Hanagan’s Khan do approach
The final opportunity this season for a two-year-old to present his claims as a wonder horse comes at Doncaster on Saturday.
Or, if not wonder horse — for the Dewhurst Stakes winner Frankel already seems to have annexed that popular title — then maybe, with less fanfare, a champion.
The Racing Post Trophy has as good a record in unearthing elite performers as the Newmarket race, and a better recent hand of Derby winners in recent years.
Irish stables are perceived as most likely to take the Group One prize this time, with Casamento from Michael Halford's, Dunboyne Express from Kevin Prendergast's and Seville from Aidan O'Brien's the first three in the betting.
The home defence is led by the Ed Dunlop-trained Native Khan.
Yesterday at Newmarket the striking grey son of Azamour warmed up for his most challenging assignment yet with a getting-to-know-you session under his new big-race rider Paul Hanagan.
“He's going to have to be good to win on Saturday,” Hanagan said, “because it looks a tough race.
“But he's already shown in public he's got ability, and this morning went very well indeed.”
The latest of Native Khan's two wins came in the seven-furlong Solario Stakes at Sandown, when he was ridden by the currently injured Eddie Ahern.
Casamento won the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh last time out, as did last year's Racing Post Trophy winner St Nicholas Abbey.
The Shamardal colt, on whom Frankie Dettori will sport his the sheikh's original maroon-and-white silks, will fly in from Co Kildare this evening.
“He'll have a canter in the morning,” said Halford yesterday. “All is well and the straight course at Doncaster is very like the Curragh.”
Casamento and Seville, a Galileo colt who won at Tipperary this month, are prominent in the early Derby betting.