Defending champion Highfield Princess faces a stern examination as she attempts to join the list of repeat Coolmore Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe Stakes winners at York on Friday.

John Quinn’s stable star appears to be peaking at the right moment as she bids to replicate the brilliant performance she produced on the Knavesmire 12 months ago.

That victory came in the middle of a fantastic late-summer Group One hat-trick as she shot to the summit of the sprinting top-flight and having notched up a welcome first success of the campaign at Goodwood earlier this month, the Highfield Princess team are now ready to play their part in what is a fascinating renewal stacked with talent.

Quinn said: “We’re happy with her, it’s lovely ground and we’re drawn six of 16, which is fine.

“It’s a spicy race. I think the horse that beat her at Ascot (Bradsell) commands plenty of respect, as does the two-year-old (Big Evs) and there’s a couple of other horses there who, if they bounce back to their best, would have a chance.”

Highfield Princess will have to turn the tables with Royal Ascot conquerors Bradsell and Khaadem, who had her measure in the King’s Stand and Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes respectively, to prove victorious.

When asked if he felt she will need to be better than she was 12 months ago to successfully defend her crown, Quinn added: “She might do. We’re taking on a two-year-old and a three-year-old, both Royal Ascot winners.

“When a three-year-old wins a King’s Stand you have to sit up and take notice and the two-year-old is a Royal Ascot winner and a Goodwood winner and looks really tough, hardy and mature, so they are two and something else could pop up who at their best could be in the mix.

“Goodwood was very good, so we’re hopeful anyway. She’s done so much and people expect plenty from her, but she seems in good nick and she loves this place, which is all you can ask.”

Archie Watson’s Bradsell has not been seen since downing Highfield Princess in the King’s Stand in June, but having proven he has the speed to be a force at the minimum distance, big-race pilot Hollie Doyle is hopeful of recording her first victory in the race following her second aboard The Platinum Queen 12 months ago.

She said ahead of the Qipco British Champions Series event: “Bradsell is a really good horse and has the heart of a lion. I thought it was a great performance back down to five furlongs in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot. He beat a real sprinting star in Highfield Princess, and the pair of us were clear.

“We thought he might not have as much early speed as the Australian sprinters, but he showed more speed than ever before and really thrived down in trip. He’s our flagbearer at Archie’s and it’s great to be going to the Nunthorpe with a live chance again.”

Frankie Dettori will partner King’s Stand fourth Twilight Calls in his final Nunthorpe as Henry Candy’s five-year-old attempts to follow in the footsteps of his grandsire Kyllachy by winning this contest, while out of luck in that Ascot contest was Dramatised, who finished down the field.

Connections felt the draw and conditions were completely against Karl Burke’s filly on that occasion and having dazzled at home in the interim, are excited to see where she places in the sprinting pecking order.

“It was a non-event at Ascot, we thought we were drawn on the wrong side,” said Joe Foley, racing manager for owners Clipper Logistics.

“Danny (Tudhope) came in and said he looked up two furlongs out and they were a long, long way behind. She was just on the wrong side and also the ground was quite dead on the first day of Ascot and she needs fast ground, hence we missed the King George at Goodwood.

“We’ve had a bit of a frustrating summer waiting for fast ground for her, but it looks like we’re going to get it Friday. She has been working very, very well, so it’ll be interesting to see where she stands with the proper Group One sprinters now that she is a mature three-year-old and is getting her ground.

“It will be interesting to watch and we’re looking forward to seeing her run.”

It cost £40,000 to supplement Big Evs into the line-up and now the Royal Ascot and Qatar Goodwood Festival scorer will not only try to hand trainer Mick Appleby a first Group One triumph, but become the first two-year-old winner since Kingsgate Native in 2007.

“It’s good to be going to the Nunthorpe with a horse with a live chance and hopefully he will run well,” said the handler.

“He’s come out of Goodwood really well and we’ve got a good draw as well between two of the favourites. All being well he will run a big race.

“He will be one of my best, he will be up there with all the good ones I’ve had – Danzeno, Caspian Prince and I’m not sure of a better two-year-old we’ve had.

“It would mean a lot to have a Group One winner. It’s what every trainer tries to get and not a lot of trainers ever actually do get one. So it would be nice if we could win one. Hopefully he runs really well and comes back safe and sound.”

Another handler who could enjoy their finest hour is Ed Bethell who gives his course-and-distance winner Regional a first taste of Group One action in search of a hat-trick.

Bethell said: “I’m really happy with him. I would have loved to have got a run into him, but the ground went against him and he wants fast ground. Hopefully it looks like he will get that this week.

“I’ve been really happy with in the interim period, we know he goes really well fresh and I’m looking forward to a big run.

“He’s got a good draw right in the middle which means we can go whichever way we want. We’re drawn next to Highfield Princess and Big Evs and near Bradsell, while Live In The Dream is not far away, so there is a lot of speed in and around us which can only benefit us.

“We’re really looking forward to it and it’s exciting.”

Charlie Hills knows all about Nunthorpe success having saddled the imperious Battaash to do the double in 2019 and 2020 and he now launches a two-pronged assault on the five-furlong shootout with shock Jubilee Stakes hero Khaadem and stablemate Equality.

“Khaadem is a horse that’s got form over five furlongs and was fourth in this last season,” said Hills.

“He’s been in very good form this year and if he can reproduce that he should be going close as well.”

He added: “Equality was just drawn a little bit out of it at Goodwood I thought, and he struck into himself as well.

“It’s going to be competitive, but if he runs like he did at Sandown, he’ll have a good chance of being close.”

Live In The Dream is the latest sprinter set to line up in a top-tier running of the Coolmore Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe Stakes later this month.

York’s Group One contest is shaping up to be a red-hot affair with the likes of defending champion Highfield Princess, King’s Stand winner Bradsell and a whole host of sprinting talent on course for the Knavesmire.

And Adam West’s charge looks well worth his place in the field judged on his efforts earlier in the campaign.

Having struck twice in handicaps early season, the four-year-old took the step up to Pattern level in his stride, placing in both the Palace House Stakes and the Temple Stakes at Haydock before being given a mid-season break by his handler.

He returned at Deauville earlier this month where he was only beaten a length when fourth in the Prix du Cercle, and West believes that outing in conditions which were far from ideal, will have blown away plenty of cobwebs ahead of his first outing in Group One company.

“I feel like the elements were against him a little bit and we had a rough journey over there ourselves,” explained West.

“The horses went OK and we had horrendous rain for the two-year-old we took over which made it really hard work and then we had really drying tacky ground with a strong headwind for Live In The Dream.

“We probably ran six furlongs rather than five and he was only beaten a length and had a good blow so it will see him right. But I do just feel we were a little hard done by.

“He’s come on really well, the French cuisine has obviously suited him and he enjoyed it. It was something different and the horse has never been abroad and it has really picked him up. I look forward to getting him out again because he looks a good 10 kilos better than what he went over there looking.”

Prior to that comeback run in France, West had been eyeing up a possible trip oversees with the Steve and Jolene De’Lemos-owned speedster.

However, there has now been a slight rethink and it is all systems go for York on August 26 where a bold showing could tee-up further big-race entries.

“We couldn’t quite pick up enough money to head to America, so we’ll head to the Nunthorpe now, the entry is in and we’ll take our chance there,” continued West.

“We’re not expecting to trouble the market principals, but if we can pick up a nice bit of place money it might be able to fund something next year.

“I’m not sure Dubai will be on the radar or anything like that, but it might be able to fund some bigger targets and hopefully he will be able to stick it out a bit better.

“We’re not admitting defeat for the international prospects, but we will probably just rein in targets and hunt pots on a bit of a smaller scale and then see what we can do and pick up some place money in some of the bigger ones.”

A trip to the Breeders’ Cup could be on the cards for Manaccan, despite missing the Coolmore Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe Stakes at York after a setback.

John Ryan’s crack sprinter has been a real flag-bearer for the Newmarket yard and won four times last season.

A four-year-old son of Exceed And Excel, he signed off his previous campaign with victory in a Group Three on Dundalk’s all-weather surface and opened the new campaign with a narrow defeat under a penalty when placed behind Vadream in the Palace House at Newmarket in May.

However, he was a late withdrawal from the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot and plans to go up in class at York have also been shelved.

Ryan explained: “I’m going to leave him out of the Nunthorpe. He had a bit of a hiccup in training and it has meant me giving him a few weeks’ rest.

“Basically I’m not going to get the time, or by the looks of things, the ground that I want.”

He added: “Good, good to firm is his ideal ground. I know he has run on soft ground, but that’s not his thing. He is a lot better on good, good to firm ground, and that is not what it is going to be by then, the way we are going.”

Manaccan won three of his last four runs last season, including twice in Listed company, and Ryan is setting sights higher for the Newsells Park Stud-owned colt this term.

One target could include the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita in November.

Ryan said: “He would be rated high enough for a Breeders’ Cup and there are not too many horses of his calibre in the world, and it would be a thought in our mind.

“But at this point in time, we have to only think about what is around the corner, but unfortunately what is round the corner is only a few weeks away. He’s going to be a week short of where I want him to be.

“We’ll make another plan, simple as that. I’m not rushing him back. It is not life-threatening, not a long-term issue, but it just means he is not into full work at the moment.

“It has been a tough decision to make, but it is the right decision to make and it is better to make it now and let everybody know.

“The ante-post stuff means a lot to people now and, having had a discussion with the owners, the right thing to do is not to go to York. Why rush him when there will be other things to go for?

“It is just annoying, because it is a Group One, but it’s not going to fit, so the time to pull it is now.

“He’s all right and will be back to fight another day.”

Nymphadora could have another opportunity to create some York magic with the Coolmore Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe Stakes in her sights following her impressive success in the City Walls Stakes.

Trained by Andrew Balding, the four-year-old showcased her love for the Knavesmire as a juvenile when winning the Marygate and although unsuccessful in the Lowther Stakes later that year, she made a winning return to the course on Saturday when casting a spell on her rivals to scoop Listed honours.

The daughter of No Nay Never looks to have earned herself a shot at a major sprinting prize later in the season and a return to York for the Nunthorpe on August 25 appears the obvious spot if conditions are suitable, with the Prix de l’Abbaye at ParisLongchamp (October 1) also on the radar considering Nymphadora’s love of soft ground.

“She definitely enjoys getting her toe in and loves York,” said Richard Brown, racing manager for owners St Albans Bloodstock Limited.

“She’s a multiple stakes winner and I love the way she can get to the front. In a Group One she is not going to get an easy lead but she has a lot of pace, she can get to the front and sustain, and we know she handles soft ground.

“I have not spoken to Andrew yet because we wanted to enjoy the victory, but I suppose, in my mind, I would have one eye on the Nunthorpe because she loves the track and five furlongs.

“She won the Marygate there and when she won there on Saturday she showed a lot of speed and she won pretty well in the end – she’s a quick filly. I would say we will definitely have one eye on it at least.”

Brown went on: “I think cut in the ground is important to her, so an Abbaye might also come into the thinking.

“We are going to have a crack at something and the great thing with a filly is even if she was fourth in one of those races, you can catalogue it and it’s an important thing to get on the page.”

Saturday’s City Walls triumph for Nymphadora was her second win from her four starts this term and the victory was one half of a fine weekend for owner Andrew Stone of St Albans Bloodstock, who also owns a share of Henry Candy’s Araminta who claimed the Group Three Prix Chloe at Chantilly.

Brown added: “It was a great weekend because Andrew also has a share in the filly that won the Group Three in France on Sunday. So he had two stakes winners in one weekend and he’s a very happy man at the moment.

“I’m delighted for him because he puts a lot in and it’s fantastic to see him getting these results.”

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