Expert Eye puts his unbeaten record and huge reputation on the line in the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday.
It is 31 years since Sir Michael Stoute claimed his first and only victory in the seven-furlong Group One with Ajdal, a horse who would ultimately make his mark as a top-class sprinter the following season, after running in the 2000 Guineas and Derby.
Expert Eye has made just two appearances, but created such a deep impression on both his Newbury debut and when winning the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood at the start of August he is odds-on across the boards for this weekend’s feature event.
Stoute said: “He’s a very well-balanced horse and very well developed and mature. It was a very good performance at Goodwood and the form has worked out well.
“This race is quite a while later, but he seems in good form.
“We knew he’d win at Goodwood and we were really pleased with him. You’re never quite sure of the opposition, but he could not have done it any easier.”
Expert Eye is currently a best-priced 4-1 favourite in ante-post lists for next year’s Guineas.
Stoute said: “You would have to say he’s the best two-year-old I have had for quite a while. He’s been pretty natural from the beginning. Let’s just see what happens on Saturday, but I would be surprised if he gets beyond a mile as a three-year-old.”
Aidan O’Brien, who won the Dewhurst for the fifth time with this year’s dual Guineas hero Churchill 12 months ago, has four contenders.
Middle Park Stakes scorer US Navy Flag is joined by Champagne Stakes-winning stablemate Seahenge, Mendelssohn and Threeandfourpence.
O’Brien said: “US Navy Flag is in good form. He’s going up to seven furlongs for the first time but when we stepped his sister (Roly Poly) up she improved. He hasn’t done much since the last day, but he seems to be in good form.
“We were delighted with Seahenge in Doncaster. He was still a bit babyish, but we were delighted with him and he’s been in good form since.
“Mendelssohn is a bit immature mentally and he’s inclined to have a look around, so that’s why we’ve put blinkers on him. He’s worn the blinkers at home and they seem to have helped and they seem to help him concentrate so it will be interesting to see. He has been in good form.
“Threeandfourpence had a nice run first time at the Curragh and at Fairyhouse (last time) we knew the six furlongs would be plenty tight enough for him, but thought the experience would do him well. He’s by War Front so the better ground won’t be a disadvantage anyway.”
John Gosden saddles an interesting contender in Emaraaty. The Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned juvenile is taking a big step up in class after impressing in a novice event at Newbury three weeks ago.
The owner’s racing manager, Angus Gold, said: “It is a big step up to a Group One and I would be stupid to assure you that he was going to beat horses like Expert Eye on Saturday.
“But he’s a very quick colt with great potential and we are very hopeful he will be a Group One horse at some point in his career.”