Denis Hogan is excited to see Sceptical test his powers at the highest level in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.
A son of Exceed And Excel out of a Royal Ascot winner in Jealous Again, the four-year-old bargain buy has made rapid progress since finishing third on his Dundalk debut last October.
After rattling off a hat-trick of wins at Ireland's sole all-weather venue, Sceptical made a smooth transition to the grass when running out a hugely impressive winner of the Listed Woodlands Stakes at Naas earlier in the month - booking his ticket for Saturday's final Group One of the Royal meeting.
Hogan said: "It is exciting. There's so much about the horse - I just hope everything goes well on the day really.
"My job is done at this stage. I'm happy the horse is over there now, he's settled in well and is grubbing.
"We're very happy with him going into the race."
Following his Naas triumph, Sceptical was initially pencilled in to contest Tuesday's King's Stand, with Frankie Dettori subsequently booked for the ride.
However, connections had a change of heart and decided to wait for this weekend's six-furlong feature - with the Italian maestro on board.
"It's great to have the calibre of jockey that we do riding him," Hogan added.
"I suppose softer ground would be a bit of an unknown. My gallop here can get very soft during the winter, and he seemed to cope with that all right, so I'd be hopeful. But at the same time, he's only raced on the grass once, and that was on good to firm at Naas.
"There's a chance the ground could dry out again yet, so we'll see."
Sceptical is set to face nine rivals, including Kevin Ryan's Hello Youmzain, the William Haggas-trained One Master and Khaadem from Charlie Hills' yard on ground that has dried since Friday, with the official going now good on the straight course and good to soft, good in places on the round course.
It's the final day of Royal Ascot 2020 and the sun is shining!— Ascot Racecourse (@Ascot) June 20, 2020
Here is Clerk of the Course, Chris Stickels, with the latest on the going and conditions ahead of what promises to be a thrilling Saturday #RoyalAscot pic.twitter.com/DRN2UBzLyG
Last year's champion juvenile Pinatubo has a chance to quickly redeem his reputation in the St James's Palace Stakes.
Charlie Appleby's Shamardal colt carried all before him in a perfect two-year-old season, which culminated with a hard-fought win in the Dewhurst but was highlighted by a nine-length romp in the National Stakes at the Curragh.
He had earlier won at Royal Ascot in the Chesham Stakes, the third of six wins last season - but he could then finish only third on his reappearance in the 2000 Guineas.
Aidan O'Brien's Wichita was second to Kameko at Newmarket and faces Pinatubo again on Saturday - while John Gosden steps Palace Pier sharply up in grade, having won a handicap impressively at Newcastle two weeks ago.
Appleby expects Pinatubo to improve on his Guineas performance.
He said: "I'm really pleased with him. William (Buick) sat on him on Wednesday, and he had a nice breeze.
"You can definitely see this horse has sharpened up for his run in the Guineas. As much as I'm not going to get away from the fact I was delighted with the way we were going into the Guineas, he is a horse, as we saw last year, that progressed race on race - and I feel that race has definitely brought him forward."
He added: "It was mixture of emotions after the Guineas. It was disappointing that he got beat and had his unbeaten record tarnished there, but the positive side of it was that I was actually more relieved halfway through the race that the horse was up there travelling away looking like he was going to run a race.
"To be brutally honest, though, I knew going into the Guineas that he looked well and his fitness was there and mentally he was where he was as a two-year-old, but the worry was 'had he trained on?'. I felt that was the biggest box ticked on the day - that he has proven that he has trained on.
"It is all systems go to Saturday now, and I'm looking forward to it."
One who may be sneaking in under the radar is Richard Hannon's Threat.
Winner of the Gimcrack last season, owners Cheveley Park Stud chose to forgo a run in the Guineas to keep him fresh for this.
Hannon said: "He is in great form, but it is a very good race. He comes here fresh and well.
"He has been working well. I took him to Kempton last week, and he worked very well. I was going to put him on the grass earlier this week, but the rain didn't arrive.
"He is in great nick and he has a great chance in what is an extremely good race. They might have had an advantage, having had a run, but we elected to come straight here - and we did that with Motakhayyel (winner on the opening day of the meeting).
"Whether it is too quick to come from the Guineas to here, we won't know until they are a furlong and a half down on Saturday."
Palace Pier is the dark horse of the race, having been given quotes for the Derby after taking his career record to three out of three on his return this month.
Gosden never viewed the son of Kingman as an Epsom contender, but steps him up in class markedly for this contest.
Connections of Quadrilateral are hopeful she will improve for her run in the Guineas when she aims to return to winning ways in the Coronation Stakes.
Last season's Fillies' Mile winner was strongly fancied for the Qipco-sponsored Classic at Newmarket - but having run free to post and in the early stages of the race, the Roger Charlton-trained daughter of Frankel could finish only third.
Harry Charlton, assistant to his father, said: "The team thought it was wrong to step straight up into the Oaks, having by chance run a bit keen in the Guineas after pinging the stalls. To go from a mile to a mile and a half seemed a bit unnatural. She showed some good speed that day.
"The way the race panned out wasn't ideal for her, but she still ran a good race to finish third. We entered her in the Coronation, thinking we have got to have a look at it, because there might be some of the horses in there she has already beaten - and she is top rated.
"She seems in good nick and she took the run in the Guineas well. She is a horse that always eats well, and I think she will improve for what she did in the Guineas.
"She has not done a lot since and has just been ticking away. There will be a bit of natural improvement, and she should have tightened up from the Guineas.
"Around the bend the ground might be good, or good to soft, which would be suitable. Newmarket probably doesn't play to her strengths because she is a big, rangy filly, and maybe in the Fillies' Mile she got slightly lost in the dip, but it is tough to know in the Guineas as she ran well. She was more fluent at Newbury, and this might well suit her better."
John Gosden's Run Wild created a big impression when winning the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket over 10 furlongs and drops back down to a mile, while Richard Hannon's Cloaks Of Spirits holds strong claims, having finished second in the Guineas.
Hannon said: "I've no idea why she is near on the outsider of the field, because there was nothing fluky about her Guineas run. I think she will prefer this track, because I never thought she really liked the Rowley Mile.
"She is as hard as nails, and a fight doesn't worry her.
"She has come out of the race very well and has put on the weight she lost. She might get further, but she seems a miler at the moment.
"Some people say she got the run of the race in the Guineas, but she did a lot of the donkey work. It is the round track here, and there are a few that might want to go forward, so it will be an interesting race."
Adding international interest is Sharing, trained by Cambridge-born Graham Motion in America and ridden by champion jockey Oisin Murphy.
Motion said: "With so little racing this year, horses change so much from two to three.
"I think we have a pretty good line on our filly - because even the race she ran in the other day, although it was a Listed race, it was really a Group-calibre race.
"I don't think we have a great handle on the Europeans, because so few of them have run.
Motion brought Miss Temple City over to three Royal meetings, and she finished fourth twice, including in this race in 2015.
"I think she is (comparable to Miss Temple City) in more ways than one.
"Miss Temple City also had a great disposition. This filly has really bulked up over the winter, very much like Miss Temple City did - this filly is much more accomplished at this stage of the game than Miss Temple City was when she came over.
"She's a filly who likes to be forwardly placed. She's a filly who I think has some stamina, but she really likes a mile, so I think there are some aspects of it that really suit her.
"I like this race for Americans, because we race around one turn and I think the straight mile is very daunting, so I love the fact that we get to run around a turn and the fact we get to run against her age group."
The two-year-olds are given one final chance to shine this week, with the colts contesting the Coventry Stakes and the fillies lining up for the Queen Mary.
Mark Johnston fires three bullets at the former - with Qaader, Army Of India and Thunder Of Niagra all stepping up in grade after winning on their respective racecourse debuts.
Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father, said: "In a normal year these horses would have met each other in a National Stakes or a Woodcote, and you work your way towards this level. Now we have three once-raced maiden winners against each other.
"On homework, before they ran, Army Of India was probably top of the pile. On the strength of what they beat you would probably lean towards Thunder Of Niagara, and on visual impressions you would probably lean to Qaader.
"All three have earned the right to be there, and we just hope at least one is good enough basically."
Charlie Appleby has high hopes for his Newmarket scorer Creative Force.
"He popped away very professionally on his debut when he pretty much made all that day," said the Godolphin trainer.
"He is a half-brother to Persuasive, who was proven in slower ground. The ground doesn't bother me, and mentally he has come forward.
"He is a nice straightforward and professional horse that won't look out of place on Saturday."
Curragh winner Admiral Nelson heads the betting for Aidan O'Brien, with Tom Dascombe's runaway Haydock scorer Lauded another in the mix for what promises to be an informative contest.
O'Brien also houses the favourite for the Queen Mary in Most Beautiful. American trainer Wesley Ward has saddled three previous winners of the race in Jealous Again (2009), Acapulco (2015) and Lady Aurelia (2016) and is this year represented by Campanelle and Royal Approval, who finished first and second in the same race at Gulfstream last month.
Ward said: "The two fillies ran against each other first time up, and Royal Approval was actually the favourite on the book, but Campanelle won really well - and it was the fastest time for a turf race (for two-year-old fillies) in the US this year.
"Campanelle is a filly with real quality, and the time of the race was a Breeders' Cup quality time.
"She's a bigger, longer type of filly but has plenty of speed to her. She goes there with a big chance, I think."
The Johnston team has Pelekai and Sands Of Time in the mix.
The Silver Wokingham and the Wokingham itself are two devilishly difficult sprint handicaps for punters to decipher on a hugely competitive card, while the two-mile-five-furlong Queen Alexandra Stakes brings Royal Ascot 2020 to a close.