Ulysses on course for George

Ulysses is an intended runner at Ascot

Ground conditions will play a key role in deciding whether Ulysses will bid to become the first horse in almost a quarter of century to win the Coral-Eclipse and the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the same season.

Sir Michael Stoute's charge came out on top in a Sandown thriller at the start of the month, seeing off top-class three-year-old Barney Roy, the winner of the St James's Palace Stakes, by a nose.

As long as the Berkshire turf does not deteriorate between now and Saturday, the four-year-old is set to chase a double last achieved by the Stoute-trained Opera House in 1993 and before him the great Nashwan in 1989.

Alan Cooper, racing manager for the Niarchos family, said: "The plan is to run. If there was a lot of rain in the coming days, we might have to review it, but it's a nice, sunny day today and all being well he'll be there to take his chance.

"Everyone is very happy with him. I think the line of thought from Sir Michael and his team is that he'll be as effective over a mile and a half as he is over a mile and a quarter. It's good to have the option of running over both distances."

The King George received a significant potential boost over the weekend after connections of dual Oaks heroine Enable gave the filly the option of taking on the boys for the first time.

While trainer John Gosden has not yet committed her to a run, Cooper admits her possible inclusion adds spice to the race.

He added: "Enable certainly adds a good element to the race. She's a dual Classic winner and will be getting the allowances, so it will be interesting to see what happens."

Defending champion Highland Reel is in line to become only the third horse to win back-to-back runnings and is set to be joined by his younger brother, Idaho.

However, significant rain would be of some concern to the Aidan O'Brien team.

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Coolmore's UK representative Kevin Buckley said: "We are very mindful of the weather, I must admit. Talking to Aidan this morning it is likely we will have two runners and they will be the full-brothers Idaho and Highland Reel.

"Highland Reel likes Ascot. He does prefer good or better ground and I must point that out. He is tough and durable and gives his all every time. It's nice to see the general racing public recognises that.

"He deserves that as he holds a special place in everyone's heart.

"Whether we can say Idaho is good as his brother, it is hard to say as he not won a Group One yet, let's not forget, whereas Highland Reel has won six in three different continents. It's a hard act to follow, but he is clipping at his heels."

No decision has been made on whether the Mark Johnston-trained Permian will line up.

The son of Teofilo bounced back from his disappointing run in the Epsom Derby with victory in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.

He was narrowly denied a first Group One triumph when beaten a nose by Shakeel in the Grand Prix de Paris less than a fortnight ago.

Johnston said: "I haven't had a proper look at it yet. I'll discuss it with his owner (Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum) at the same time as I go through the race."

David Simcock is keeping his fingers crossed testing conditions prevail to give Desert Encounter the best chance of causing an upset.

The five-year-old is a general 20-1 shot for the prestigious contest having produced a career-best performance to finish third on his Group One debut in the Eclipse.

Simcock said: "It's been the owner's plan for a while.

"I'd love it if it came up soft as it would inconvenience a few of the others and we know he goes through it."

Simcock respects Enable, but questioned whether she will be at her best just a fortnight after her latest Classic triumph at the Curragh.

"We all like to see good horses run in races like this. John Gosden did it with Taghrooda and Enable is fast-improving," Simcock told At The Races.

"If I played devil's advocate, is it a bit too close to the Irish Oaks? We'll see."

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