Pallasator set for Royal-Oak
Sir Mark Prescott is unsure what to expect from Pallasator in the Prix Royal-Oak at Saint-Cloud on Sunday.
Pallasator (centre) is set to run in the Prix Royal-Oak
The giant seven-year-old has developed something of a cult following over the past couple of seasons, with his considerable size and pre-race antics now infamous.
However, he has plenty of talent to go with his recalcitrant attitude and the popular stayer has enjoyed another fine campaign.
Runner-up finishes in both the Goodwood and Lonsdale Cups appeared to have set him up perfectly for his defence of last month's Doncaster Cup, but he missed the Town Moor showpiece after suffering a setback.
Prescott feels his charge is capable of making his presence felt this weekend, but admits only time will tell whether his two-month absence has been a hindrance or a help.
"For the first time in his life he was lame after running in the Lonsdale Cup. That means he's had a break and I'm not sure if that will suit him or not," said the Heath House handler.
"If he returns in the same form he was running in before Doncaster, then he must have some sort of a chance. He works on his own so whether he's in as good a form as earlier in the season I've no idea.
"Oisin (Murphy) gets on well with him so he'll probably know on the way to the start."
Pallasator is part of formidable British assault on the two-mile Group One.
Last season's Ebor and November Handicap hero Litigant ran a fine race to finish sixth on his belated seasonal reappearance in the British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot and is sent back into battle just eight days later by trainer Joe Tuite.
He said: "It comes up very quick, obviously, but he came out of Ascot well and there aren't many options left, so we're keen to give it a go.
"He ran very well at Ascot and I think there should be a bit of improvement there.
"It's a good race, but that's what you expect for a Group One. I'm very hopeful our horse will run a big race."
Trainer Ed Walker is under no illusions regarding the task facing Justice Belle.
The daughter of Montjeu steps up in grade under Frankie Dettori following a narrow success in Listed company at Newmarket.
"It's a big step up, but she's a Stakes winner now, which is huge for a well-bred filly like her," said Walker.
"She's improving, the ground will suit and she goes there as fresh as paint, which counts for a lot at this time of year. Frankie rides her, which is great having given her such a good ride last time.
"We're realistic about her chance, but it's a case of 'why not have a go'?
"If Sunday proves she's not up to this level, I suspect that will be the end of her racing career and she'll be retired to the paddocks.
"If she can pinch a place it would be worth a fortune."
Godolphin send the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Sky Hunter, as well as Charlie Appleby's pair of Endless Time and Penglai Pavilion.
Bin Suroor said: "Sky Hunter won well at Goodwood and came out of the race in good order.
"We would like to see some rain for him, as soft ground will help him, and I don't think that this distance will be a problem."
Charlie Appleby commented on www.godolphin.com: "I was very pleased with Endless Time's second in the Vermeille and the third that day has come out and won a Group Two race since.
"We are looking forward to seeing how she gets on over this trip and the ground conditions should suit. She should stay the distance on breeding and has shaped like she will get it.
"Penglai Pavilion has come out of his victory at Newmarket in good form. Cut in the ground will suit him and, if he returns to the form of his younger days in France, then he would look very competitive.
"He has a lot to find on his current rating but he is a relentless galloper and conditions will suit."
Andrew Balding's Montaly completes the British challenge.
The sole Irish raider in a 15-strong field is Tony Martin's admirable dual-purpose performer Quick Jack.
The seven-year-old finished third to Melbourne Cup-bound stable companion Heartbreak City in the Ebor at York before winning a valuable handicap at Leopardstown last month.
Martin said: "He's in good form and deserves a shot at a race like this.
"Vazirabad looks to be the one we all have to beat, but we've been very happy with our horse since the last day and we're happy to take our chance."
Vazirabad perhaps sets the standard on French form after being touched off by Roger Charlton's Quest For More in the Prix du Cadran three weeks ago.
Other contenders for the home team include Siljan's Saga, who finished an excellent fourth when 100/1 for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.