Native Trail will face seven rivals when he puts his unbeaten record on the line in the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday.
Since making an impressive start to his career at Sandown in June, Charlie Appleby’s colt has claimed a narrow victory in the Superlative Stakes on Newmarket’s July Course and run out an emphatic winner of the National Stakes at the Curragh.
The Oasis Dream colt is a hot favorite to follow in the hoofprints of the former Appleby-trained star Pinatubo, who won the National Stakes two years ago before following up on the Rowley Mile.
One of the biggest threats to Native Trail appears to be Roger Varian’s Bayside Boy, who lines-up off the back of a victory in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster.
Irish hopes are carried by the Ger Lyons-trained Straight Answer, who was supplemented at the start of the week, and the once-raced maiden winner Glounthaune, who bids to provide Aidan O’Brien with an eighth Dewhurst success.
Hugo Palmer has not made any secret of the regard in which he holds Dubawi Legend, while Dave Loughnane’s Go Bears Go bids to make it third time lucky at Group One level after going close in the Phoenix Stakes and the Middle Park on his last couple of appearances.
Royal Ascot winners Berkshire Shadow (Andrew Balding) and Dhabab (John and Thady Gosden) complete the line-up.
Ante-post favorite MC Muldoon is one of six runners for Willie Mullins in the Together For Racing International Cesarewitch.
The Closutton handler has saddled the last three winners of the prestigious staying handicap and appears intent on adding to his tally – with MC Muldoon joined by defending champion Great White Shark, Micro Manage, Whiskey Sour, Burning Victory and Foveros.
Mullins, no stranger to making history, is bidding to become the first trainer to win a fourth Cesarewitch since Matthew Dawson equalled William Day’s record in the race with Stone Clink in 1886.
He said: “Any of those long-distance handicaps are always a target. The prize-money has moved up significantly in the race as well, and chasing big prize-money is always another of our targets.
“With the two combined together, it becomes an obvious race to go for – and as we buy a lot of ex-Flat horses to go jumping, it is easy for them to switch back into a race like this.
“The Cesarewitch is something we can consider for a number of our horses, so we keep it in the back of our mind – and as the season goes on, we sharpen the focus a little bit more for the right ones.
“It is a privilege to have horses good enough to compete in these races and it would be an honor to equal the record. We are going to give it a good go with the team that we are bringing over.”
Of his runners, Mullins added: “MC Muldoon is in good shape, and I think that the track and trip will suit him. His last run over hurdles in Galway was a nice prep for this.
“The conditions of the races suited Burning Victory in France, and she will probably go back to France after this, then continue her hurdling career over the winter.
“Jason Watson gave Great White Shark a great ride in the race last year. It is going to be very tough for her to come back and be very competitive in a handicap like this after a bit of time off. She loves the track and will handle everything, so she takes her chance.
“It does seem like Whiskey Sour has been around forever, but he is still only eight and is in good shape. The trip and the ground won’t be any problem to him, so I hope he will run his usual good race.
“Foveros is an Authorized gelding that won in soft ground at Longchamp before he came to us. He ran a great race in Galway. That run puts him well in here with a chance off 8st 3lb.
“Micro Manage would definitely have the ability, and I think he should stay the trip. He might want to settle a little better, and he needs to learn a little bit more about racing.”