Lee Westwood's Hoof It bids to get his season going again in the Criterion Stakes at Newmarket tomorrow when he steps up to seven furlongs for the first time in nearly two years.
An impressive winner of the Stewards' Cup at Goodwood last summer, before a very close third behind Dream Ahead and Bated Breath in the Haydock Sprint Cup, Hoof It was widely expected to take top rank amongst the sprinters this year but his season has been limited to one appearance when fifth in the Duke Of York Stakes.
Bookmakers clearly expect Hoof It to come back to form here and he is William Hill's 7-4 market leader.
Part owner Chubby Chandler explained that the colt missed Royal Ascot due to a bad scope but is now ready to race again:
"He scoped clean on Tuesday for the first time in ages and is in good form. We had the option of Newcastle but the ground looks better at Newmarket. We're trying a different trip, which would give us other options, but we really need to get a run into him before the July Cup. He'll also get a feel for the course."
"Hopefully he'll come on from the last run at York - he did OK but he gave away six lengths out of the stalls, as Ryan warned he might. It should be a great afternoon and a busy one as we've got Woop Woop running at Chester, and Lee has Swinging Hawk at Salisbury on Sunday as well."
Paul D'Arcy's Edinburgh Knight, who usually plies his trade in big field handicaps, disappointed in the Hunt Cup last time but his trainer is not overly concerned by that performance:
"He came out of the race well at Ascot, he got a bit out of position early in the race and you just can't do that in a big handicap like that. I don't really have a choice with him, he's got a penalty for winning a Listed race and there aren't that many Group Threes.
"At least he won't have to travel that far and I want to see how he gets on in this grade on the ground. I suppose Hoof It will be the danger, but the big question for him will be if he stays."
Firebeam will represent William Haggas and owners Highclere and will try to put a below-par effort in France behind him. Harry Herbert who runs the Highclere syndicate is hopeful:
"I spoke to William (Haggas) and Firebeam seems in very good form. This looks like his ideal trip and ground, so it should be the right race for him given where he is ratings-wise and everything else. It's a highly competitive race, but he seems really well and Hayley Turner takes the ride."
"Firebeam had to make his own running in France last time and it wasn't entirely satisfactory the way the race was run, but I think back here he will get into a better rhythm. He is in great form and he is a horse we have always felt would be capable of winning a nice race and hopefully this will be his day."
Last year's victor Libranno comes here in good form after a last-time-out win in a Listed contest at Salisbury. Trainer Richard Hannon commented: "Libranno won the Criterion Stakes last year and we are very hopeful of a repeat. He won well at Salisbury last time, and, though that was six (furlongs), he is equally effective over seven." Libranno is available at 7-2 with Stan James to defend his crown.