Late bloomer eyes the Bowl of plenty
THE European challenge for the three International races is the strongest yet and Heart Lake looks set to defy his barrier draw in the Bowl.
At first glance his claims will not be obvious to many. The poor post position aside, he was unraced as a juvenile and the fact that his most recent run this season was back in August makes his form possibly the hardest to assess of any of the raiders.
But, make no mistake, the John Oxx-trained colt has proved himself more than capable of landing the spoils.
A late developing type, this son of Nureyev did nothing but progress in his six races and, having started his campaign by landing the odds in a Gowran Park maiden in May, ended his European season with a tally of four first past the post finishes, including two Group Three contests.
On his latest start he was disqualified after beating Bin Ajwaad and Soviet Line in the Desmond Stakes at The Curragh. Both he and Soviet Line clocked useful Topspeeds that day but Michael Stoute's charge is likely to be favoured in the betting, having subsequently run up a hat-trick of wins.
In fact, it would have been four on the bounce but for finding trouble in running in the Group Two Challenge Stakes at Newmarket last time.
However, Soviet Line's speed figures suggest that he was actually showing no more than at The Curragh and the truth is Heart Lake beat his older rival strictly on merit - he lost the race in the Stewards' room because of interference with horses down the field.
Heart Lake returned home lame after that race, but his enforced lay-off may yet be a blessing in disguise.
The usual route for overseas challengers is to head for the territory as a bonus after a hard season and they often show the effects. But Heart Lake comes here fresh having been specifically trained with this race as his target.
And, considering the progressive nature of his form prior to his absence, it is quite conceivable that we have yet to see the best of this three-year-old.
Racing in the colours of Godolphin Racing, the Dubai-based arm of Sheik Mohammed's powerful operation, he was shipped to Dubai in October and anybody witnessing his trackwork can testify that he is in tip-top condition.
Young Ern was also disqualified on his latest start but, in finishing fourth to Bigstone in the Group One Prix de la Foret, he clearly ran the biggest race of his life and a repeat performance would also put Simon Dow's charge in the picture.
However, Australian galloper Rouslan appeals as the best bet for the tierce after clocking a useful time when second in a Group Three race over today's trip last time out.
Richard Quinn gets the leg up on Young Ern, but possibly his best chance of glory is on Urgent Request in the inaugural running of the Vase.
He has proved a model of consistency on the clock this season but so much will depend on tactics in this.
A natural front-runner, he will be difficult to peg back if allowed to dictate the pace. However, there are several in this field that may take him one early, notably the New Zealand raider Double Take.
Having finished fourth in the Melbourne Cup, he galloped his rivals into the ground to lift the New Zealand Cup and, although he may need further, he is capable of making Quinn's life uncomfortable on Urgent Request.
Double Trigger's Italian St Leger win is of little value but his previous third in the English St Leger was a fine effort, though he is another that is likely to find the trip on the sharp side.
Emperor Jones is another European-Dubai raider to stand out on his Topspeed ratings in the International Cup.
The John Gosden-trained four-year-old smashed the mile track record at Newbury in a Group Two race in May but without doubt his outstanding effort on the clock came when chasing home subsequent Breeder's Cup hero Barathea in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. With form over 2,000 metres the previous season, today's trip will hold no fears.