Aidan O’Brien’s Passion begins her season in the Group Two Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Middleton Fillies’ Stakes on the second day of York’s Dante meeting.
The Galileo filly, who contested a string of Group contests last season, is stepping down in trip on Thursday to a mile and two and a half furlongs before potentially returning to longer distances.
O’Brien reports the four-year-old to be in good form for her seasonal return.
“She was very consistent last year and seems in good form, but she’s just ready to start,” he said.
“She’s versatile regarding trip, but I imagine as the season goes on she’ll be stepping back up. A mile and a half is probably her best trip.
“She’s got to start somewhere, and this looked the right race for her.”
Roger Varian’s Cabaletta also returns after spending much of her three-year-old campaign running over distances of a mile and half and a mile and six furlongs.
“She’s in great form and has been training really well,” said the Newmarket trainer.
“She’s a filly who stays a mile and a half. But she’s not short of pace, and her runs over 10 furlongs as a three-year-old were very good.
“I think this is a lovely race to start her season off in – and I would expect her to run well.”
Jessica Harrington is represented by Silence Please, who travels to England for the first time after ending last season with a second-placed run over a mile and a half at Leopardstown.
“She’s going over for her first run of the year – we’re very happy with her at home, and there’s an opportunity for her there,” said Harrington.
“She has won over the trip before – she won a Listed race over this trip, and the ground will suit very well if it keeps good.”
Sir Michael Stoute’s Queen Power heads the market, having been narrowly beaten in the Group Two Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket on her first run of the year, with Ralph Beckett’s Chamade and Mark Johnston’s Freyja also entered.
Nigel Tinkler’s Acklam Express is a leading fancy for the British Stallion Studs EBF Westow Stakes, a Listed race over five furlongs.
The three-year-old spent the early part of the year in Dubai, where he was campaigned in a trio of Group contests at Meydan.
Placed in all of those runs in the Middle East, the gelded son of Mehmas capped his excursion with an excellent third in the Group One Al Quoz Sprint, a race in which he came home only three-quarters of a length behind the winner.
Tinkler reports Acklam Express in fine shape, although any furthering softening of the ground would not be welcomed despite the horse having won the Listed Julia Graves Roses Stakes on soft Knavesmire turf last season.
“He’s been absolutely fine – he’s had a couple of easy weeks and now he’s in mint condition,” said Tinkler.
“I think he’ll run well – he’s very well in himself.
“The less rain the better for us. He has form on soft ground on the course anyway, but we don’t want the rain.
“He’s very well, and we’re very happy.”
Also entered is Marco Botti’s Atalis Bay, who won on his seasonal comeback at Nottingham in early April.
Botti considers the colt to have matured over the winter, although he too is hoping that there is no further rainfall.
“He’s in good form – we were pleased with the way he ran at Nottingham after a break,” he said.
“He won nicely. He seems to have filled out over the winter and he looks stronger this year.
“Having said that, last year he didn’t run his best races on softish ground, so we’re hoping the ground won’t be too soft.
“Otherwise, it’s a step up in class – and there are two nice horses there that are rated quite high. But this seems to be his best trip, and we’re really looking forward to running him.”
Acklam Express and Winter Power are the two Botti is most wary of, but his charge beat both Muker and Burning Cash at Nottingham.
He added: “Obviously the favourite (Acklam Express) is a proper horse.
“He’s rated 110, and the joint-favourite (Winter Power) is rated highly as well. The rest are probably similar types of horses, so he could run well as long as the ground doesn’t go too soft.”
Winter Power signed off last season with two victories in the Listed Harry Rosebery Stakes at Ayr and the Group Three Cornwallis Stakes at Newmarket and makes her seasonal comeback, while First Company finished third and fifth behind the filly in those races respectively.
Dexter Belle lines up after winning on her first start of the season when taking a novice event at Pontefract in April, with Richard Fahey’s Internationaldream and Geoff Oldroyd’s Never Say Never making up the field of nine.