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Japan must be at best to land Royal honours

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Trainer Aidan O'Brien. Photo: PA Wire

Trainer Aidan O'Brien. Photo: PA Wire

PA

Trainer Aidan O'Brien. Photo: PA Wire

Japan is expected to lead Aidan O'Brien's middle-distance squad this year and there are high hopes ahead of the Galileo colt's seasonal return at Royal Ascot today.

Japan showed his class when taking last year's Juddmonte International before coming home fourth in the Arc and commands serious respect in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes (3.0).

Last year's King Edward VII Stakes winner will get a stern examination, however, with Charlie Appleby's Barney Roy returning to his best with back-to-back wins in Meydan earlier this year.

Much like Japan, Roger Charlton's Headman is open to improvement as a four-year-old but the one most likely to cause an upset may be William Haggas' Addeybb.

Addeybb loves Ascot and ran Magical close in last year's Champion Stakes before dazzling Down Under with successive Group One victories earlier this year.

That will leave Tom Marquand's mount ripe for success and the six-year-old may just have the edge in match fitness over Japan.

Travel restrictions haven't stopped American trainer Wesley Ward sending over some smart prospects with Frankie Dettori riding leading fancy Sunshine City in the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes (4.10) as Ward vies to add to his 10 Royal meeting winners.

There is an element of lottery in a 20-strong field but O'Brien (above) may thwart him with impressive Curragh maiden winner Chief Little Hawk showing huge potential on his racecourse debut and the Air Force Blue colt may prove best under Ryan Moore.

The earlier Group Three Hampton Court Stakes (1.50) also sees O'Brien's Russian Emperor, second to stablemate Cormorant in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial last week, making a quick return but he has plenty on his plate in a hot contest.

Irish Independent