Kinross will go toe-to-toe with Isaac Shelby once again as he defends his Sky Bet City of York Stakes at York on Saturday.
Ralph Beckett’s six-year-old began a four-race winning run in this contest 12 months ago, and arrives at the Knavesmire in rude health having got back to winning ways in the Lennox Stakes at Goodwood.
He had to knuckle down to repel the challenge laid down by Isaac Shelby on the Sussex Downs and things will be far from straightforward here as a strong cast of opponents have assembled to attempt to knock Kinross off his perch.
The Group Two event has a hefty £500,000 prize fund and Jamie McCalmont, racing manager for Kinross’ owner Marc Chan, believes York racecourse should be rewarded for providing such a valuable opportunity to participants.
He said: “It’s amazing that York can put up that much prize-money for a Group Two race. They deserve the race to get upgraded to a Group One when they can come up with that sort of money.
“It’s a competitive race for sure, but the win at Goodwood will have given him some confidence.
“He certainly doesn’t owe us anything right now, but as Frankie says, he’s like an ATM machine so let’s hope that will continue.
“It’s a very exciting day for Marc to have three horses (Kinross, Lezoo and Angel Bleu) of that quality running at three different meetings.”
Meanwhile Kinross’ vanquished Goodwood rival is reported to have bounced out of the Lennox Stakes in peak condition and although Isaac Shelby has already achieved a great deal in his short career to date, trainer Brian Meehan thinks the best is still to come.
He said: “He came out of Goodwood in tremendous shape and we’re very much looking forward to it.
“I guess Kinross will be the one to beat, but Sacred is in the race as well and Al Suhail, there are a number with chances and it’s quite rightly a well-supported race as it’s very valuable.
“He is in great shape, he came out of Goodwood the best he has come out any race so far and he’s really starting to mature now. Whatever ground turns up on the day isn’t going to inconvenience him and we’re very happy.”
Sacred failed to land a blow when sent off favourite for this race 12 months ago, but William Haggas’ five-year-old produced a fine effort in defeat when second in the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.
However, having elected to head here over last week’s Hungerford Stakes on account of ground conditions, connections could be left frustrated once again if forecast showers alter the state of things underfoot.
“I’m a little bit worried by the forecast of rain which wouldn’t suit her because the last time she ran at York she didn’t act on the loose surface. It would be frustrating as we had to miss Newbury,” explained Chris Richardson, managing director for owners Cheveley Park Stud.
“She’s in great form but we’re getting a little bit of a kick in the teeth every time we try to get her conditions.
“Her track record here isn’t ideal. She’s a very talented and maybe a year older she may handle things a bit better. She seems in good heart and the intention is to run, but if we had a deluge we may review it.”
Further down the field behind Sacred at Royal Ascot was Charlie Appleby’s Al Suhail who is a Group Two winner at this distance and will be suited by the return to further, while Charlie Hills’ Mutasaabeq drops back in trip having failed to sparkle in two runs since landing the Group Two bet 365 Mile earlier this term.
Olivia Maralda (fifth) and Covey (ninth) have both been on the sidelines since running in the Jersey Stakes at Ascot, with the later one of two in the race for John and Thady Gosden alongside Audience.
The son of Frankel was sent off favourite when flopping in that Group Three event at the Royal meeting, but Barry Mahon, European racing manager for owners Juddmonte, is hoping for a different outcome this time.
He said: “He’s had a nice break from Ascot, it just didn’t pan out for him that day. He went too quick, he went too free on the front end. It’s a big step into a Group Two but John and Thady are happy with him and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do over a fast seven (furlongs).
“He got too warm beforehand and Frankie (Dettori) said he just hit the gate and was running too free, hopefully we’ll be able to be a little bit more patient with him on Saturday and he’ll show up a bit better.”