Frankie Dettori links up with Willie Mullins as the Closutton handler unleashes a two-pronged assault on the Sky Bet Ebor at York on Saturday.
Mullins won the prestigious handicap in 2009 and although always having the race circled on his calendar, has been out of luck on subsequent visits to the Knavesmire.
This year it is Royal Ascot runner-up Absurde and one-time Group Three scorer Jackfinbar that carry the hopes of the multiple champion National Hunt trainer, and he has called up a crack team of jockeys with Dettori set to reunite with Absurde for his York swansong, while William Buick will be aboard the latter.
“Both horses are in good shape and I’m very happy them,” said Mullins.
“We have one inside and one outside after the draw. Both jockeys are in good form and we’re looking forward to the race.
“It’s a race a race we look at every year if we have something good enough and qualified to go for it, so we’re hoping for a good run.”
The Ebor serves as a ‘win in you’re in’ for the Melbourne Cup and even though Mullins already has Flemington favourite Vauban safely tucked away at Closutton, he is not ruling out being mob-handed in ‘the race that stops the nation’ on November 7.
“It would be very interesting if we had that problem,” added Mullins, when asked if Vauban could have company for the trip to Australia.
“I imagine they could and I’m sure both owners would be keen to crack at a race like that, they certainly would.”
Sweet William has seen his reputation grow throughout the summer and will now seek a fantastic four-timer in his stiffest test yet.
The progressive four-year-old made it three straight victories at the Qatar Goodwood Festival, finds himself of warm order as he bids to give John and Thady Gosden back-to-back wins in the £500,000 event.
“He’s obviously progressed well through the year, winning from a mile and a half to two miles and half a furlong.” said Thady Gosden.
“He’s running over the same trip he won well over at Goodwood last time out and he’s been in good form since then.”
Sweet William, who is owned by the renowned owner-breeder Philipa Cooper under the Normandie Stud banner, was at one stage sweating on his place in the final line-up, while the owner herself was hesitant about running in the race.
However, his big-race claims are obvious despite a competitive field and Gosden is keen to take part in one of the season’s most valuable handicap contest.
“The Ebor is a premier staying handicap in the UK and of course one of the features of the Ebor Festival,” he added.
“He is versatile with regards to ground.”
Second to Sweet William at Goodwood was Michael Bell’s Adjuvant, who was the last to sneak into the race after declarations on Thursday morning.
The four-year-old finished third in the Melrose on this card last year and his handler is hopeful of another solid showing on the Knavesmire.
Bell said: “He ran a very nice race at Goodwood and appears to be in very good form this year. I think he has definitely improved from three to four. He ran a nice race in the Melrose at York last year but the form book suggests he’s taken a nice step forward.
“We were surprised to get in and it is very race for a horse rated 95 to get in. Obviously we are delighted to get in and we’ve got a bit of a pull at the weights with Sweet William, but arguably he won with a bit more up his sleeve so we may be up against it. But he heads there in really good order.”
At the opposite end of the scale, Saeed bin Suroor’s Live Your Dream carries top-weight and the classy Godolphin-owned operator, who was a winner at Newmarket last time, is yet to finish outside the top three since returning from a long absence earlier this summer.
“After he won at Newmarket he had an easy time and now he is doing well and has been working well,” said Bin Suroor.
“He’s in good form, but it’s a tough race with some good horses in it and he has to carry a heavy weight.
“I’m happy with him and a mile and six is the best trip for him and I think the track will suit him.”
Andrew Balding’s Scampi booked his ticket when winning the track’s Jorvik handicap earlier this season and could be a popular selection having added to his season’s tally at the Shergar Cup recently.
His owners RaceShare have big ambitions of taking their charge to Australia later in the year, but first the Yorkshire-based operation are hoping their star performer can provide them with a fitting home success.
“Scampi has been brilliantly placed by trainer Andrew Balding and our owners love that he is such a character and so well liked by Andrew’s staff at Kingsclere,” said managing director Lucy Delaney.
“We have plenty of local Yorkshire owners attending too so it’s nice to have an in-form Yorkshire-based jockey in Jason Hart on board. It is all very exciting.”
Sir Michael Stoute’s Real Dream was third behind Scampi here in May and has since advertised his big-race credentials with a taking victory over the Ebor trip at Ascot.
“It’s been the target for a long time, but we didn’t know if he was going to be high enough to get in at one stage. Obviously after his win at Ascot that just put him there right,” said Philip Robinson, assistant racing manager for owner Saeed Suhail.
“The trip’s ideal and everything is good. He worked brilliantly the other morning and really strode out well, so we’re very hopeful.”
Milton Harris will be studying tapes of Dettori’s ride aboard Trawlerman 12 months ago Scriptwriter bids to go one better than his track-and-trip second to Hamish in the John Smith’s Silver Cup from a wide draw in stall 20.
He said: “The horse is in great form and everything has gone well with his preparation. Ground conditions are fine and we have no concerns there, but the draw is really unhelpful.
“We’ll have to go forward I suppose, I’m going to have to talk to the jockey and formulate some sort of plan, but I couldn’t be happier with the horse.
“He had a terrible draw at Ascot when he ran a really nice race and now we’ve got another bad draw in a really competitive race, so the draw gods aren’t smiling upon us I’m afraid.
“We’ll have to find a way and no doubt we will have a watch of what Frankie did last year. It’s not impossible and Clifford (Lee) is a good jockey who has ridden around York plenty of times.
“He has been bought by some people in Australia and is going to race over there and this has been his target before he goes.
“He ran a tremendous race over course and distance last time at York and I have no concerns whatsoever about his well-being, I couldn’t be happier with the horse and I won’t be able to offer the well-being of the horse as any excuse.”