There are now just under three weeks until the 2017 Qatar Goodwood Festival gets underway and the feature races are beginning to take shape.
The highlight of the week, the £1-million Qatar Sussex Stakes, staged on Wednesday, August 2nd, has 24 contenders going forward. A real clash of the generations is on the cards in the mile showpiece, with dual 2,000 Guineas winner Churchill (Aidan O'Brien) set to take on Godolphin's star older miler Ribchester (Richard Fahey).
Ribchester, who was a close third in the 2016 Qatar Sussex Stakes, has already scooped a pair of Group 1 prizes in 2017, with impressive victories in both the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot and Newbury's Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes. Churchill, the highest-rated three-year-old miler in the world, needs to bounce back from a below-par fourth behind Godolphin's Barney Roy (Richard Hannon) in the G1 St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Other leading contenders for the Qatar Sussex Stakes include Sunday's Group 1 Prix Jean Prat hero Thunder Snow (Saeed bin Suroor), also owned by Godolphin, Queen Anne Stakes runner-up Mutakayyef (William Haggas), French challenger Zelzal (Jean-Claude Rouget), winner of the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat in 2016 and a promising second on his reappearance in the Group 3 Prix Bertrand du Breuil at Chantilly on June 18th, and Lightning Spear (David Simcock), successful in the Group 2 Doom Bar Celebration Mile at Goodwood in August last year and runner-up to Ribchester this season in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes.
Aidan O'Brien has also left in triple Group 1 winning filly Winter, victorious in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas, Irish 1,000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes so far this season, Irish 1,000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes third Hydrangea and St James's Palace Stakes runner-up Lancaster Bomber.
Ribchester will line up in the £1 million Qatar Sussex Stakes at the Qatar Goodwood Festival.
Winter and Hydrangea also feature prominently among the 23 going forward for the £600,000 Group 1 Qatar Nassau Stakes for fillies and mares over nearly 10 furlongs on Thursday, August 3rd.
The entries for the Qatar Nassau Stakes also include last year's runner-up and subsequent Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf heroine Queen's Trust (Sir Michael Stoute) and Nezwaah (Roger Varian), who captured the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh on July 2nd, when she defeated Rain Goddess (Aidan O'Brien) and Turret Rocks (Jim Bolger).
Newmarket handler John Gosden has a great recent record in the Qatar Nassau Stakes, having sent out three of the last five winners. His two remaining entries are So Mi Dar, winner of four of her five starts, but yet to start in 2017, and Prix de Diane fourth Shutter Speed.
The Qatar Goodwood Cup, upgraded to Group 1 status with a much increased prize fund of £500,000 this year, takes place over two miles on the opening day of the Qatar Goodwood Festival, Tuesday, August 1st, after being switched from its traditional Thursday slot, and has 25 horses still in contention.
A rematch between Big Orange (Michael Bell) and Order Of St George (Aidan O'Brien) is on the cards, with the duo separated by a short-head when Big Orange took the Group 1 Gold Cup over half a mile further at Royal Ascot on June 22nd.
Big Orange would become only the second triple winner of the Qatar Goodwood Cup if successful again this year, having taken both the 2015 and 2016 renewals. The only previous three-time winner of Goodwood's top staying race was Double Trigger in 1995, 1997 and 1998.
Other eye-catching acceptors in the Qatar Goodwood Cup include Wicklow Brave (Willie Mullins), successful at Group 1 level on the Flat in last year's Irish St Leger and in Group 1 company over hurdles, plus Sheikhzayedroad (David Simcock), a close third to Big Orange at Goodwood in 2016 and subsequently successful in Group 2 company at Ascot on British Champions Day in October.
The Qatar Goodwood Cup offers three-year-olds the chance to take on older horses. The four remaining three-year-olds this year are headed by Stradivarius (John Gosden), winner of the Group 2 Queen's Vase over a mile and three quarters at Royal Ascot.
The Qatar Sussex Stakes, Qatar Nassau Stakes and Qatar Goodwood Cup are all part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
Two-time Group 1 winner Limato (Henry Candy) and American raider Bound For Nowhere (Wesley Ward USA) feature among the 35 entries for the £300,000 G2 Qatar Lennox Stakes over seven furlongs on Tuesday, August 1st.
Godolphin has plenty of representation, with last year's winner Dutch Connection (Charlie Hills) and seven-furlong specialist Home Of The Brave (Hugo Palmer) among a five-strong team.
Exciting three-year-old Battaash (Charlie Hills) is one of the 19 horses remaining in the £300,000 Group 2 Qatar King George Stakes over five furlongs on Friday, August 4th. The Dark Angel gelding is two from two so far this season and made short work his rivals in a Group 3 contest at Sandown Park on July 8th.
Northern raider Take Cover (David Griffiths) is chasing an unprecedented third win in the Qatar King George Stakes following brave successes in 2016 and 2014. The 10-year-old was also second to Muthmir (William Haggas) in 2015.
Group 1 winning sprinters Profitable (Clive Cox) and Marsha (Sir Mark Prescott), second and third respectively in the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, also go forward.
Ante-post favourite Projection (Roger Charlton, 9st 6lb), third in the Wokingham Handicap at Royal Ascot on his latest start, headlines the 124 acceptors for the £250,000 Qatar Stewards' Cup over six furlongs on Saturday, August 5th.