RACEGOERS heading to Royal Ascot at York are advised to back Fight Your Corner (3.45) in the big race of the day, the £225,0000 Gold Cup.

Officially only Godolphin's second-string to Papineau, last year's winner of Europe's premier long-distance, Fight Your Corner is by no means a forlorn hope to get the better of his more esteemed stable companion

There's a distinct chance I'll end up with egg all over my face by opposing Papineau but his injury-hit preparation means he might not be right on the money for this sternest of stamina tests.

On the other hand, Fight Your Corner proved to be in the rudest of order by brushing aside a quality field to claim last month's Henry 11 Stakes. In the past the Esher encounter has generally provided an excellent guide to the outcome of today's contest, in which the selection must beat the likely market leader from France, Westerner.

Westerner's credentials are impeccable, having won his last five races, including a stroll-in-the-park five-length victory on his most recent start in Longchamp's Group 2 Vicomtesse Stakes.

Jockey Olivier Peslier and trainer Ellie Lellouche are no strangers to high-profile triumphs and it seems inconceivable that Westerner will not be involved when the whips are flying.

In Monday's preview for the entire meeting, soft-ground lover Percussionist got the each-way vote in the race. Regrettably for connections, the predicted rain has not really got into the turf, which has significantly reduced the prospects of Howard Johnson's four-year-old.

Considering David Nicholls has enjoyed tremendous success over the past few years, he gets sent precious few two-year-olds with which to ply his trade.

Such a situation is bound to change once folk get wise to Dandy's skills, moreover he could do his cause no harm by picking up the opening Norfolk Stakes with Strike Up The Band (2.30).

But for having the misfortune of being forced wide to make his challenge at Chester, Strike Up The Band would be unbeaten in all three outings. He began life by comfortably landing some major bets on his debut at Pontefract, was then touched off by Ooh Ah Camera at Chester, prior to easily accounting for a decent line-up at Goodwood.

"We've made our name by buying proven older horses at the sales and bringing them back to form, but given the opportunity we can do just as well with the babies," said Nicholls, who generally lets his horses do the talking, rather than over-hype any particular individual. The sight of the beige and brown colours of Andrea and Graham Wylie in the winners' enclosure is becoming increasingly familiar since the North-East-based couple have expanded to well over 50 jumpers and Flat horses.

All are in the expert care of Howard Johnson, who has opted to run the Wylie's Tsaroxy (4.20) in the one-mile Britannia Handicap. He's a useful customer who, judged by his reappearance victory at Thirsk, has improved significantly for being gelded during the winter.

The £50,000 race also gives top Yorkshire-based lightweight rider Dale Gibson the opportunity to add to his already respectable 13-winner tally for the season aboard Tsaroxy.

Paul Blockley's Profit's Reality (4.55), an outsider worthy of an each-way nibble, might well upset some far more fashionable stables in the Hampton Court Listed Stakes.

Bred by USA sire Key of Luck, the extremely progressive Profit's Reality fought off a serious Newmarket and Lambourn challenge to bag a decent prize at Sandown last time out.

A low draw over seven-furlongs allows those blessed with early pace to grab the favoured far-side rail, a position doubtless habitual trail-blazer Cardinal Venture (5.30) will be keen to occupy in the closing Buckingham Palace Stakes.

Kevin Ryan's gelding is in stall two, a perfect place in which to attempt to make every yard of the running.

* Ooh Aah Camara was withdrawn from the Queen Mary Stakes yesterday because of a dispute. The filly is owned by footballers' agent Willie McKay and had been trained by Miss Haigh but it was Richard Guest whose name appeared next to the juvenile's name on yesterday's card.

Malcolm Wallace, the Jockey Club's director of regulation, said: ''There is clearly a dispute between the registered owner, Willie McKay, and Vicky Haigh.