Telescope tops Ascot 12
Telescope tops 12 five-day acceptors for the QIPCO-sponsored King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
Sir Michael Stoute's colt has been a warm favourite for the Group One contest since winning the Hardwicke Stakes over course-and-distance last month but faces several notable rivals.
John Gosden has a strong hand with Investec Oaks heroine Taghrooda and Romsdal joined in the line-up by Eagle Top, who has been supplemented to the field at a cost of £75,000.
Aidan O'Brien relies on Magician, who could have the services of a pacemaker in stablemate Hall of Mirrors.
Lady Cecil's Noble Mission has won three times this season, including the Tattersalls Gold Cup, while his owner Khalid Abdullah also has Flintshire in the race.
Coral-Eclipse first and second Mukhadram and Trading Leather are all set to clash again with the latter's trainer Jim Bolger also leaving in Leitir Mor. Brown Panther completes the field.
Angus Gold, Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum's racing manager, issued a positive bulletin over the prospects of Taghrooda and Mukhadram.
"Everything has gone very well with Taghrooda, she's been working very well and looks fantastic," he said. "She seems very happy in herself mentally."
If Mukhadram does take his chance this weekend, he will be tackling 12 furlongs for the first time, but Gold is hopeful the extra distance will not be a problem.
He said: "William has always felt he will stay and certainly his pedigree suggests he will. Whether he will be as effective over that trip, until he runs over it nobody can say.
"We know he's very effective over a mile and a quarter, so we'll just have to see.
"We'll wait and see later in the week how both horses are and let him (Sheikh Hamdan) make up his mind what he wants to do."
Gold unsurprisingly expects retained rider Paul Hanagan to side with Taghrooda over Mukhadram, adding: "I think it would be hard for him to get off an unbeaten Classic winner at this stage who is getting a lot of weight from the older horses."
For his part, Dane O'Neill - the Sheikh's second rider - said he was thrilled to pick up the mount on Mukhadram.
"To pick up a spare with a live chance like he has is unbelievable," he told At The Races. "William's always been confident about him getting a mile and a half and he's pretty versatile in that you can go forward with him or drop him in a bit."
Nick Smith, Ascot's Head of Communications and International Racing, is relishing Saturday's contest.
"This is what the King George is all about - a Classic-winning three-year-old and up-and-coming Royal Ascot winner of that generation taking on the very best of the older horses, headed by Telescope, who has all the hallmarks of being another Harbinger for the same team after his Hardwicke Stakes win," he said.
"To have Mukhadram, the Coral-Eclipse winner, in there too, and the likes of Flintshire and Noble Mission as possibles, makes this one of the most exciting renewals of Europe's premier midsummer race for some time."