Two unbeaten horses, two sets of owners determined to try to capture the Darley Dewhurst Stakes (G1), and one trainer charting a path between worries about the track and enthusiasm for the well-being of his runners.
That is the scenario for Richard Hannon as he prepares to unleash Chindit and Etonian in the seven-furlong group 1 Oct. 10 with both juveniles having earned a shot at the prestigious contest following impressive wins last time and eye-catching workouts this week.
"Both owners wanted to go for the race, and it's the next logical step for both of them, too, so it makes sense," said Hannon. "They both have a very good chance, and I don't want to separate them, really, going into the race."
Chindit, the flashier of the two horses at home according to his trainer, was last seen landing the Sept. 12 Bet365 Champagne Stakes (G2) at Doncaster, and Etonian overcame trouble in running to take the Betway Solario Stakes (G3) at Sandown Aug. 23.
"I'm happy with the pair of them, particularly Chindit as his last piece of work was really nice," Hannon said.
The major concern for Hannon is the ability of the duo to handle the undulations and Newmarket, and he added: "I don't think either of them are ground-dependent. It's more about the track. I do worry about the track for them."
'The Better the Ground, the Better Thunder Moon's Chance'
What better way to get over the agony of Arc weekend and the feed fiasco that forced the O'Brien family to withdraw all their runners from ParisLongchamp Oct. 4 than win what is arguably the most prestigious prize for juveniles.
Pinatubo , Churchill, Dawn Approach, and Frankel have all won the Dewhurst in the past decade, and Joseph O'Brien is hoping the unbeaten Thunder Moon can follow in their footsteps and make it 3-for-3 for the year.
Thunder Moon was last seen Sept. 13 streaking away with the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes (G1) at the Curragh on what was only his second start, and O'Brien liked what he saw there.
The trainer said: "The National Stakes was a messy race, and I thought he did very well to get himself out of a hole there. He needed lots of pace to do so. The Dewhurst has been the plan for him ever since then.
"We're a little worried about the ground for him, though. We'll walk the track (Saturday) morning before deciding what we'll do. The better the ground, the better chance he has, anyway."
Aidan O'Brien sends out group-1 placed colts Wembley and St Mark's Basilica to contest in the Dewhurst. Wembley broke his maiden at Roscommon before recording a runner-up finish last time out in the National Stakes (G1), just ahead of St Mark's Basilica, who held on for the show.
"Wembley came home very well in the National Stakes," Aidan O' Brien said. "We always liked him a lot. We were delighted with the way he ran at the Curragh, and he's done well since. We really wanted to split these two colts up, and the race in France was earmarked for St Mark's Basilica, but unfortunately he didn't get to show up there."
Cadillac , trained by Jessica Harrington, enters the Dewhurst off a score in the Sept. 12 KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes (G2) at Leopardstown.
"He's a good horse. I think he's very good," Harrington said. "We will find out here just how good and whether he's a group 1 horse or not."