View from connections ahead of the £7.5 Million Totescoop6 Victoria Cup at Ascot on Saturday.
George Margarson believes Excellent Guest could be in even better shape now than he was a year ago as he prepares to defend his crown in the £7.5 Million Totescoop6 Victoria Cup at Ascot on Saturday.
Margarson's stable stalwart has not been placed since striking in this race at 25-1, and while the seven-year-old is likely to be similar odds this time, his trainer sees no reason why he should not be involved in the finish once again.
He said: "He's in good form and his preparation all year has been about getting him ready for this race.
"We know he goes well fresh, as he showed when he won this race first time out last year.
"I think he's in at least as good a form as he was going into the race last year and, if anything, his coat looks a bit better because the weather hasn't been as bad.
"He's 2lb higher than he was last year, but he has a good draw.
"Tom Queally is riding him again and I was really pleased with Excellent Guest when he went to Newmarket for a gallop the other week.
"The good thing about him is it won't matter what the weather does. He's finished second in a Hunt Cup and a Buckingham Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot on softer ground and it was fast ground when he won this race last year.
"For whatever reason, he loves Ascot and I'm expecting another big run from him."
Heading the betting is the Andrew Balding-trained Purcell, who is on a hat-trick following successive victories on the all-weather at Lingfield.
Balding does not expect the return to turf to be an issue, providing conditions at the Berkshire track do not become too testing.
He said: "He seems in great form and he has obviously improved a lot since last year, as is evidenced by his last couple of runs at Lingfield.
"I think he's come on again since his last run, it's huge prize-money and he deserves to have a crack at it.
"We'll have to see how he will get on over the straight seven furlongs, as he's done his winning on left-handed tracks.
"The other important thing for him is the less rain they get the better."
The application of a visor helped the Karl Burke-trained Georgian Bay win a decent prize at Kempton three weeks ago and both the runner-up, Glen Moss, and the third home, Ayaar, reoppose.
Matthew Hilton, racing manager for Georgian Bay's owners, Market Avenue Racing, said: "My main concern would be the rain, as he want genuinely quick ground.
"We beat Glen Moss comprehensively last time and our boy has improved an awful lot in the visor.
"We go there thinking he's got a great chance, as long as the ground is OK.
"Karl's been in flying form and has also got a great jockey in Adam Kirby."
Glen Moss showed some smart form for Charlie Hills in 2013 and has done well since switching to David Brown's yard this year, filling the runners-up spot at Kempton before clinching a valuable Haydock handicap.
Brown said: "He's in very good nick, and he won at Haydock ever so well. He's drawn wide, but it all depends on whether there is any pace on or not.
"He wouldn't want it bottomless, but he seems to be improving and is ready to rumble."
The only Irish-trained runner in the field is Burn The Boats, who showed a big field does not bother him when winning last summer's Paddy Power Sprint at the Curragh.
Trainer Ger Lyons said: "He's been ready to run for a while. We're going there with a good claimer (Colin Keane) on board and a good horse.
"He's a most unexposed, strong horse and you'd think he'd be bang there if he repeats his run in the Paddy Power.
"We wouldn't want extremes, but he wouldn't be bothered with a bit of rain."
Boots And Spurs was unable to make a significant impact in the Spring Mile at Doncaster at the end of March, but trainer Stuart Williams is expecting a better showing.
He said: "It's difficult to tell whether he's got a good draw, but he had good form last season.
"He didn't run great on his first start for me at Doncaster, but we'd like to think there's some improvement then.
"It's an open race, but a bit of rain wouldn't do us any harm."
Belgian Bill gave trainer George Baker a day he will never forget when winning last year's Royal Hunt Cup and he returns to Ascot for his seasonal return.
Baker said: "He's in good order. We didn't go to Dubai this year but he's returned in great form and never runs a bad race at Ascot.
"It's a tough old ask at somewhere near the top of the weights, but we've everything crossed he'll run another good race.
"Hopefully it doesn't tip it down as he doesn't want it soft."
There was not a lot to choose between the Ed Vaughan-trained Redvers and Denis Coakley's Gabriel's Lad in a valuable course-and-distance handicap last September and both are back for more.
Vaughan said: "Ascot is his forte. He's a seven-furlong specialist and is fit and ready.
"He needed the run at Warwick last time - the ground was also a bit loose - so hopefully he'll have come on for that.
"The draw gives us options, but the worry would be if they had too much rain."
Coakley said: "He wouldn't mind a bit of rain as he's quite versatile.
"He ran well at Leicester the other day as he got left in the stalls. He's only 3lb higher than when he finished second in a big race at Ascot last September so hopefully he can overcome that.
"He's so consistent and is still pretty unexposed."