Simon Holt is anticipating an upset in the big race at Ascot on Saturday, while Flaming Spear is backed to land the feature handicap.
Whether Cracksman runs or not, nobody is going to get rich backing him or any of the top three in the betting for Saturday's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in which ROSTROPOVICH is taken to spring a surprise.
Aidan O'Brien's colt could just be the biggest improver in the field as a step up in trip to a mile and a half in his last two starts has seen him run second behind Old Persian over this course and distance at the Royal meeting before filling the same position behind Latrobe (Old Persian sixth) in the Irish Derby.
It’s possible that Rostropovich was flattered after setting a steady pace that day but the winner had always looked a horse of potential for Joseph O'Brien and third-placed Saxon Warrior reappeared a week later to fight out a storming finish with Roaring Lion in the Eclipse at Sandown.
I liked the way the son of Frankel kept battling and, in receipt of the weight-for-age allowance, the only three-year-old in the field looks a sporting bet at big odds in the hands of Seamie Heffernan even though stable number one rider Ryan Moore has opted to ride the seemingly below-form Hydrangea whose chance would be much improved if heavy rain materialised.
The weather will decide if Cracksman lines up, but his laboured performances at Epsom and behind Poet's Word in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes here last time are hard to ignore as is the brilliance of his defeat of the latter here last October on soft going. In short, he is threatening to become an enigma.
With regard to the Sir Michael Stoute-pair Crystal Ocean and Poet's Word, it is very difficult to choose between them. Both are smart performers and the latter travelled really well before clearing away at the Royal meeting. With Hawkbill and Cliffs Of Moher (who both ran ok in the Eclipse) over eight lengths adrift, it was probably a career-best effort.
Crystal Ocean always looked likely to make a better horse as a four-year-old despite his good second, splitting Capri and Stradivarius in the St Leger last September.
Back at shorter distances this season, he has done what was necessary on three occasions against inferior opposition, and now faces the acid test. He’s a lovely colt but sometimes looks a bit workmanlike.
Unless Hydrangea, a winner here on Champions Day (soft) can bounce back from a lifeless run at the Royal meeting, Coronet is probably next best.
Olivier Peslier’s mount won the Ribblesdale over this course and distance last season and ran up to her best again when narrowly denied by Waldgeist at Saint-Cloud earlier in the month when the re-opposing Salouen, who had given Cracksman such a fright at Epsom previously, was just over a length away in third.
As ever, the Gigaset International Handicap looks a frightening test for punters but FLAMING SPEAR is fancied to build on his fifth place in the Royal Hunt Cup last month, his first run for trainer Dean Ivory.
Formerly with Kevin Ryan, this undoubtedly talented six-year-old has had a slightly chequered career having looked hugely promising in his younger days, but he travelled really well in the far side group on that reappearance giving the impression that this drop in distance from a mile to seven furlongs could really suit him.
Consistency hasn't always been Flaming Spear's strongest asset in the past but, if in similar form, he looks bound to go close for a trainer who won this race in 2016 with Librisa Breeze, a horse who also improved for a change of stables.
To be honest, there are so many other possibilities but the Jersey Stakes fifth Arbalet and potentially well-handicapped Chessman are two others that catch the eye.
In the Sky Bet York Stakes, it will be disappointing if ELARQAM cannot take advantage of a drop in class on the Knavesmire receiving weight from his older rivals.
Very impressive on this course last September, Mark Johnston's colt - the result of a dream mating between Frankel and the trainer's 1000 Guineas winner Attraction - then beat Tip Two Win in the Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket.
Elarqam wasn't able to confirm those placings when fourth behind Saxon Warrior, Tip Two Win and Masar in the 2000 Guineas in May but that form still looks easily good enough to win here providing he can be forgiven a lesser effort subsequently in the Irish Guineas.
Forest Ranger represents the chief threat, despite coming up short in the Eclipse last time when raised in class following impressive victories at Newmarket and Chester.