Stoute hope for big return

Sue Montgomery expects a wonderful week at York for the Newmarket trainer
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The Independent Online
ALTHOUGH it may be a risk to highlight a man whose horses have seemed out of form in recent weeks, Michael Stoute could be the man to follow when the last of Britain's big summer festivals - including three Group 1 races, a St Leger trial and one of the best handicaps of the season - opens at York on Tuesday.

The Newmarket trainer has an outstanding record on the Knavesmire, and he has won the last two runnings of the first day's highlight, the Juddmonte International, with Ezzoud. His candidate in this year's dis- appointingly small field is a three-year-old, Annus Mirabilis, who has not won this year but can come good over his ideal trip on his favoured fast ground.

After a couple of fine second places early in the season, the son of Warning had no sort of run behind Bahri - ante-post International favourite - at Royal Ascot, but then ran a blinder to finish third, beaten less than a length, in the Irish Derby. The drop back to 10 furlongs will suit Annus Mirabilis, but although Bahri's St James's Palace Stakes performance stamped him as the best of the three-year-old miling colts, his stamina for the extra quarter-mile must be taken on trust.

Older horses have a better record than the classic generation in this Group 1 event, and four-year-old Halling was undeniably impressive under Walter Swinburn in the Eclipse Stakes. By contrast, the much- travelled Eltish was ridden poorly that day at Sandown and is better judged on his close second over the distance to Muhtarram at Royal Ascot.

Thirty-five minutes after the International, Pentire is sure to start hot favourite for a cracking Great Voltigeur Stakes. And the Geoff Wragg- trained King George runner-up will have to be at his best to cope with Clive Brittain's Italian Derby winner Luso, who ran Carnegie to a neck at Saint-Cloud six weeks ago, and Stoute's Singspiel.

Of the other two Group 1 events, the Yorkshire Oaks looks at the mercy of Stoute's runaway Irish Oaks winner Pure Grain. The sprinters take the stage in the Nunthorpe Stakes on Thursday, when Jack Berry's championship candidate Mind Games will be out to make amends for his King's Stand Stakes defeat.

Races at Royal Ascot may provide the key to Wednesday's Ebor Handicap. Progressive Diaghilef caught the eye when he took the King George V Handicap, but preference is for the tough, late-finishing Son of Sharp Shot, who notched up a six-timer in winning the Bessborough Handicap before the step up to listed company at Goodwood proved too much for him.