HAVING been generously aided by Haydock's switching of the Sprint Cup to an earlier time slot, William Buick will try to get his jet-setting afternoon off to the best possible start by steering Ortensia to victory for a third time in succession in the Group One feature.
The Paul Messara-trained Australian visitor showed her true colours in the Nunthorpe at York, coming from a hopeless position to win with far more authority than a neck margin suggests.
Although she had struggled to make an impact in her first two starts in England, the seven-year-old is clearly a talented sprinter and all the evidence suggests that this step up to six furlongs will suit better than the Nunthorpe's five.
However, history also tells us that, with the margins so fine, only the most dominant speedsters have the capacity to secure back-to-back Group Ones.
Ortensia might well prove up to the task now, but there are better-value options than the favourite here.
Of the two Irish-based challengers, Gordon Lord Byron appeals more than Dandy Boy. At York, David Marnane's Dandy Boy was far from disgraced when beaten less than five lengths behind Ortensia over what was an inadequate trip for him.
Still, that is a fair amount of ground to make up on the principals in a race like this. Tom Hogan's Gordon Lord Byron is untried at this level, but there was a lot to like about the way that he dispensed with the opposition when scoring over seven furlongs in Listed company on the Knavesmire.
With plenty of form over shorter, a strongly run six furlongs shouldn't inconvenience him too much, so he has place prospects at up to 25/1. From a win point of view, though, it is Roger Charlton's Bated Breath that appeals most on his return to the distance.
The likes of Society Rock, Hawkeyetheknooo and Strong Suit are others with serious prospects but this is the first time this year that Bated Breath has everything in his favour at this level.
Fast ground is absolutely imperative for him and he denied Sole Power in a five-furlong Group Two at the Liverpool venue first time up back in May. Over the same trip on his next two starts, he was a fine second to Little Bridge on soft in the King's Stand at Ascot, before a bad draw and slow going proved his undoing in the Nunthorpe. Despite that, he ran well to lead home the field on the near side.
Today, Bated Breath returns to the trip that has yielded five of his six career wins, and he gets proper fast ground. When he had both of those in tandem at this grade last year, he was a brilliant second to Dream Ahead in the July Cup, before then being nosed out by the same horse in a thrilling renewal of this particular Group One.
On his day, then, when everything falls right, Bated Breath must be a genuine contender. With that in mind, James Doyle's mount is overpriced at odds of around 7/2 to secure what would be a fourth win from five starts at this course.
Doyle and Charlton are also taken to land the preceding Superior Mile with Thistle Bird. Apart from Gabrial, which has begun to look less than resolute, Thistle Bird's opposition in this Listed race are mainly handicappers that have something to prove.
At his best, Mark Johnston's Fulbright might be the pick of those, but Thistle Bird's credentials are more robust. Twice a winner in Listed company already this term, she was just run out of it at the death by Premio Loco in the Celebration Mile at Goodwood, a run that suggested she was still value for her official rating of 108.
In the Old Borough Cup, Henry Candy's Gosbeck gets the nod under Cork native Dane O'Neill. Candy tends to bring his horses along steadily, and this four-year-old has come into her own over this one-mile-six-furlong journey on her last two starts.
An authoritative winner at Nottingham last month, Gosbeck competes off just a 4lb higher rating here, so odds of up to 10/1 seem more than fair.
Best Bet: Bated Breath