Power all set for hat-trick bid
Sole Power is ready to go in his bid to become the first horse to claim three victories in the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The Eddie Lynam-trained eight-year-old is one of 11 horses to have claimed a brace of wins in the race having won the five-furlong contest for the past two seasons.
Although only finishing sixth in the Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh last month on his first run since landing the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan in March, the County Meath trainer feels that will have put him spot on for his history-making attempt.
Lynam told At The Races: "I'm very happy with him. He's in a real good place and I'm looking forward to him.
"This is his fifth Royal Ascot, which is unusual. He's won the last twice and was placed in it and he was down the field in it, but he's carried us for years. He's a great horse.
"He hadn't run for a while so his last run blew the cobwebs away. He needed a run to get him back in order.
"Richard (Hughes) was happy and the way the horse has been training, recently especially, I think he's right now and he's ready to go."
Australian-trained runners have enjoyed plenty of success since the breakthrough victory of Choisir back in 2003, and chances of an Antipodean winner rest with the Robert Smerdon-trained mare Shamal Wind, the mount of Ryan Moore.
The five-year old went on to confirm her status as a sprinter going places when claiming the Group One Oakleigh Plate at Caulfield on her most recent start in February.
Smerdon said: "She's a very flexible mare and we wouldn't be worried if the ground was very soft or very fast.
"It's going to a tough race, but our horses have done well in this race before and I think she'll go pretty well. It's great to be involved and great to have a horse good enough to run at Ascot.
"Her win in the Oakleigh was typical of her style in that she is a run-on sprinter. She has an explosive burst, but you have to time it exactly right and she has been narrowly beaten in races. She is a tricky ride."
Heading a strong contingent of home challengers is the progressive Muthmir, trained by William Haggas.
Having progressed through the handicap ranks last season, the five-year-old finished a respectable fifth on his seasonal debut in the Duke of York Stakes having been very keen for Paul Hanagan, before landing a Group Two dropped back to the minimum trip at Chantilly.
Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Sheikh Hamdan, said: "I don't think he'll have any trouble holding him over five furlongs at Ascot and he's exciting.
"Whether he can beat Sole Power is another matter, but he's a horse we're looking forward to. I don't think he'll be outclassed, as long as we can get him into it in the right way, get a lead and produce him late.
"Sole Power is an incredibly impressive sprinter and there's obviously others in there as well, but I think our horse deserves to take his chance."
Trainer Michael Dods is hoping there is sufficient give in the ground to allow his fast-improving filly Mecca's Angel to make her mark.
After winning a Group Three at Newbury on her final outing last season, the four-year-carried on from where she left off on her seasonal bow when claiming a second straight victory at that level at Longchamp in May.
Dods said: "Mecca's Angel is a very straightforward filly who did it very well in France last time when she quickened again off a strong pace and was quite impressive.
"This will be her sternest test yet, but I believe she has come on for that last run and deserves to take her chance.
"She has won on an uphill track before and she will probably jump and sit but she could lead if she has to lead. She is a better filly on genuinely good or good to soft ground so I hope they put plenty of water on - I will walk it on Tuesday morning just to check it's all right.
"Winning any race is a great feeling and makes all the hard work worthwhile but a race like the King's Stand is what we are aiming at as we want to compete with the best and show it is possible to train good horses up here in the north.
"If we were to win it would mean a hell of a lot to the whole operation - to my staff, to Paul (Mulrennan, jockey) and to the owners. Royal Ascot only happens once a year so you have to enjoy it, it's a massive occasion."
Several familiar faces return for another shot at landing the Group One prize including last year's fourth Stepper Point, who finished seventh behind Muthmir in France.
Trainer William Muir said: "Stepper Point just ripped a shoe off coming out of the stalls at Chantilly. He looked like a teddy bear in his coat before his last run, but he his just starting to show his summer coat now.
"He is in great shape and he really comes alive at this time of year."
Roger Varian feels the seven-year old Steps can put up another prominent display having finished sixth 12 months ago, judging by his recent second at Epsom.
Varian said: "He ran a good race in the 'Dash' and he was only beaten two and a half lengths at Ascot last year. He is in super form and although I can't see him winning it, he has a good chance of being in the first four or five."