The feature race on a cracking card at York this Saturday is the valuable John Smith’s Cup (15:50) – a historic 1m 2f handicap now in its 60th year.
In a typically fierce renewal, Stylehunter makes plenty of appeal at 6/1 with Coral.
This John Gosden trained four-year-old shaped with stacks of promise to finish runner-up on his first two starts last season behind a couple of useful sorts, before getting off the mark with a facile six-length success in 10-runner maiden over 1m 2f on the all-weather at Lingfield.
Stylehunter was given an opening handicap mark of 91 on the back of that runaway victory.
He ran a blinder off it when a 2 1/2 lengths sixth of 30 to Ostilio in the Britannia Stakes over 1m at Royal Ascot.
After racing in the centre, the son of Raven’s Pass kept on nicely inside the last to be nearest at the finish.
It was an effort which suggested there was a big pot to be had with Stylehunter.
That view was confirmed when he romped to a four-length success over Easy Tiger in a five-runner affair at Goodwood over 1m 1f.
Eye-catching at Royal Ascot
He scored with any amount in hand and went on to run a solid race off 8lb higher when 11th of 33 to Wisshaickon in the Cambridgeshire at Newmarket off a rating of 100.
Stylehunter has had just two starts this season and really caught the eye in the last of those at Royal Ascot when a 2 1/4 lengths fourth of 28 to Afaak in the Royal Hunt Cup run over the straight mile.
After being slowly away, he finished with a real rattle to almost snatch third.
It was a terrific effort, given how the race panned out, and Stylehunter now meets the winner on 8lb better terms.
That should be more than enough to see him gain his revenge and the assessor has been kind in dropping him 1lb to a mark of 98.
It makes Stylehunter a huge player at the weights on the pick of his form.
The step back up to 1m 2f, a trip over which he has won once and been placed once in three tries, is a big plus.
So, with the stable also in blinding form, Stylehunter has lots going for him and looks the one to be on in the John Smith’s Cup.
Scarlet Dragon weighted to go well
In a race where a case can be made for most of the 24 runners, Scarlet Dragon looks overpriced and weighted to go well on the pick of his form.
This Alan King trained six-year-old is a course and distance winner who switches back to the level having run well in two of his last three starts over hurdles.
The son of Derby winner Sir Percy hasn’t won on the Flat since landing a 16-runner contest at Newmarket back in October 2016 off a mark of 100, but has posted some very solid efforts in defeat.
They include when a 7 1/2 lengths third to the top class Crystal Ocean in last year’s Group 3 Aston Park Stakes at Newbury off an official rating of 108.
Scarlet Dragon also ran very well when a 2 1/2 lengths third of seven to Wissahickon in a Listed contest at Lingfield over this trip where he ran on strongly having been carried out wide rounding the home turn off 106.
The form of those races is strong and suggest that Scarlet Dragon has every chance from a handicapping perspective off his current mark of 104.
With winning form in big field handicaps another plus, Scarlet Dragon also needs a strong gallop to be seen to best effect. He looks sure to get it in this.
Jockey Tom Queally has also won once and been placed once on him in four starts, so he looks to have more going for him than his odds of 20/1 with Paddy Power would suggest.
So, with that firm paying five places, Scarlet Dragon makes plenty of each-way appeal.
Aquarium can’t be ruled out in John Smith’s Cup
Given that he is 1-1 over course and distance, and hails from a yard in terrific form, Aquarium is another worth considering each-way at 33/1 with BetVictor who are also go five places.
This Mark Johnston trained four-year-old is a five-time winner and was impressive in the last of those successes at Chester back in May, when staying on strongly from off the pace to beat Epaulement by half-a-length off a mark of 101.
He then ran badly next time up when a well-beaten 10th of 11 to Soto Sizzler at Epsom, but like many from the yard quickly bounced back.
Aquarium ran very well at Royal Ascot when a keeping on 4 3/4 lengths seventh of 10 to stable companion Baghdad in the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes off his current rating of 103.
The form of that race reads well in relation to this and there were excuses for his run at Haydock last weekend when a well-beaten 15th of 17 to Kelly’s Dino in the Old Newton Cup as Aquarium stumbled badly rounding the home bend.
He lost his action and jockey Franny Norton wisely eased him down, then allowed him to come home in his own time.
Aquarium was also rated as high as 106 last year, so he is should be up to be making his presence felt of his current mark.
Norton, who is once again in the saddle, also has a healthy strike rate of just under 27 per cent on him, having won four times and been placed on four occasions from 15 rides.
This race should also be run to suit, so Aquarium thus features as another potential each-way punt and completes this John Smith’s Cup preview.