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Ektihaam to lead rivals a merry dance in Hardwicke Stakes

Jockey Paul Hanagan received plenty of acclaim for his front-running ride on Mukhadram who was caught in the dying strides by Al Kazeem in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. Hanagan may have been a little hard on himself for not winning that race but he can put matters right with Ektihaam on Saturday.

Ektihaam has always been a high-class performer but is only now realising his full potential at the age of four. Following a promising second in the Dante Stakes at York last year, Roger Varian elected to take him to Chantilly for the French Derby.

Nothing went right for him there in an extremely rough race and it set him back for the remainder of the season. He raced a bit too keenly on his seasonal debut but was not disgraced behind Al Kazeem at Sandown.

He was a different proposition next time out when making all to slam Thomas Chippendale by six lengths over course and distance. If Hanagan can settle him nicely in front, it is going to take a very good horse to get past him here.

One horse that has the potential to do so is Luca Cumani’s Mount Athos. His easy win at Chester told us nothing as the opposition amounted to very little but he was progressive last season before being sent on an ambitious attempt to win the Melbourne Cup. Things did not go his way out there but he should have no such traffic problems here.

Universal has battled to two game victories at Newbury and Newmarket and will probably try to lay up with Ektihaam here. Aiken is another horse who was on an upward curve last season but he may just find this trip on the sharp side.

Sir John Hawkwood has won two good handicaps in good style and Sir Michael Stoute clearly thinks a lot of him to supplement for this race. Songcraft won a weaker contest quite nicely last time out whilst Dandino and Noble Mission have place claims on their best form.