Dubai Poet bids to provide trainer Roger Varian with back-to-back victories in the Homeserve Dee Stakes at Chester on Thursday.
The Newmarket handler landed the Derby trial 12 months with El Drama, who like Dubai Poet carries the yellow and black colours of Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum.
Impressive when shedding his maiden tag at Newbury in September, Dubai Poet went on to finish third behind subsequent 2000 Guineas victor Coroebus in the Autumn Stakes the following month.
He again had to make do with minor honours when runner-up to Checkandchallenge in the Burradon Stakes at Newcastle three weeks ago and steps up to a mile and a quarter for the first time on the Roodee.
Varian said: “He probably needed the comeback run at Newcastle and we were pleased with it at the time.
“He’s got some good two-year-old form and we think he’ll get the 10 furlongs. He should handle the track and we think he’s set to run a nice race.”
The Hugo Palmer-trained Mr McCann has attracted plenty of attention, largely because of his famous footballing connections.
The Kodiac colt, who won three times as a juvenile, is named after Liverpool’s press officer Matt McCann and is owned by a group of current and former Liverpool players including James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson.
Connections are keen to give him a run in a Derby trial with a view to a potential outing in the big one at Epsom on the first Saturday in June.
“He’ll need to step up and I haven’t known him that long, but he’s got a lovely attitude and I’m pleased with his work, so we’ll have our fingers crossed,” said Palmer.
“He’s got lots of options moving forwards, he won his Derby entry last year, so we will see if he can do anything to take that up, but there’s lots of other races he could run in as well.”
Aidan O’Brien, who has won the Dee Stakes on eight occasions already, this year saddles Star Of India.
The son of Galileo bolted up on his sole juvenile start at Leopardstown and finished fifth behind Guineas runner-up Native Trail in the Craven on his reappearance last month.
Star Of India will be ridden at Chester by Ryan Moore, who told Betfair: “Impressive on his sole start over seven furlongs at two, he clearly faced a stiff task in the Craven first time up.
“He shaped very much as if this step up in trip will suit him, perhaps not surprisingly given his brother Roman Empire was a good 10-furlong performer for us before going over to Hong Kong, and hopefully you will see him in a much better light here.
“It certainly looks a winnable race, with no standout.”
Harrow is an interesting contender for trainer Andrew Balding and owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing.
The grey won a novice event at Ffos Las, a nursery at York and a valuable sales race at Doncaster last term – and rounded off his campaign by finishing third to subsequent Breeders’ Cup winner Modern Games.
So far this year he has finished second in two conditions races on the all-weather over a mile and Highclere’s managing director Harry Herbert is looking forward to see him over this longer trip.
He said: “He’s in great form and this has been the plan for a long time.
“We look forward to stepping him in trip. We think he’ll stay a mile and a quarter – we think that’s what he wants.
“Physically he’s doing really well and he’s working well at home.
“It’s a tough race and he’s got to improve on his mark, but I think he’s capable of that, so we hope he’ll be very competitive.”
The field is completed by the Charlie Hills-trained Sonny Liston and Martyn Meade’s Cresta, who were split by only a short head when fourth and fifth respectively in the Feilden Stakes three weeks ago.
“The big thing with Cresta is getting him to settle,” said Meade.
“He ran much too free at Newmarket in the Feilden and he’s always had that tendency, so we’re going to try him with the hood on.
“Hopefully Chester will suit him. I think going round a bend might help him, but we’ll see – it could be the making of him.
“He’s got so much ability, but he does need to learn to settle a bit.”