There were few more heartening tales in the 2016 Flat season than Clever Cookie's success in the Yorkshire Cup for former top jumps jockey Peter Niven, who described him as "my only Flat horse".
Clever Cookie remains the horse most readily associated with Niven's training career, and a repeat success in this race is surely high on his agenda for this season, in spite of him failing to get out on the track already this spring – he had run twice before last year's renewal.
He also faces stiffer competition this time. Last year only one of his four rivals was officially rated 110 or more. This year five of the seven against Clever Cookie are through that barrier.
The highest rated in the race is Dartmouth, winner of the Hardwicke Stakes last year when he was also third in the King George. He steps up from middle distances into the foothills of the staying scene for the first time.
Muntahaa carries a similar sort of profile – just below the very best over a mile and a half – although he has a little more of a staying background having finished fourth in last year's St Leger.
Look out also for High Jinx, who would have been the equal of any of these at his best and starts out for Tim Easterby, 747 days since he was last seen running for James Fanshawe.
Not always a route to Gold
Sir Michael Stoute (Dartmouth) has not always used this race as the springboard to other staying prizes. His three winners in the last decade – Snow Sky, Gospel Choir and Ask – all subsequently went back to a mile and a half.
History to beat
There has only ever been one dual winner of the Yorkshire Cup: Ardross, who won the race in his two Gold Cup-winning years of 1981 and 1982.
What they say
Peter Niven, trainer of Clever Cookie
We've not had a prep run this year, which I dare say might count against us but I've done plenty with him and I'm happy. He's always run well first time up. He'll handle the ground. He won this on good to firm last year but that's the only time he's won with firm in the going. He won a Group 3 at Chester in soft ground, so he should be fine with it.
John Warren, racing manager to The Queen, owner of Dartmouth
Dartmouth is in good form and Sir Michael [Stoute] is very happy with him. It's 100 yards further than he's gone before on ground he's not encountered, but we're pretty hopeful he'll give a very good account of himself.
Tim Easterby, trainer of High Jinx
He's fit and well and in good form. We've had him two or three months, so long enough to get him fit for this. I've no idea what ground he wants, but it'll be soft and he has form on softer ground.
Hughie Morrison, trainer of Marmelo
We've been happy with him and have just kept him ticking over since Chantilly. The question was whether we went to York or waited for France a week on Sunday. He's won his Group 3 and so you have to go up the ladder. We hope the ground won't be a problem but he did break the track record at Chantilly. He broke his maiden on soft ground but that was a different kettle of fish to this.
Angus Gold, racing manager to Hamdan Al Maktoum, owner of Muntahaa
We were very pleased with him at Newbury and he's been fine since. The intention is to run as it stands, but we'll assess how the ground has raced on Thursday and make a decision then. He'd be fine on easy ground, but if it gets sticky John [Gosden] might be inclined not to run him. He's an older horse who bends his knee, so proper soft ground shouldn't be a problem and hopefully the extra two furlongs will help.
Ralph Beckett, trainer of Simple Verse
We tried to get her ready for the Dubai Gold Cup. That didn't work but we gave her a mini-break after and her work since has been good. She'll need the run but she's in good shape and she's already shown she handles cut in the ground.