by Newmarket fourth Air Vice Marshal, Dundalk winner Bravery and Shogun.
Blue De Vega won two of his three starts as a juvenile and while he was a beaten favourite on his return in the Tetrarch Stakes, Michael O’Callaghan expects him to strip much fitter for the run.
“He is very well, in good order, and we’re looking forward to running him at the weekend,” the Curragh trainer said.
“He’s come on a lot from his first run in the Tetrarch a couple of weeks ago.
“A mile is going to be his absolute minimum from now on. With his stout German pedigree I’d say he’s going to end up stepping up in trip. We’ll take in the Guineas first and see where we go after that.”
Kevin Prendergast’s Tetrarch winner Awtaad and Sanus Per Aquam from Jim Bolger’s yard complete the field.
Meanwhile, O’Callaghan believes Now Or Never has a “massive chance” in Sunday’s Irish 1,000 Guineas.
Following a pleasing reappearance in a 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown in early April, the daughter of Bushranger returned to Foxrock earlier this month and won as she liked.
Despite being snapped up by Qatar Racing following her Leopardstown romp, O’Callaghan’s stable jockey Kieren Fallon will be on board again.
“Kieren loves the filly and believes a lot in her, so it’s great he keeps the ride,” O’Callaghan said. “I’d have no doubt she’ll get the straight mile at the Curragh. We think she’s a massive chance.”
Now Or Never is a general 7-2 chance behind O’Brien’s even-money favourite Ballydoyle, runner-up to stablemate Minding in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.
The big race in Britain this weekend is the Temple Stakes at Haydock for which Mecca’s Angel heads a field of 16.
Winner of the Nunthorpe at York last term, Michael Dods’ five-year-old will be making her first start since that Knavesmire victory as unsuitable ground limited her opportunities on more than one occasion in 2015.
William Haggas’ Muthmir and the John Gosden-trained Waady form a strong two-pronged challenge for owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, while Clive Cox’s Profitable arrives on the back of a surprise success in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket.
Robert Cowell has declared last year’s King’s Stand hero Goldream along with Iffranesia and Justineo, with Tom Dascombe set to rely upon Kachy, who was a winner at Chester last time.
Edward Lynam’s popular veteran Sole Power landed the Temple in 2011 and is the only Irish-trained challenger, with last year’s winner Pearl Secret also in the mix for David Barron.
Charlie Hills’ Cotai Glory and the David Griffiths-trained Take Cover are among the declarations, but both horses are also in the Achilles Stakes at the track today.
Aeolus, Move In Time, Sir Maximilian and Steps complete the field.
Meanwhile, Joe Tuite is aiming to get Litigant back on the track next month, with Royal Ascot and the Curragh under consideration.
The eight-year-old has had his problems but showed what a smart stayer he is when winning the Ebor at York last summer in his first start for 16 months.
He signed off the campaign with victory in the November Handicap at Doncaster but has yet to run so far this year.
Tuite hopes ro get his stable star started in either the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot or the Curragh Cup in Ireland — as long as conditions are favourable.
“All’s good with him, but obviously he’s ground dependent,” Tuite said.
“It’s all systems go for Ascot at the moment and then we’ll see nearer the time whether we get to Ascot or instead go to Ireland for the Group Two.
“We just need nice ground. He won’t run on fast ground.”