Dreams of greatness rest in Saddlers' Hall: Richard Edmondson seeks a stylish Princess of Wales victory for the opening day of Newmarket's July meeting

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IF THE King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot later this month is to be anything other than a canter round for St Jovite, something spectacular will have to happen at Newmarket this afternoon.

In the wake of the staggering achievement by Jim Bolger's colt in the Irish Derby nine days ago, Saddlers' Hall, Britain's best chance of keeping the King George at home, will have to produce a similarly awesome display in the Princess Of Wales's Stakes.

Michael Stoute's colt proved a month ago in the Coronation Cup at Epsom that he has matured into a Group One horse, though his performance lacked the elan of St Jovite's Classic success. Dropped down a grade today, Saddlers' Hall (4.10) must dispose of Mashaallah clinically if he is to make the King George a serious contest.

At least his trainer has a pedigree in the race, having taken it with Rock Hopper last year and Shardari in 1986. Stoute has a similar record in the day's other Group event, the Cherry Hinton Stakes, following the victories of Top Socialite (1984) and Kerrera (1988) and should also build on that with Mystic Goddess (3.05).

The filly won a maiden at Leicester in May before being a victim of officially the best performance ever by a juvenile at Royal Ascot when Lyric Fantasy won the Queen Mary Stakes.

Mystic Goddess's principal rival today is Lyric Fantasy's stablemate Niche, who provided Lester Piggott with his only winner at the Royal meeting. She, however, has earned a 5lb penalty for her Norfolk Stakes success and that may prove insuperable.

The opening televised race should go to a filly whose two- year-old movements were confined to the gallops, John Hills's Jade Vale. 'She was a backward filly, tall and leggy, and though she was going well last year I got to the stage with her where I was paying with strength for fitness. A bit of work was making her weaker rather than stronger so we just decided to leave her alone.'

Such patience paid off quickly this year when JADE VALE (nap 2.35) won on her second outing at Goodwood, though it came in a manner which prompted a false diagnosis.

'At the time she was a filly I didn't know a lot about,' Hills said. 'When she won over seven furlongs at Goodwood, Lady Debra Darley (Richard Hannon's filly) was coming at me at the end and the conclusion Michael (his jockey brother) drew, and the one I went with, was that she might show her turn of foot better over a mile. But, in fact, it was the other way round and she wasn't quite getting home.'

That was confirmed at Ascot 17 days ago, when Jade Vale faded into ninth in an eight-furlong race. She has been dropped 5lb for that run and subsequently elevated to the top of at least one set of statistics. 'According to my handicapping figures she comes out top- rated,' Hills said.

'It is test-the-water stuff really as I'm going back from a mile to six furlongs, and I'm starting to chase around a little with her, but I think she's got a great chance. It's not going to be the steamer of the day or anything but I fancy her. She's in great order.'

Victory here would also provide a pointer for the chances of Lady Debra Darley (next best 3.35), who looks remarkably well handicapped if the form of her recent disposal of Rose Indien at Salisbury is a reliable guide.