John Gosden’s Too Darn Hot was the undoubted star of the juvenile division last season, with his unbeaten run of four wins including a comprehensive victory over Phoenix Of Spain at Doncaster.
Having suffered his first defeat when narrowly denied in last month’s Dante Stakes at York, Too Darn Hot was strongly fancied to claim Classic glory at the Curragh, but proved no match for the Charlie Hills-trained Phoenix Of Spain, who dominated from the front on what was his seasonal debut.
The pair look set to clash again on the opening day of the Royal meeting, with Phoenix Of Spain the clear favourite to confirm the form.
Gosden has an interesting second string to his bow in the progressive King Of Comedy and could also call on outsider Turgenev.
Aidan O’Brien – who has saddled a record seven previous winners of this Group One contest – has three possible runners in this year’s renewal, with The Irish Rover and Van Beethoven joined by the supplemented Circus Maximus.
The latter looks set to drop half a mile in distance after finishing sixth in the Investec Derby at Epsom.
The Ballydoyle handler’s Newmarket Guineas hero Magna Grecia – who disappointed in the Irish equivalent – is a notable absentee.
Explaining his absence, O’Brien told attheraces.com: “Magna Grecia tweaked a hamstring in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and while he started responding to treatment in recent days, Royal Ascot is just coming too soon for him.
“We are looking forward to getting him back on the track.”
Other contenders include the William Haggas-trained Skardu, French Guineas runner-up Shaman and Martyn Meade’s Advertise.
But while Advertise has been left in, Meade has indicated he is leaning towards a return to six furlongs for the Commonwealth Cup on Friday.
Both races are part of the Qipco British Champions Series, with the Commonwealth Cup in the Sprint category.
“The Commonwealth Cup is cutting up a little bit and he did pretty well last year as a two-year-old over six furlongs, so we are favouring that option,” said Meade.
“Based on his home work and everything, we think he will be quick enough for that race and so that’s what we are favouring.
“We’d be looking for the ground to dry out a bit and a strong pace. There looks to be a few in there likely to provide that.”