The Fugue is pitch perfect
View from connections ahead of Saturday's Group One Coral-Eclipse at Sandown Park.
John Gosden is under no illusions about the task facing The Fugue as she aims to follow up last month's Royal Ascot triumph in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.
The five-year-old clinched her fourth Group One victory with a brilliant display in the Prince of Wales's Stakes in Berkshire and is due to turn out less than three weeks later, providing ground conditions do not deteriorate.
"It's only two and a half weeks since Ascot and remember that when they go and break track records, even if it looks as if they've done it easily, it's a big ask," Gosden told Betfred TV.
"I always feel these races are quite concertinaed, but we are happy with her.
"She wasn't well when she ran in the race last year. Going into it her blood tests and everything were perfect, but it wasn't so perfect coming out of the race.
"That can happen, they can be literally incubating something and it doesn't show in any tests the day before, yet with the stress of the journey and the race it explodes.
"She's won an awful lot of Group Ones since."
The Eclipse traditionally provides the first opportunity for top-class three-year-olds to test their powers against their elders and this year's renewal no exception.
Five three-year-olds feature among the 12-strong field and Simon Marsh, racing manager for The Fugue's owners, Lord and Lady Lloyd-Webber, is looking forward to seeing how they match up.
Marsh said: "The filly is absolutely fine. We'll be keeping a close eye on the weather, but as long as the ground is fast she'll be there.
"She's in very good form and ready to take her chance in what looks a very good race.
"Night Of Thunder is a 2000 Guineas winner and Kingston Hill was second in the Epsom Derby, so it will be interesting to see how good the three-year-olds are this year, but they do look a pretty good bunch."
Night Of Thunder engaged in a fascinating rematch with 2000 Guineas runner-up Kingman at Royal Ascot, but he was clear second best in the St James's Palace Stakes.
He steps up to a mile and a quarter for the first time and connections are confident the extra distance is within his compass.
Hannon told Racing UK: "He's the sort of horse you don't really notice, and I think that's what will stand him in good stead for Saturday - the fact that he is so relaxed and he's very economical when he races.
"He gives himself every chance of staying a mile and a quarter. At Ascot he was beaten fair and square, just beaten by a better horse on the day. I don't think you could say we were unlucky in any way. He (Kingman) is an exceptional horse, but our fellow is very good.
"Hughesie had a job pulling him up after the line so that suggests to me he might be crying out for this mile and a quarter. My worry is that it might get a bit rough around that top bend, he's not massively experienced.
"We like our horse and hopefully there's more to come with this change in trip."
Kingston Hill finished a well-beaten eighth behind Night Of Thunder in the Guineas, but showed big improvement to chase home Australia in the Derby when stepped up to a mile and a half.
Having missed a second clash with Australia in last weekend's Irish Derby on account of fast ground, any rain that falls at Sandown will be to his advantage as he come s back in trip.
"I'm very happy with the horse, he's in great shape. Since Epsom I've been delighted with his condition," said trainer Roger Varian. "Up in trip over a stiff 10 furlongs, the ground does become less of an issue.
"But what we are always afraid of if the ground is too firm is risking a horse which would jeopardise our plans later in the year, which is what we are reluctant to do.
"He has a real spring in his step and I wouldn't have thought that trip will have a bearing. Possibly 10 furlongs could be his trip, but he certainly got the trip at Epsom. Sandown on a stiff track should be right up his street."
Aidan O'Brien has saddled five previous Eclipse winners in Giant's Causeway (2000), Hawk Wing (2002), Oratorio (2005), Mount Nelson (2008) and So You Think (2011).
This year the Ballydoyle team are represented by American import Verrazano, who steps up in trip having finished second in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot, and War Command, who was behind Night Of Thunder at Newmarket and at Ascot.
O'Brien said: "We're very happy with War Command and Verrazano and think they are progressing well."
Another intriguing challenger for Ireland is Trading Leather, who runs in the Godolphin blue for trainer Jim Bolger.
Last year's Irish Derby winner suffered an odds-on reverse on his seasonal reappearance in the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket, but Bolger expects considerable improvement.
He said: "He is in good form, I'm very happy with him. He was too fresh the last day, but he's fine now. When he dropped in they pulled up in front and it was just a mess of a race from there.
"This will be a better-run race, so we're hoping for a better run. We'd be hoping that the ground stays good, if it doesn't we'll have a problem. It looks a race to savour."
Mukhadram has dined at the top table for the last 12 months, placing in last year's Prince of Wales's Stakes and the Eclipse, and kicked off 2014 with a tremendous run to finish second in the Dubai World Cup.
He finished a creditable fourth behind The Fugue upon his return to Royal Ascot last month and trainer William Haggas feels he is capable of improvement.
Haggas said: "Mukhadram seems fine. I don't think we saw the best of him at Royal Ascot but Saturday should tell us more. He ran in Dubai in March, but effectively the Prince of Wales's Stakes was his first run back and it did not really go as we had hoped.
"Admittedly, he was beaten by three of the best horses around at the moment. He plugged on and in no sense was it a bad run, but we had hoped for more.
"I think this Eclipse is a stronger race than last year - it has more depth and the three-year-olds seem to be a good crop. But I also think that Mukhadram is a better horse than a year ago - he's much more mature and focussed.
"A lot of people are going to see what the weather does and, just like The Fugue, Mukhadram would prefer it if there was no rain."