Ascot summer carnival plans go on the line for brilliant sprinter Stagnite who returns to tackle the Get Your Westspeed Nominations in Now Handicap (1400m) at Belmont on Saturday.
Stagnite’s clash with Sujet and Crown Lawyer is a fascinating entree to the main event in the Beaufine Stakes (1000m), when Smoko and Magnifisio lock horns.
Stagnite, who has yet to taste defeat in three career starts, makes his much-anticipated return after an exhilarating nail-biting Breeders’ Classic win at Bunbury in March.
The Danehill Express gelding, a $3.75 second favourite behind Sujet, warmed up for his comeback with 950m Lark Hill trial win on June 30.
“He did a bit of work and came through pretty good,” said trainer, Sharon Miller.
“This race is going to tell us where the horse is at.
“He is carrying 59kg and races first-up over 1400m but is fit.
“It’s going to test him but if he comes through it we will know where he is at.”
Staginite faces an awkward draw in gate eight of nine for William Pike.
Sujet, to be ridden by Jason Whiting, has been gifted a gun draw in barrier one.
The Vital Equine gelding is looking to get back on favourable terms with punters after going down as the odds on favourite last fortnight.
He fought out a gallant third after racing wide but punters were left to rue a missed opportunity.
Punters have stuck solid with Sujet, a $2.10 favourite on Tab Touch.
At $7.50 Crown Lawyer, a strong last-start winner, is the only other starter under double figures.
The Tab Touch market has the Listed Beaufine Stakes (1000m) as a race in two.
Exciting four-year-old Smoko is a red-hot $1.70 favourite with Magnifisio at $4.
Smoko hasn’t tasted defeat in five starts and resumes after a 245 day spell.
Magnifisio is also on a winning streak of five and has been freshened since the Roma Cup in May.
The Magnus mare, prepared by Jim Taylor, carries the topweight of 58.5kg, giving Smoko a decided 4.5kg weight pull.
Taylor said Magnifisio faced a tough challenge.
“It’s going to be hard and I’m a realist,” said Taylor.
“Anyone thinking they can beat Smoko isn’t being realistic.
“Smoko is a horse on the way up and I think he will be winning.”