Niven targets Cup double
Peter Niven hopes Clever Cookie can give him another day to remember by claiming back-to-back victories in the Betway Yorkshire Cup on Friday.
The evergreen nine-year-old, who is also owned by Niven, recorded the most significant success of his career in the Group Two contest on the Knavesmire 12 months ago.
Niven said: "He has had a bit of an interrupted sort of 'prep'. But for the last six weeks he has been good. He has done enough to warrant a run, put it that way.
"He has got a little bit lazier, like the rest of us as we get older. But he is still very enthusiastic.
"He loves going out every day – he loves the routine. He is very happy in himself."
Last year's victory was an emotional one, especially as Niven's mother, who bred the horse, was also at York to watch.
The Malton handler said: "I look back very fondly on it. They've all been great days in their own right but that was obviously the biggest win.
"But the fact that the whole family was there – my mother was down from Scotland – was very nice."
"He is very important to us. He's the top man in the yard and hopefully can stay like that for another couple of years. He gets a lot of attention."
Connections of the John Gosden-trained Muntahaa believe the softer surface should not be an inconvenience as he bids to back up his Group Three success in the John Porter Stakes at Newbury in April.
Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Hamdan Al Maktoum, said: "He won nicely at Newbury the other day. He is a bit more relaxed this year and settled a lot better last time.
"He was a bit fresh at Doncaster first time out and Jim (Crowley) was the first to say if he had ridden the race again he would have ridden him differently as they got racing a long way out.
"The plan last time was to ride him patiently and that seemed to work well. I like the way he applied himself at the end of the race at Newbury.
"He probably won't mind the easy ground as long as it doesn't get too soft but you never truly know until they try it."
Ralph Beckett feels everything should be to the liking of 2015 St Leger winner Simple Verse, who will be making her first start in seven months.
He said: "She's in good form and went well when she worked on Monday morning. The ground should be ideal, as should the track and trip.
"I have the Gold Cup in mind, and this is the best place to start.
"Last season she was down and then up – things went well once we upped her in trip.
"Her last two starts were excellent and we are very pleased to have her back.
"She certainly ran to the same level last year as when at her peak at three. I don't know if she's going to improve this year, but she might not need to.
"She trains with plenty of enthusiasm, so she is relatively straightforward to get fit."
Charlie Appleby predicts a bold show from last season's Lancashire Oaks heroine Endless Time as she attempts to make a winning return for the third year in succession ahead of a possible Ascot Gold Cup tilt.
He said: "I'm pleased with the way that she has wintered and I feel that we have got her in great condition for her first start of the season.
"The conditions there should suit her, both in terms of the trip and the ground. She is proven on soft ground and has put up two good performances at Group One level.
"We have got her in the Gold Cup and if conditions came up with some ease in the ground we would take that into serious consideration."
Hugo Palmer is confident the step up in trip will enable the lightly-raced Crimean Tatar to take the next step forward in his career – despite being in the dark over the four-year-old's ability to handle the possibility of soft ground.
He said: "I think it was a combination of the ground being too firm and the trip being short at Newbury (fourth in the John Porter), but it was only the third run of his career.
"Immediately after that race we thought he was a Yorkshire Cup horse and here we are. The horse has been in good shape since.
"Obviously he has huge scope for progression. The extra distance will help, but it is very different ground conditions.
"While the ground was too quick at Newbury, it could be too slow at York. The horse is learning and we will learn more about him after Friday."
Royal runner Dartmouth, who won the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot last season, has also been declared by Sir Michael Stoute.
The field is completed by the Hughie Morrison-trained Marmelo and High Jinx, who will be making his first start for Tim Easterby.