Awtaad can prove the star turn in the St James’s Palace Stakes on a glittering opening day of Royal Ascot on Tuesday, June 14.
The three-year-old mile championship can quite reasonably be tagged ‘race of the season’, as it features three 2000 Guineas winners.
Preference is for the winner of the Irish version, who proved at the Curragh he could quite easily be the real deal in obliging with some panache from Newmarket victor Galileo Gold.
Granted, supporters of the runner-up can find an excuse or two and better ground would be in his favour, but Awtaad travelled so well and quickened in the manner of a serious horse that even the most ardent Galileo Gold fan must harbour doubts about turning around the form.
Kevin Prendergast has been in the game long enough to know something special when he sees it and immediately nominated the Tetrarch Stakes and then the Curragh Classic after Awtaad’s return in a handicap at Irish Headquarters.
All has gone perfectly to plan so far, and Curragh third Blue De Vega is a mark of his progression, as he was even further behind in the Guineas than when second in the Tetrarch.
The Gurkha, so impressive in taking the French Guineas, is the obvious danger, but the once-beaten Awtaad’s form is undoubtedly the stronger to date and he gets the nod.
Conditions look set to be right for Belardo to run another big race in the Queen Anne Stakes against the likes of American mare Tepin.
Some cut in the ground is essential for Roger Varian’s four-year-old, who has always seemingly been a bit under the radar and not afforded the respect he probably deserves.
Caravaggio is expected to get Aidan O’Brien on the scoresheet in the Coventry Stakes.
Royal Ascot: 2.30 Belardo, 3.05 Caravaggio, 3.40 Profitable, 4.20 AWTAAD (NAP), 5.00 Pique Sous, 5.35 Big City Dreamin.
Thirsk: 2.10 Lady In Question, 2.45 Robero, 3.20 Cloud Monkey, 3.55 Imperial Focus, 4.35 Mass Rally, 5.10 Manatee Bay, 5.45 Malakky, 6.15 Pavers Star.
Beverley: 6.40 Roar, 7.10 Gilt Edged, 7.40 Red Pike, 8.10 Purple Magic, 8.40 Tellovoi, 9.10 Morocco.
Brighton: 5.50 Baby Gal, 6.20 El Duque, 6.50 Gold Eliza, 7.20 Hala Madrid, 7.50 Hawk Moth, 8.20 Najd, 8.50 Picansort.
Roscommon: 6.00 Miro, 6.30 Derulo, 7.00 Exit Seven, 7.30 Bright Tomorrow, 8.00 Pilgrim Way, 8.30 Manuka, 9.00 Jimmy Breekie.
Stratford: 2.20 Misty Mai, 2.55 Elysian Prince, 3.30 Sonofagun, 4.05 Bleu Et Noir, 4.45 Bob Lewis, 5.20 Sam Noir.
Double: Awtaad and Caravaggio.