Lightning aims to strike
Olly Stevens is confident dual Classic runner-up Lightning Thunder remains at the top of her game ahead of her bid for a deserved top-level victory in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot on Friday.
The Dutch Art filly ran a fantastic race when narrowly denied by Miss France in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket in early May and proved that effort was no fluke when runner-up in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh three and a half weeks ago.
Stevens only began training at the start of last season, but enjoyed a Royal Ascot winner in his debut year with Windsor Castle Stakes scorer Extortionist and now wants to add a first Group One winner to his CV.
Stevens said: "She's in really good form and has done well since Ireland. She doesn't look like a filly who has run in two Classics and seems fresh and well.
"The Coronation has always been her aim - she had a complication during the winter and was not supposed to even make the Guineas.
"Fast ground and not hitting the front too soon are her ideal conditions and I think the round course at Ascot should suit her perfectly.
"I guess the worry is she could be exposed to a less-exposed filly who perhaps missed the Classics, went for something smaller and is now stepping up in class.
"Having said that, she's run two fantastic races and I think she deserves to win one.
"We are trying to keep our feet on the ground as there are a lot of good fillies in the race, including some like Kiyoshi who have fresh legs, and it looks like a very open race. But obviously I am fairly besotted by my filly.
"It goes without saying that it would be very important to my wife, Hetta, and I to win a Group One. But more than that it would mean a huge amount to justify the faith that Sheikh Fahad Al Thani and Mohammed Al Kubasi (owner) have put in us."
One of the fillies with 'fresh legs', by accident rather than design, is the John Oxx-trained My Titania.
The daughter of Sea The Stars rounded off her juvenile year with a Group Three triumph at the Curragh, but missed the Guineas at Newmarket after a late setback and skipped the Curragh Classic on account of the testing conditions.
As a result, she makes her seasonal reappearance in Berkshire and jockey Declan McDonogh admits only time will tell whether she is up to this level.
He said: "She's in good shape, the boss is happy with her and she's working well, so we're looking forward to it.
"She has her ground, which is a big plus, and we'll find out where we stand.
"It's a step up in class for her. She's won a Group Three and now we're hoping she can match up against the best, but you never really know until you try.
"It's a big step forward. Hopefully she's up to it."
My Titania is joined on the trip from Ireland by Aidan O'Brien's Tapestry, who finished tailed off when favourite for 1000 Guineas and aims to bounce back.
Her big-race-jockey Joseph O'Brien told At The Races: "We hope you can put a line through Newmarket. We had a couple of different reasons as to what happened.
"We haven't done much with her, we've freshened her up and she seems to be working nicely. She's done a couple of half-speeds and went really well, she seems to be in good form.
"I thought she handled the track well at Newmarket and going down to the three (furlong marker) I was going quite nicely but she just flattened out quite quickly.
"She's back in great form, she's fresh, has put on plenty of weight and we're hoping she can come back to her two-year-old form. If she did, she'd have to be there or thereabouts."
Like Tapestry, Clive Brittain's Rizeena and the George Margarson-trained Lucky Kristale both failed to live up to expectations on the Rowley Mile last month after excellent juvenile campaigns.
Rizeena was due to head to the Curragh, but was ruled out after she was found to have a trickle of blood coming from her nose following exercise late in her preparation.
Brittain said: "She's all set to go and she's in very good form, so we are looking for her to bounce back to her best.
"She couldn't be in better health and her work has been good. She was working well before the Guineas and it surprised us how she ran there.
"She's won twice on fast ground at Ascot on the straight track and has won going right-handed at the Curragh, so we're looking forward to it."
Margarson is similarly hopeful Lucky Kristale can prove her Newmarket showing all wrong, with Richard Hughes taking the ride for the first time.
"She's on course, everything has gone well since the Guineas and she's in good shape," said Margarson.
"Everything that could go wrong did go wrong in the Guineas. She always gets a bit warm, but she got unusually agitated, banged her head on the stalls and got a bit keen.
"She worked really well under Jimmy Quinn last Saturday. We were a bit 50-50 about Ascot up until then, but she was really good and that gave us the green light.
"The fast ground will really suit her and whether she'll stay a mile, your guess is as good as mine, but she's been working over seven furlongs with Excellent Guest and the gang and her work suggests she will stay.
"We'll see what Hughesie can do on her and hopefully she can bounce back.
"If she wins I'm sure they'll say it wasn't a great renewal of the Coronation, but that won't bother me!"
The Marco Botti-trained Euro Charline was fifth in the Guineas and the Newmarket-based Italian hopes his filly will benefit from missing the trip to Ireland.
He said: "She is in good form and won't mind the ground.
"We decided not to run in the Irish Guineas, so she is nice and fresh, having had a nice break since Newmarket.
"It's a tough race, but I thought she was not disgraced in the Guineas, so hopefully she can run another good race."
Kiyoshi was a brilliant winner of the Albany Stakes at last year's Royal meeting but, like My Titania, has missed the early-season Classics and makes her first start of the year.
French raider Lesstalk In Paris, American runner Rosalind, J Wonder, Radiator and Sandiva complete a 12-runner field.