Lone Eagle puts his Cazoo Derby credentials on the line in the bet365 Classic Trial at Sandown on Friday.
Trainer Martyn Meade believes this Group Three contest over a mile and a quarter will reveal whether the Galileo colt justifies being aimed at the premier Classic at Epsom.
Lone Eagle progressed through the ranks as a juvenile, winning the last three of his four races, culminating in the Group Three Zetland Stakes at Newmarket.
“He improved all the time last year and did everything we asked of him. He is totally laid-back at home,” said Meade.
“He is a horse that never shows anything at home, but just gives his all on the racecourse.
“He coped with Sandown well first time out there when he was a bit unlucky, so hopefully he can go one better there this time.
“After the race on Friday it will tell us where we are and whether we need to work him on our Derby gallop at home, but so far he is going the right way.
“I think he is pretty versatile ground-wise and I don’t think he is ground dependent as far as I can ascertain, both from what we have seen at home or on the race track.”
It is a similar scenario for Charlie Appleby, who is looking forward to testing the qualifications of Yibir and Adayar.
“It’s a nice draw for Yibir (stall six). He’s done well through the winter and progressed with each run as a two-year-old, ultimately winning the Haynes Hanson and Clark Conditions Stakes at Newbury – form which got a nice boost at the start of the season,” he said.
“His preparation has gone well and we feel he’s hopefully one of our nicer middle-distance horses, so we’re expecting a nice run from him.
“It was a very pleasing victory for Adayar at Nottingham on his second start and he’s done well through the winter.
“He’s drawn down in st all one, which isn’t ideal, but it all depends on the pace angles really.
“We’re hopeful they’re two nice middle-distance horses that can start their three-year-old careers off and we’ll see where we’re pitching them in the first half of the season after Friday.”
Etonian returns to the scene of his two victories as he tries to return to winning ways after finishing down the field behind St Mark’s Basilica in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket in October.
Trainer Richard Hannon feels the step up in distance will suit the son of Olympic Glory.
“He’s in good form, he loves that track and we’ve been very happy with him over the winter,” said Hannon.
“He’s won twice there and hopefully he can do the business again, but it’s a step up again.
“In his work he looks like he wants this trip, which is a good thing.”
Belloccio takes a perfect record to the Esher track with two wins, including a Listed success at Toulouse.
Trainer David Menuisier is hoping this race will be a platform for the rest of the season.
“He’s in good form – obviously that will be his first run of the season so he’s likely to need it like the rest of my horses, but physically and mentally he’s in a good place,” said Menuisier.
“He’s unbeaten in two starts and both races have worked out really well, so we’re really hopeful that he can show a very good level of ability and let’s hope that Friday will be a stepping stone to something better down the line.”
Aidan O’Brien tests the water by sending Cork winner Sir Lucan, while Hugo Palmer saddles Irish Legend winner of his two starts to date in what looks a fascinating contest.