The 2017 G1 Japan Cup victor Cheval Grand will arrive in the UK later this month ahead of racing against some of Europe's leading lights in the £1.25-million G1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes at Ascot on Saturday, July 27.
A plethora of stars feature among the 38 entries for the 12-furlong highlight, details of which are revealed today, headed by dual G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe heroine Enable (John Gosden, 5/2 favourite with Ascot's official bookmaker Betfred), plus the two most recent winners of the G1 Investec Derby in 2018 victor Masar (Charlie Appleby, 16/1 with Betfred) and 2019 winner Anthony Van Dyck (Aidan O'Brien IRE, 8/1).
Cheval Grand (16/1) has finished third in the two latest editions of the G1 Arima Kinen, one of Japan's premier middle-distance contests staged at Nakayama just before Christmas.
The seven-year-old had his first start outside of Japan when putting up an excellent performance to come home second to Old Persian in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan, UAE, on March 30.
Four Japanese-trained horses have contested the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes, with Cheval Grand's sire Heart's Cry faring best when a close third behind Hurricane Run in 2006. The others were Sirius Symboli (1985, 8th), Air Shakur (2000, 5th) and Deep Brillante (2012, 8th).
Yasuo Tomomichi, trainer of Cheval Grand, said: "It is a great honour for me to send a runner for such a prestigious race at Ascot and I am very excited.
"Cheval Grand's sire Heart's Cry ran very bravely in King George in 2006, finishing third behind Hurricane Run and Electrocutionist.
"In fact, I recently had a call from Kojiro Hashiguchi, the trainer of Heart's Cry who stopped training two years ago, and he has given me some useful advice.
"I would like to win the King George for Japan."
Hurricane Run's trainer Andre Fabre is likely to be represented by Waldgeist (12/1). Now a five-year-old, Waldgeist looked as good as ever on his latest start when swooping to victory in the G1 Prix Ganay at Longchamp, France, on April 28.
Enable, an impressive winner of this race in 2017, and Sea Of Class (William Haggas, 9/2) could renew rivalries, having being separated by a short-neck in the G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in October. Sea Of Class is set to make her 2019 reappearance at Royal Ascot next week in the G1 Prince Of Wales's Stakes.
Ireland's 21-time champion Flat trainer, Aidan O'Brien, has 18 entries in total. As well as Investec Derby hero Anthony Van Dyck, O'Brien's team features impressive G1 Tattersalls Gold Cup scorer Magical (6/1) and G1 Investec Oaks second Pink Dogwood (16/1), plus Japan (16/1) and Broome (20/1) who were third and fourth respectively in the Investec Derby. There are 19 Irish-trained entries in total, with O'Brien's son Joseph having engaged 2018 Irish Derby victor Latrobe (50/1).
O'Brien has sent out four winners of King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes, most recently Highland Reel in 2016.
Sir Michael Stoute is the most successful trainer in King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes history with six wins, after Poet's Word led home a one-two for the stable in 2018.
Newmarket-based Stoute has two entries this year, made up of 2018 neck runner-up Crystal Ocean (5/1), unbeaten on his two starts so far in 2019, and G3 scorer Mirage Dancer (25/1).
In addition to 2018 Derby winner Masar, the famous blue silks of Godolphin could also be represented by 2018 G1 Melbourne Cup hero Cross Counter (16/1) and Prix Ganay third Ghaiyyath (25/1).Both horses areboth trained by Charlie Appleby.
Other high-profile entries include Defoe (Roger Varian, 10/1), who got the better of Kew Gardens (Aidan O'Brien IRE, 14/1) in the G1 Coronation Cup at Epsom Downs on May 31.
The G1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
The is a scratchings stage at noon on Tuesday, July 9, with the five-day confirmation and £80,000 supplementary entry stage on Monday, July 22.
Betfred spokesman Matt Hulmes said "It is another stellar entry for the midsummer highlight at Ascot, with the market headed by two female equine superstars.
"Enable is the 5/2 favourite and will be hoping to regain her title having missed last year's race through injury, while 9/2 second favourite Sea of Class will be looking for revenge over John Gosden's mare after her narrow Arc de Triomphe defeat. Fingers crossed they both turn up in top form and recreate that stunning finish at Longchamp in October.
"With Magical fourth in the betting at 6/1, the market has found favour with the fillies and mares, who have landed three of the last seven runnings of this prestigious prize."