The son of Society Rock claimed a hat-trick of Group Two wins as a two-year-old last season, landing the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Prix Robert Papin at Deauville and the Flying Childers at Doncaster.
He signed off his juvenile campaign with a run at the Breeders’ Cup, where he was done no favours by the draw, and while he was down the field on his reappearance at Newcastle, he returned to his best with victory in the Group Three Coral Charge at Sandown earlier this month.
Stepping back up to Group Two level for the Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh, A’Ali continued his resurgence with a decisive victory under Colin Keane – and is now set to take on defending champion Battaash and July Cup hero Oxted, among others, on the Knavesmire.
Ed Crisford, who trains A’Ali in partnership with his father, Simon, said: “He was slowly into stride and ended up racing on his own to begin with, so it was a worrying first two or three furlongs, but he picked up and I thought he did it extremely well in the end.
“It’s great to win another Group Two with him. I think he’s actually improved from two to three and has strengthened up – he’s turning into a very progressive sprinter.
“He deserves to take his chance at the top level now. I’d imagine we’ll go for the Nunthorpe next month and his big target will be the Flying Five back at the Curragh in September – I think the stiff five furlongs there suits him really well.
“We’ll have to take on Battaash in the Nunthorpe and with Art Power, Oxted and the American two-year-old (Golden Pal) all looking like heading there, it should be a great race.”
Meanwhile, Enable will face a maximum of seven rivals when she bids to become the first three-time winner of the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
John Gosden’s brilliant mare was just denied in her bid for an historic third consecutive victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at the end of last season, filling the runner-up spot behind Waldgeist to end her sequence of 12 straight victories.
Less than a fortnight later, Enable’s owner-breeder Khalid Abdullah delighted racing fans by confirming his charge would stay in training as a six-year-old – with a return to Paris in the autumn top of the agenda. The daughter of Nathaniel had to make do with the runner-up spot behind Ghaiyyath when bidding for back-to-back victories in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown on her return to action earlier in the month.
However, Enable will be the hot favourite to make history under Frankie Dettori this weekend, having blown her rivals away as a three-year-old in 2017 and coming out on top in an epic duel with Crystal Ocean in last year’s renewal.
Abdullah’s racing manager, Teddy Grimthorpe, said: “We’re very happy with Enable. Everything has been straightforward since the Eclipse and we think she’s come on for that run.
“We’re looking forward to Saturday.”
Gosden has also entered his Hardwicke Stakes heroine Fanny Logan, while the other six contenders are all trained by Aidan O’Brien, with both trainers bidding to claim the prestigious prize for a fifth time.
Reacting to the entries, Grimthorpe added: “It is what it is. These big races are not supposed to be easy to win.”
“It’s not going to be a very big field, obviously, but there are only so many horses at that level.
“It’s a shame there’s no three-year-old in the race, but we’re just concentrating on our ourselves and Enable seems in good shape.”
The two chief hopes for Ballydoyle appear to be Magical and Japan.
Magical was last seen claiming her fifth victory at Group One level in the Pretty Polly Stakes, but has proved no match for Enable on a number of occasions in the past.
Japan was a little disappointing on his first start of 2020 in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, but raised his game to finish only a head behind Gosden’s superstar mare when third in the Eclipse.
O’Brien has also entered Anthony Van Dyck and Sovereign - winners of the Investec Derby at Epsom and the Irish Derby respectively last season - as well as Eclipse fourth Magic Wand and Sir Dragonet.
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