Connections of Integral have described the mare as a “class act” ahead of her bid for back-to-back victories in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The Sir Michael Stoute-trained five-year-old was an authoritative winner of the Group Two contest 12 months ago before going on to claim top-level victories in the Falmouth and Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket.
She ran a hugely encouraging race on her seasonal reappearance when a close fourth in last month’s Lockinge Stakes at Newbury and although she must concede weight all round today, Chris Richardson, managing director for owners Cheveley Park Stud, expects her to be a tough nut to crack.
He said: “Like all these races at Royal Ascot, it is obviously a challenge but she goes there in very good shape and I think she deserves to be favourite.
“She ran a very good race at Newbury and Sir Michael thinks she’s progressed nicely since. He seems very happy with her.
“She does have the penalty to contend with, so that is a consideration, but she showed what a class act she is in this race last year and hopefully she can do it again.”
Integral is taken on by seven fillies over Ascot’s straight mile, including her Dahlia Stakes-winning stable companion Bragging.
Marco Botti is looking forward to saddling the globetrotting Euro Charline, who won the Grade One Beverly D Stakes at Arlington Park last summer and was far from disgraced when fourth behind Solow and The Grey Gatsby on her return to action in the Dubai Turf at Meydan in late March.
“She seems well and seems fit. We have been very happy with her last couple of pieces of work,” said Botti.
“This is her first run since Dubai, but it was always her target and the ground should not be an issue. I don’t think we could have her in better shape than she is at the moment.
“Integral is a good filly and won the race last year, but Euro Charline has never disappointed us and I think it should be a good match.”
It is far from a two-horse race, however, with Clive Brittain’s pride and joy Rizeena bidding for a third success at the Royal meeting.
Winner of the Queen Mary in 2013 and the Coronation Stakes last summer, the four-year-old needs to put a disappointing reappearance in the Dahlia behind her, but Brittain is confident she will.
He said “I couldn’t have her in better condition or in a better frame of mind. Her work has been good, as it always is, but she seems in a particularly good place at the moment.
“We’re just putting a line through her run at Newmarket. It was disappointing, but it was too bad to be true and Newmarket has never been a lucky course for her.
“We gave her a short break afterwards and built her back up and she obviously prefers Ascot.
“It’s a proper race, but she’s a proper filly. If we get beaten by a better filly, what can you do? I don’t think we’ll get beaten by a better conditioned one.”