David Hayes believes Michael Stoute's rejuvenated Kingsgate Native should be favourite for the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot next Tuesday -- ahead of his own Australian speedster Nicconi.
Frankie Dettori will ride Nicconi, who has already scooped the first leg of the Global Sprint Challenge by taking the Coolmore Lightning Stakes at Flemington in January. Bookmakers are running scared of Hayes' challenger, the general 3/1 favourite, ahead of Kingsgate Native at 5/1.
However, Hayes feels the layers have it the wrong way around. He said: "He's been unplaced in his last two runs and I think Michael Stoute's horse should be favourite.
"Frankie sat on him the other day for the first time and I think he was pretty happy. They went fast and he gave him a good feel.
"When he wins, he wins well, but he can have a shocker so you can't be confident."
Despite having been beaten on his last two runs, Hayes put forward excuses for the reverses and believes dropping back to five furlongs will also be in his favour.
"The Newmarket was ran in incredibly bad conditions as a storm hit the track and I then ran him back too quick just two weeks later and he didn't back up.
"He is undefeated first time up and he is undefeated over five furlongs. I have also been dying to put a visor on him for two years and he'll wear one for the first time next week. The Lightning is our premier sprint, too, and the form usually transfers. If he wins well then we might be tempted to run in the July Cup and it would enhance his stud value, but it is most likely that this will be his last run and he'll be retired to stud in Australia."
Raiders from the southern hemisphere have dominated the King's Stand in recent years, with Scenic Blast, Miss Andretti and Takeover Target winning three of the last four renewals.
Lining up alongside Nicconi will be the front-running Gold Trail, representing Sydney-based Gary Portelli. The six-year-old is around 14/1 after his superb fourth to Green Birdie in Singapore last month.
Total Gallery is one of the leading domestic challengers and his trainer, Stan Moore, expects it to be a refreshing change for him to be running off level weights.
Thanks to his Group One victory in the Prix de l'Abbaye last autumn, the four-year-old has been penalised in his first two starts this season, when sixth in the Palace House Stakes and fifth in the Temple Stakes.
"He'll run in the King's Stand and it will be nice for him not to have to carry a 7lb penalty this time," said Moore.
"He seems in great form and we're hoping for a big run. Richard Hughes is going to ride him and hopefully he'll be available for his next few races."