The five-year-old has his sights lowered on his seasonal debut following eight consecutive outings in Group One company.
~ Relive Group One success for Japan from Crystal Ocean in a thrilling Juddmonte International at York in 2019
Japan won the Grand Prix de Paris and the Juddmonte International to strike gold twice at the top level in 2019 – and while he failed to get his head in front last season, he was placed in the Eclipse at Sandown and the King George at Ascot.
His Chester rivals include Alan King’s Trueshan, who makes his first competitive appearance since landing the Long Distance Cup on Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot in October.
Balding’s Morando defends his crown while Roger Charlton saddles his veteran stayer Withhold.
Euchen Glen (Jim Goldie), Kipps (Hughie Morrison), Sextant (Keith Dalgleish) and Sonnyboyliston (Murtagh) are the other hopefuls.
Magician (2013), Cliffs Of Moher (2017) and most recently Circus Maximus (2019) are among the previous Ballydoyle residents to win Thursday’s recognised Derby trial on the Roodee.
While Ontario has so far found victories hard to come by – striking just once from eight starts – he brings some solid form to the table, having been placed four times at Stakes level.
The Galileo colt was last seen finishing third in the Free Handicap at Newmarket three weeks ago – one place behind Charlie Appleby’s Naval Crown, who ran a fine race when fourth in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas last weekend.
Appleby also has a leading contender for this Listed contest in Yibir, who is fitted with cheek pieces for the first time after his close-up third in the Sandown Classic Trial.
Sir Michael Stoute, who trained Kris Kin to win the Dee Stakes and the Derby in 2003, is represented by Maximal – expected to improve from his comeback second at Newbury last month.
Earlswood (Johnny Murtagh), El Drama (Roger Varian), Foxes Tales (Andrew Balding) and Luther Cee (Henry Spiller) complete the field.We've teamed up with the Flat experts at Timeform to bring you a FREE copy of their latest book - 50 Flat Horses to Follow throughout the 2021 season. Click here to claim yours for FREE!
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