The penultimate qualifying race for the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million is the Group 3 Henry II Stakes over 2m at Sandown this Thursday evening (19:05).
Middleham trainer Mark Johnston accounts for three of the five-runner field following the late withdrawal of last year’s winner Magic Circle and, of his trio, Dee Ex Bee looks a worthy 5/6 favourite with 888Sport despite giving weight all-round.
The Epsom Derby runner-up is penalised for his win in the grade on reappearance in the Sagaro Stakes on Royal Ascot Trials day earlier in the month.
Dee Ex Bee has untapped potential as a stayer, however, and ran some fine races in defeat last term.
As well as chasing home Masar in the premier Classic, this son of Farhh filled the same spot behind subsequent Melbourne Cup hero Cross Counter when that rival smashed the 1m 4f course record at Glorious Goodwood.
Dee Ex Bee placed third and fourth behind Kew Gardens either side of that effort in a Group 1 over in France and the St Leger at Doncaster. That is the best form on offer in relation to this contest.
There was lots to like about the way in which he finally resumed winning ways on reappearance in the Sagaro over this trip when hitting the front before two out and quickly asserting to put the race to bed.
In scoring by 3 1/4 lengths from Raymond Tusk, Dee Ex Bee got the better of some well-regarded sorts in-behind.
Although now officially rated 112, he was as high as 118 during his Classic campaign and his current mark may thus underestimate him.
With the main competition from inside his own stable, Dee Ex Bee can cement his status as an Ascot Gold Cup contender with another victory here.
Different going should see Austrian School gain revenge on Making Miracles
Those other Johnston inmates sent down from the Yorkshire Dales re-oppose from the Chester Cup.
Making Miracles acted best on the very soft surface then, making most to score impressively but was previously well-beaten by Austrian School.
The latter bolted up by six lengths in ready fashion on sounder ground in the Queen’s Cup over 1m 6f at Musselburgh.
Austrian School was highly consistent last term placing in plenty of handicaps, while Making Miracles was more hit and miss.
Official assessment has Austrian School 2lb ahead of Making Miracles, so now meeting off level weights and on good going, there’s every chance that Chester Cup form could be reversed.
At the odds on offer, then, it’s Austrian School that is fancied at 5/1 with Unibet as an each-way alternative to Dee Ex Bee.
Failing that, he should at least win a match with Making Miracles now racing on quicker underfoot conditions.
Mekong is also worth considering at 4/1 with Bethard for in-form trainer Sir Michael Stoute as a typical type from his yard who might improve as an older horse.
He ran reasonably well behind Ghostwatch twice last season when a 1 3/4 lengths fourth in the Melrose Handicap at the Ebor Festival and then half-a-length runner-up in a Listed contest at Ascot.
As Mekong is two from three starts over 1m 6f, the step up in trip should suit this son of the mighty Frankel.
With the stable operating at just shy of 33 per cent in the last 14 days at the time of riding, and Ryan Moore in the saddle, he cannot be discounted.
Rank outsider Fearsome completes the field and has won over hurdles at the trip, but doesn’t have the form on the level to match.