The Prince of Wales's Stakes is shaping up to be the clash of the week at Royal Ascot with last year's Derby hero Masar and Crystal Ocean set to join an already sparkling line-up for next Wednesday's Group 1.
Both had Saturday's Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes over a mile and a half as an alternative target but were on Wednesday revealed to be in line to take on the likes of last season's Irish Oaks winner and Arc runner-up Sea Of Class, the smart Magical and crack French middle-distance performer Waldgeist in the shorter contest over a mile and a quarter.
Masar, photo Liesl King
Masar's trainer Charlie Appleby revealed the news on Wednesday morning after watching Godolphin's four-year-old – who has not run since his Epsom success – sail through his last routine piece of work in Newmarket, describing the Prince of Wales's as "the percentage call".
Appleby was particularly taken with how Masar had come out of a racecourse gallop at the July course last weekend, saying: "We had hoped to get him on the Limekilns but they were closed after the rain, as were our own grass gallops, so we had to send him up the all-weather. He went nicely in some routine work under Brett Doyle and the most pleasing thing is how he's come out of his spin on the July course.
"He looks well toned up and Royal Ascot is hopefully be on the cards. We'll consult with Sheikh Mohammed and see how the ground is but at the moment the percentage call would be the Prince of Wales's Stakes rather than the Hardwicke."
Last year's Hardwicke winner Crystal Ocean was also given the green light on Wednesday morning for the Prince of Wales's, in which he will be ridden by Frankie Dettori for the first time.
Owned by Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, the consistent five-year-old has yet to break through at the highest level, but has won six Group races and has finished second in a St Leger, King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Champion Stakes.
After watching Crystal Ocean in a workout under Dettori on the Al Bahathri Polytrack in Newmarket, trainer Sir Michael Stoute said: "Crystal Ocean is in good shape and the plan is to go for the Prince of Wales's Stakes with Frankie to ride."
Bookmakers reacted to the news by trimming Crystal Ocean to 5-1 from a best priced 6-1, while Masar remained unchanged at a general 8-1. The market is headed by the William Haggas-trained Sea Of Class at 5-2, with the Aidan O'Brien-trained Magical just behind her at 11-4.
With William Buick still sidelined with post head-injury syndrome, Masar will ridden for the first time since his two-year-old days by fellow Godolphin jockey James Doyle, leaving the William Haggas-trained Sea Of Class – who has been partnered by Doyle in all six of her starts – without a partner.