Bird in full flight for York
Views from connections ahead of Thursday's "Betfred £10 Million Scoop6 This Saturday" Middleton Stakes at York.
Trainer Roger Charlton is hoping Thistle Bird can repay the faith of connections ahead of her seasonal reappearance in the "Betfred £10 Million Scoop6 This Saturday" Middleton Stakes at York on Thursday.
The six-year-old won three Listed prizes during a fine campaign a couple of years ago and raised her game again last season with narrow defeats at Group One level in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood and the Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp.
Charlton: "I don't think it was a difficult decision to keep her in training, but it was a game one from the owners.
"She has paid her way every season she has raced, she's been very consistent.
"She seems in good form and I've been happy with her preparation.
"I just hope it dries up a bit. She acts with cut in the ground but I wouldn't want it to turn into a real slog first time out when fitness will be at a premium."
The Ralph Beckett-trained Secret Gesture showed her worth at the highest level as a three-year-old, finding only stable companion Talent too strong in the Oaks at Epsom before placing in the German Oaks and the Yorkshire Oaks at this track.
David Redvers, racing manager for part owners Qatar Racing, is anticipating a bold show on her return from over seven months off the track.
He said: "She's in great form, she looks superb and Ralph is very happy with her. Ralph's horses are running very well, so we're looking forward to seeing how she gets on.
"She's very well and quite adaptable ground-wise. She can flick off quick ground and we also know she goes through soft ground.
"It's drying out all the time and it might just be a bit sticky, which is the only worry.
"Hopefully she goes there with a great chance.
"The aim is to try and win a Group One with her as soon as possible."
The Lark must carry a penalty for winning the Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster last September and trainer Michael Bell admits that weight concession will make life tough on the Knavesmire.
Bell said: "The actual structure of the race means she is the victim of her own success by winning the Park Hill.
"She improves significantly for her first run, but so will the majority of the field.
"She's done well over the winter, but it won't be easy, running against a horse like Ambivalent, who is coming back from a very good run at Meydan."
Ambivalent is, indeed, a major contender after she finished third against the boys in the Dubai Sheema Classic at the end of March.
Trainer Roger Varian is, however, concerned about the likely underfoot conditions for last year's runner-up.
He said: "She's in good form and I've been very pleased with her since Dubai, but we will be keeping an eye on the ground.
"I would like it to dry out a little bit. All of her best form is on quicker ground and while I know it's not going to be that, I would like it to be good.
"If conditions aren't suitable I think we'll sit tight for the time being and give the Middleton a miss, but she's in good form and if she does take her chance I would hope she'll run very well.
"She rarely runs a bad race and I think she brings some of the best form into what looks a quality race."