Inspiral and Big Rock set for clash in Lockinge

Six-time Group 1 winner Inspiral and French raider Big Rock are on course for a major mile clash at Newbury on Saturday with the talented pair among 11 confirmations for the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes (3.35).

Inspiral, who is the only mare in the line-up, will be making her first start since her success at the Breeders' Cup last November. She is expected to provide Kieran Shoemark with a huge opportunity to record his first big winner since replacing Frankie Dettori as first-choice rider for the powerful John and Thady Gosden operation.

Inspiral, photo Liesl King

Big Rock was the world's highest-rated miler last year after blowing away a top-quality field in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day at Ascot in October and he returns to Britain having since moved yards from Christopher Head to Maurizio Guarnieri. The stable switch was made with owner Yeguada Centurion wanting to support the Chantilly-based trainer at the start of his career.

The sole international challenger was cut to 7-4 favourite with Coral on Monday as Inspiral drifted to 15-8. She remains at the head of the market with most other firms.

Spokesperson David Stevens said: "Despite switching trainers since his QEII victory, Big Rock made such an impression at Ascot last October that he's now clear favourite to win another Group 1 on British soil, while any significant rain at Newbury this week would also be in his favour."

Roger Varian won the last Group 1 staged in Britain when Elmalka sprung a 28-1 surprise in the 1,000 Guineas and he is set to field Charyn, who made it 2-2 this season when landing the Sandown Mile last month. He defeated Simon and Ed Crisford's Poker Face, who could renew the rivalry at Newbury.

Modern Games won the race for Godolphin 12 months ago and their only chance of victory will come from the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Real World, with Tribalist among the most high-profile names to be scratched. The Andre Fabre-trained runner was a 12-1 shot having won the Group 2 Prix du Muguet at the start of the month.

Also removed was Lord North, Elegant Man and Lord Massusus while Audience, Dear My Friend, Flight Plan, Hi Royal, Royal Scotsman and Witch Hunter remain in contention.

Elsewhere, Ryan Moore will have his first ride on classy mare Bluestocking in the Group 3 Sky Sports Racing Aston Park Stakes (1.50). The Ralph Beckett-trained runner is back following a fine three-year-old season in which she recorded two close seconds in Group 1 company, finishing half a length behind Savethelastdance in the Irish Oaks and a neck off Poptronic in the Fillies & Mares Stakes on Champions Day.

Her opposition includes the admirable eight-year-old Hamish, who won at the track last time out, and Middle Earth who is set for his seasonal comeback.

Relief Rally will put her Commonwealth Cup credentials on the line in the Listed Highclere Castle Gin Carnarvon Stakes (2.25).

Going update: rain on the way at Newbury
Newbury is expected to be hit with between 12-20mm of rain before Saturday's Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes but clerk of the course George Hill does not expect the ground to change much from its description of good.

Heavy rainfall is in the forecast for Monday night and in the build-up to the first of the two-day meeting on Friday but warm temperatures will ensure conditions do not change too much.

Hill said on Monday afternoon: "We're due bits of rain throughout the week, but mainly on Monday night into Tuesday and Thursday night. Overall, I think we're due between 12-20mm but we'll know a bit more where we're at by Tuesday afternoon.

"I think we'll get about 5-10mm tonight and we'll see how the track reacts. It has dried up quite nicely over the last five or six days as temperatures have been pretty warm. The rain will knock it back a bit but hopefully with the quantity we're expecting and the temperatures staying around 16C this week it won't change too much. We could do without that much rain forecast but we'll see what comes.

"The track's had a nice four-week break and it's in nice condition. We'll have a bit of fresh ground on the bends for day two, the stalls will be on the stands' side on Friday and in the centre on Saturday." 

Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes confirmations
Audience John and Thady Gosden
Big Rock Maurizio Guarnieri
Charyn Roger Varian
Dear My Friend Charlie Johnston
Flight Plan Karl Burke
Hi Royal Kevin Ryan
Poker Face Simon and Ed Crisford
Real World Saeed bin Suroor
Royal Scotsman Paul and Oliver Cole
Witch Hunter Richard Hannon
Inspiral John and Thady Gosden

Coral: 7-4 Big Rock, 15-8 Inspiral, 5 Charyn, 7 Poker Face, 12 Royal Scotsman, 16 Flight Plan, 25 Real World, 33 Dear My Friend, 40 Audience, Hi Royal, Witch Hunter