Hot favourite Palace Pier is set to face 10 rivals in the opening Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday.
The Kingman colt won a thrilling renewal of the St James’s Palace Stakes on the same card 12 months ago – and went on to double his Group One tally in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.
John and Thady Gosden’s stable star suffered defeat on his final start of 2020 when only third in the QEII at Ascot in October.
However, having bolted up on his return to action at Sandown before slamming his rivals in the Lockinge at Newbury last month, Palace Pier is odds-on to get Royal Ascot punters off to a flyer in the hands of Frankie Dettori.
Aidan O’Brien saddles both Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Order Of Australia and Lope Y Fernandez. The latter needs to bounce back from a disappointing effort in the Lockinge on his latest appearance.
There are two previous winners of the Queen Anne in contention, with Eve Johnson Houghton’s shock 2018 scorer Accidental Agent and David O’Meara’s 2019 hero Lord Glitters both back for another shot.
Accidental Agent has not won since his Ascot triumph, but Johnson Houghton believes she has him back on form now.
She said: “He’s as well as I’ve had him since he won – I couldn’t be happier with him. We’ve all got Palace Pier to beat obviously, but I really think he could run a huge race.
“He had a lot of niggly problems, but we’ve worked everything out, and he’s had a lot of physio and a wind op.
“He’s really enjoying himself and he ran a huge race under a big weight at Newbury, where he wasn’t fit enough but I needed to get a run into him. I’m looking forward to it.”
Sir Michael Stoute’s Regal Reality and James Tate’s Lockinge third Top Rank also feature along with Prince Eiji (Roger Varian), Sir Busker (William Knight), Bless Him (David Simcock) and Pogo (Charlie Hills).
Prince Eiji was edged out by Oh This Is Us in a Listed race over course and distance on his reappearance and with the winner having subsequently struck Group Three gold at Epsom big-race rider Andrea Atzeni is hoping he can make the frame in a race that forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series.
He said: “He’s a fast-ground horse, he likes Ascot and his homework has been good. Probably none of us can beat Palace Pier, but he’s a ride I’m looking forward to and I think he’ll run big.”
The only horse not declared from the confirmation stage is Tilsit.