The opening race of this year’s Royal Meeting is shaping up to be a classic, with the Richard Hannon-trained pair of Night of Thunder and Toormore set to test themselves against the world’s best milers in the Queen Anne Stakes.
The stable companions claimed an impressive one-two in the Lockinges Stakes at Newbury last weekend, with Night of Thunder coming out on top.
They’ll have more to think about come 14:30 on Tuesday 16th June however, with Able Friend, currently the world’s top-rated thoroughbred, confirmed as a runner alongside Freddy Head's Dubai Turf winner Solow.
John Moore’s Able Friend has already secured legendary status in Hong Kong after he breezed to victory in the Champions Mile earlier this month and Hannon knows his pair will have their work cut out if he is to continue his run of success at Royal Ascot this year.
"Solow looked awesome when destroying a top-class field in the Dubai Turf at Meydan, while Able Friend is a superstar in Hong Kong and has shown that he is virtually unbeatable at Sha Tin," Hannon was quoted as saying on his own website -www.richardhannonracing.co.uk.
"We have improved the quality of our squad these last few years, and the chance to show just how far we have come by beating the top horses from abroad is what really excites me.
"Night Of Thunder will probably have to improve to beat Solow and Able Friend at Ascot, but I think he is 7lb better on soft ground so I hope the brollies are up for the start of the Royal meeting.
"Night Of Thunder has been off a long time, and, having looked as if he was going to win a length, he got tired, and Toormore got within a neck.
"There was only half a length between the pair in last year's QEII at Ascot, and they are both proven Group One horses.
"Night of Thunder is the only horse to have taken the scalp of Kingman, and in my eyes he beat him fair and square in last year's 2000 Guineas.
"He is such a straightforward horse, so uncomplicated and a real gentleman, while Toormore, like Night Of Thunder, will come on a lot for this first race."
Able Friend was in imperious form when destroying the field under a near motionless Joao Moreira at Sha Tin and he will arrive in the UK 10 days before his run here.
It stretched his winning run to six, but Moore isn’t getting carried away ahead of perhaps his toughest test to date.
"I'm going in very open minded. We are taking on the cream of the crop on the world stage,” Moore told the South China Morning Post about the trip.
“This is our intention, to take on the very best, but we aren't going in thinking the result is a foregone conclusion."
The opening day of Royal Ascot features three Group One races, including the Queen Anne, the King’s Stand Stakes and the St James’s Palace Stakes.
Tickets are priced at £27 per person in the Silver Ring Enclosure and £67 per person for the Grandstand Enclosure. Fine Dining packages are also available.