05/12/2010 11:00PM

Paco Boy faces fight at Newbury


Paco Boy is the odds-on favorite for the $296,000 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on Saturday, but his task is hardly a straightforward one, as there are a number of serious challengers in the straight Group 1 mile.

With Goldikova and Rip Van Winkle yet to run this year, Paco Boy, a 5-year-old trained by Richard Hannon, rates as the best European miler seen out this season. He defended his Group 2 Sandown Mile title in style on April 24, defeating Pressing by a handy 3 1/4 lengths, looking considerably improved since last year, when he also won the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes and was second to Rip Van Winkle in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes.

Paco Boy was only fourth in last year's Lockinge but is the horse to beat on Saturday when Richard Hughes will take his usual place in the saddle. The Michael Stoute-trained Zacinto, who won the Group 2 Celebration Mile in August and was second to Rip Van Winkle in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, returns from a winter vacation after his dull 11th-place finish behind Goldikova in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Lord Shanakill, now with Henry Cecil after a brief spell with Richard Mandella - for whom he finished 12th in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint - has a chance if he can relocate the form that won him the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat in July.

The wild card is The Cheka. Trained by Eve Johnson Houghton, this 4-year-old has run just four times, but should improve off his closing third to Paco Boy in the Sandown Mile. He will be ridden by Kieren Fallon.