Not a lot to learn from the statistics over the last ten years for this well-known race with the exception of three favourites and a joint favourite and two wins for Saeed Bin Suroor and he looks as good a place to start as any for a serious race preview. Although he has a few entries at the early stage we are hoping he relies on the lightly raced Memorial Day (5/1) who has always been held in high regard by Godolphin but has had a few minor issues at a guess and been restricted to just the eight career starts in three seasons. Now a five-year-old he has only had the one race this season when hacking up by eight lengths in a decent looking handicap at Pontefract and although this is a big step up in class it seems fair to assume he is thought to be this class at least or we rather doubt they would have bothered to even keep him in training.
Thanks to the sportsmanship of the Godolphin team they have allowed Charlie Appleby to send Frontiersman (13/2 Each Way) here to race in the second colours but that means nothing as they always give the first colours to whoever is highest rated officially, regardless of their chances. Only a three-year-old and with more room to improve than his elders, he really caught the eye last time out at Newmarket when stepped up to this trip for the first time when quickening up nicely to win a Class Two handicap by four and a half lengths despite being heavily eased before the line, and he fully deserves a crack at this company with even better races around the corner next season.
On official ratings (and they ought to know what they are talking about), it’s all about John Gosden’s Western Hymn (7/1) who is the best horse in the contest. His last in was back in May 2015, and he has had nine starts since without success so is not exactly at the top of his game, though he did finish third in the Group One Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot behind both My Dream Boat and Arc winner Found. A repeat of that effort would almost certainly be enough to see success but sadly he has failed three times since with a two and a quarter length fourth to Move Up last time out in the Cumberland Lodge Stakes back at Ascot over this mile and a half trip.
One place and a short head in front of him that day we had Sir Michael Stoute’s Kings Fete (13/2), and as the pair meet on the same terms it should be close between the two of them once again, though most of us feel Sir Michael’s gelding has more chance of showing further improvement. Despite being a five-year-old he has only had eleven starts for four wins and another four places, but has bounced back from a year and a half off though injury with a couple of Group Three wins already this year at Goodwood and Newbury over this trip and further, and as we have rock solid evidence that he handles both this trip and this class this season, he has to be on any sensible short list regardless of the extra three pounds his latest win has forced upon him.
Finally, Norwegian trainer Rune Haugen has made it quite clear that a huge run is expected from Quarterback (16/1) though how can we assess his Norwegian form? Last time out the four-year-old took a Group Three at Bro Park in Sweden by an easy five lengths from favourite Hurricane Red, his fourth win from nineteen starts with the others at Taby, Ovrevoll, and Klampenborg, though we are a little sceptical that a Group Three there is the same quality as a Group Three here is seriously open to question and we are yet to be convinced that he is good enough to be seriously competitive this afternoon.