York, England// Sport breathes with a rivalry and the latest instalment of the intercontinental head to head between Shea Shea and Sole Power will be played out along the Knavesmire in the Nunthorpe Stakes on Friday.
Mike De Kock's Shea Shea leads the tussle 3-1 after wins in Dubai in the Meydan Sprint and the Al Quoz Sprint before finishing ahead of his long-standing rival when the pair were behind Lethal Force in the July Cup at Newmarket.
Sole Power, trained in Ireland by Edward Lynam, edged out Shea Shea by a neck in a fast time when taking the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, but benefited from challenging late and wide to nick the race.
Shea Shea's success in Dubai, and lack of it in Britain, is one of the few concerns De Kock has coming into the race. The other is the sensational form of jockey Johnny Murtagh, who had ridden Sole Power to three of his five wins.
"There was an element of home advantage at Meydan," De Kock said.
"Sole Power had to travel to us. Looking at Sole Power at Ascot, he looked a lot better here than he did in Dubai.
"That was not the Sole Power in Dubai – he had come on and looked the part and he ran to form. Johnny is riding really well at the moment and knows the horse and that is a tough combination to beat."
Lynam agrees with that synopsis and was looking forward to seeing Sole Power try to emulate his win in the Group 1 race in 2010.
"He raced in Dubai with his Irish winter coat on," the trainer said from his County Meath base. "In the Al Quoz, we tracked only one horse with the rest of the field on the other side. There's been a neck between them in both runs in Europe, so there's nothing between them."
Due to a suspension for Christophe Soumillon, Shea Shea will have a new jockey for the first time since leaving South Africa.
De Kock secured the services last week of Frankie Dettori, who has not won at the highest level in Britain since he dug into his reserves to beat Mickael Barzalona to take the Ascot Gold Cup on Colour Vision 14 months ago.
Eking out victory in a game of fine margins is all about the detail and Dettori went to De Kock's Abington Place facility in Newmarket last Thursday to work Shea Shea up Long Hill gallop.
"Shea Shea is a strong horse and I thought it important for him to come and sit on him before the race," De Kock added.
"Frankie is a professional. I don't need to tell him how to ride, but he's had a feel now and he'll sum it all up in about five minutes."
To bill any Group 1 contest as simply a match-up between two horses can be very dangerous, as evidenced by Declaration Of War's victory over favourites Al Kazeem and Toronado here on Wednesday, and the five-furlong contest has had a recent history of upsets.
Shea Shea and Sole Power are the two best horses in the race, however.
Ding Ding, it is time for Round 5.
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