American raider SHANG SHANG SHANG returned a comfortable winner on debut at Keeneland in April and commands the utmost respect for Wes Ward, who won this contest in 2013 with No Nay Never and has a fine record with his juveniles at this meeting in general. The pick of the home challenge may be Clive Cox's Konchek, who was hampered at the start at Sandown in Listed company last time but was still only beaten by half a length behind Vintage Brut in third. Kinks finished further back in sixth in the aforementioned dash at Sandown but endured a troubled passage and is thus another who could feasibly take closer order this afternoon.
Prediction : 1st Shang Shang Shang 2nd Konchek 3rd Vintage Brut
A very competitive renewal of this contest but the one who gets the nod is KEY VICTORY, who arrives here on the back of an encouraging run in the Prix du Jockey Club. He should benefit from that experience, given that it was just his third career start, and his previous Listed victory suggested that he should be more than capable of winning at this level. Hunting Horn finished in front of the selection in France but he may struggle to confirm that form today and it appears that he could be at his best over further than this trip. One to consider at a bigger price is Stephensons Rocket, who is certainly talented but he has proven to be a tricky ride in the past. The son of Teofilo was behind the selection over this trip two starts ago but he pulled extremely hard on that occasion and he was far from disgraced when finishing fifth behind Without Parole over 1m in the Heron Stakes last month. The last effort suggested that the return to 1m2f is a positive if he can settle early on and the booking of Jamie Spencer catches the eye.
Prediction : 1st Key Victory 2nd Stephensons Rocket 3rd Hunting Horn
Sun Maiden has improved massively from two to three years judged on her Salisbury romp and she deserves a crack at this pot, but it's difficult to get away from WILD ILLUSION, whose runner-up effort in the Investec Oaks is by far the best form on offer. Charlie Appleby's filly had Magic Wand (fourth) and Perfect Clarity (seventh) behind when runner-up in the Epsom Classic and although that was run on soft ground, earlier form on a quicker surface suggest that today's conditions will pose no problems. Magic Wand is likely to improve on that form, while stablemate Athena, who struck the crossbar in Listed company two starts ago, also holds each-way claims.
Prediction : 1st Wild Illusion 2nd Magic Wand 3rd Sun Maiden
This looks a fascinating renewal of the Royal Ascot centrepiece with a European flavour added by the addition of star French stayer Vazirabad, who makes his debut in the UK. He has long looked tailormade for this contest due to his style of racing and is expected to show up well. Order Of St George clearly sets the standard having won this two years ago before getting touched off in the race 12 months ago by Big Orange, but his better performances have tended to come on ground yielding some cut. STRADIVARIUS, who has conditions to suit, improved massively throughout last season when taking both the Queen's Vase at this meeting, a race which has thrown up Gold Cup winners in recent years, and the Goodwood Cup when beating last year's winner Big Orange. His subsequent efforts on ground softer than ideal were excellent with two thirds, one in the St Leger behind Capri and one on Champions Day behind Order Of St George, and his return to action this year at York suggested he was at least as good as his three-year-old campaign. The way he ran through the line at Goodwood over 2m suggested he had plenty in the tank so the extra half a mile should pose no issue. If any of the top three fail to run their races, Torcedor and Desert Skyline are both capable performers.
Prediction : 1st Stradivarius 2nd Order Of St George 3rd Vazirabad
GEORGE OF HEARTS remains thoroughly unexposed and Richard Hughes' colt arrives here on the back of a career best effort over 7f at the track last month. On that occasion the son of Kendargent was half a length behind the subsequent Goodwood winner and Jersey-bound Society Power and he might have got closer with a better trip. The step up to 1m may bring about further improvement and, given the winner's subsequent victory, a 4lb rise in the ratings may underestimate his ability. Crack On Crack On has to be respected following his Silver Bowl success last month, while Corrosive and Sam Gold are others with strong form claims. Those looking for an each-way alternative should consider Simpson, who met trouble in running when finishing sixth in the Silver Bowl. He was less than five lengths behind Crack On Crack On on that occasion and a 7lb swing in the weights may bring them much closer together.
Prediction : 1st George Of Hearts 2nd Simpson 3rd Crack On Crack On
High draws have an excellent record on the Round Course here with every renewal of this contest since 2011 going the way of a horse boasting a double-figure stall. Charlie Appleby saddles two live chances in Cross Counter, who lost his unbeaten record when second in a strong novice contest at Sandown a fortnight ago, and DUBHE, winner of a strong handicap at the same track back in April. That form took a significant boost when Communique, who reopposes, won the London Gold Cup in impressive style and the son of Dubawi has the perfect draw in stall 19 with likely improvement to come at 1m4f. Communique has solid credentials himself on that Newbury success, while others worthy of consideration include his stable companions Baghdad and Making Miracles, who finished first and second in a York handicap last month, and Corgi, who represents a yard which does very well with their handicappers at this meeting.
Prediction : 1st Dubhe 2nd Cross Counter 3rd Communique