Key questions as Mirage Dancer and Barsanti renew rivalry in Group 2 clash at Newmarket

3.35 Newmarket
Princess of Wales's Arqana Racing Club Stakes (Group 2) | 1m4f | 3yo+ | RUK/ITV3

Mirage Dancer may head the market but he faces a rival who outpointed him at Ascot in May, when Barsanti landed the Listed Buckhounds Stakes by a neck.

Runner-up in last year’s Hardwicke Stakes, Barsanti was below his best when fourth in the same Royal Ascot race last month but trainer Roger Varian is hoping he can rediscover his earlier form as he chases a first win at Group level.  

“I didn’t think his run in the Hardwicke was quite up to the level of his Buckhounds win, without being able to put our finger on it,” said the trainer.

“I think a mile and a half on good to firm ground is ideal for him, but whether on the Saturday of Ascot it was just too firm, I don’t know.

“He came out of the race well and this is the type of race he should be running in. The field is closely matched and a return to the form of our win at Ascot in May will see him right there.”

Is the return to a mile and a half key for Mirage Dancer?

Favourite Mirage Dancer also heads into the race following defeat at Royal Ascot, although a clearer passage may well have seen him finish closer than fifth in the Listed Wolferton Stakes.

“He was a bit unlucky,” said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to Khalid Abdullah, owner of Mirage Dancer. “He slightly missed the break and was shuffled back in the pack in the straight but he still stayed on well and we’re hoping for a good run here.”

While the Wolferton was over ten furlongs, Mirage Dancer’s last success came at this mile and a half trip, and his Ascot run certainly suggested stepping back up in distance would benefit.

“I’d hope a mile and a half would be his optimum,” added Grimthorpe. “When he won at Goodwood two starts ago he stayed it pretty well.”

Can Best Solution produce his best after a layoff?

Highest rated in the field on official figures is Godolphin’s Best Solution, who was Group 1-placed in Europe last year and finished fifth in the Sheema Classic when last seen in action at Meydan in March. 

“We gave Best Solution a nice break after Dubai and this race looks a good starting point for his European season,” said trainer Saeed Bin Suroor.

“A mile and a half suits him, although his best form has come with ease in the ground. He's been working well and we've been happy with his preparation. We're looking for a good run.”
Bin Suroor took the race with another globetrotter, Cavalryman, in 2014.

Can Raa Atoll strike for the Classic generation?

John Gosden is responsible for the only three-year-old in the field, with King Edward VII Stakes fourth Raa Atoll joining five-year-old stablemate Muntahaa in a race Gosden last won with Lucarno in 2008.

“It wasn't the plan to make the running with Raa Atoll at Royal Ascot but he was slightly forced into it,” said the trainer. “He's come out of that in good shape and, as a three-year-old, gets plenty of weight against his elders.”

Muntahaa had Mirage Dancer and Laraaib behind when third in the Wolferton, although Jim Crowley has opted to ride Laraaib once again, with both runners owned by Crowley’s boss Hamdan Al Maktoum.  

“Muntahaa is back up in trip after his run at Ascot and will run his usual race,” said Gosden. 

Will Laraaib reverse Ascot form?

Laraaib was never in contention at Royal Ascot but had previously chased home subsequent Group 1 winner Poet’s Word in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes and a first try at a mile and a half could easily unlock more improvement.  

“He was drawn very wide and missed the break at Ascot, and it just never happened for him,” said trainer Owen Burrows. “I’d be disappointed if he runs a similar race again.

"In this grade on this ground I think a mile and a half is where he wants to be. I was chuffed to bits with his first run back and I’m hoping we can get back to that level. If he can we shouldn’t be that far away.”  

The familiar names of Duretto and Algometer complete the field, and Duretto’s trainer Andrew Balding said: “He's a very talented horse on his day. He's probably better with a little give in the ground but he's still capable on quick ground.”