Epsom Derby third Japan looks a cut above his rivals and a worthy 5/4 favourite with Ladbrokes to land the 1m 4f Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot on Friday (15:05).
This Aidan O’Brien trained son of Galileo is a full brother to Secret Gesture and Sir Isaac Newton who improved in each of his three outings as a juvenile.
After shaping with promise when a tenderly handled seventh of 13 to Sydney Opera House on debut at The Curragh, he readily landed a nine-runner maiden at Listowel.
Japan went on to round off the campaign with a gusty short-head success over stable companion Mount Everest in the Group 2 Beresford Stakes over 1m at Naas, with the pair pulling three lengths clear of the third home.
He looked the type to come into his own over middle distances as a three-year-old and was touted as the stable’s number one contender for The Derby over the winter.
Japan has had just two runs this season. He shaped really well on return to action when a tenderly handled, staying on and never nearer 5 3/4 lengths fourth of eight to Telecaster in the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York.
Miles clear on official ratings
It was an eye-catching prep run for The Derby, and he then ran a screamer in the Classic contest at Epsom when beat just half-a-length in third to stable companion Anthony Van Dyck.
After being held-up at the rear of mid-division, Japan made good headway down the outside from the three marker and ran on strongly inside the final furlong before being unable to find any extra close home.
That fine effort has earned him an official rating of 117 which puts him 10lb and upward clear of his seven rivals in this. It makes Japan impossible to oppose and he should arguably be much shorter in the betting than he currently is.
With Ryan Moore in the saddle, and the stable firmly among the winners at this meeting, Japan is fully expected to take this en route to bigger and better things.
He is thus put up as the one for punters to be on in our King Edward VII Stakes preview now eased in grade and a few yards down in trip.
Private Secretary a progressive sort
Should Japan fail to live up to expectations then Private Secretary , who can be backed at 4/1 with Paddy Power</a>, looks the obvious one to take advantage.
This John Gosden trained colt has a progressive profile and has won all three of his starts this season – showing improved form in each.
After landing a novice stakes contest at Redcar, the son of Kingman made a total mockery of hsi opening handicap mark of 83 when forging clear to win easing down over 1m 2f at Sandown by 2 1/4 lengths from Lairat.
That success saw Private Secretary pitched into Listed company and, although he only scored by a neck in the Cocked Hat Stakes over 1m 3f at Goodwood, that does not tell the whole story. He won with far more in hand than the winning margin suggests.
Frankie Dettori gave him an ultra-confident ride from the rear and, after quickening smartly to challenge inside the last, Private Secretary only had to be nudged out to score snugly.
He was well on top at the finish and it was a performance which suggested there was better to come and that he was well worth a crack at this level.
The extra furlong of this contest also promises to suit and Private Secretary once again has the services of Dettori in the saddle, who is two from two on him.
Another plus is that Private Secretary is versatile as regards ground, so it would be folly to underestimate his chances despite the fact that hs is rated 11lb below Japan.
Pablo Escobarr can’t be discounted
Pablo Escobarr is a tough and consistent sort with some solid form in the book, so looks the each-way play in the race at odds of 9/1 with BetVictor.
This son of Galileo hails from the in-form yard of William Haggas who has already bagged two valuable prizes at the royal meeting at the time of writing.
He has won once and been placed on four occasions from six starts and comes into the race on the back of a career best effort when runner-up in a Listed contest at Lingfield.
Although no match for 2 1/4 lengths winner Anthony Van Dyck, who has since gone on to land The Derby, Pablo Escaobarr stuck to the task well when headed inside the final furlong.
That run came on soft ground and Pablo Escobarr has also posted solid efforts on a variety of surfaces, so all underfoot conditions come alike to him.
Given the changing going throughout Royal Ascot work, that has to be a plus and he also has the services of James Doyle in the saddle who is riding at the top of his game at present.
On official ratings he does have 14lb to find on Japan but – on a strict form line through Anthony Van Dyck – there may well be less between them than the figures suggest.