John Gosden again warned bettors that Reach For The Moon would be better for racing in the Coral Heron Stakes at Sandown on Thursday night.
The son of Sea The Stars has been well supported to end the Queen’s wait for a winner in the Cazoo Derby after a promising second place in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot and victory in the Solario Stakes at Sandown.
However, he has been sidelined since finishing second to Bayside Boy in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September.
After interrupted preparation ahead of his three-year campaign, he makes his debut against five rivals on the Esher track, with Derby plans shelved and Royal Ascot on the Clarehaven Stables team’s radar, should he succeed his first Listed test under Frankie Dettori.
Gosden said: “This is his first race of the season. He got injured last year and he was out for three months at stud (in Sandringham) and they did a good job with him.
“He’s ready for a race – we have to put one on him – and he’ll come for this race, but I’ve been clear about that he’ll be around 80-85 per cent fit.”
Rivals include exciting prospect Akhu Najla, who has had just two starts for Roger Varian, winning a Leicester novice over seven furlongs on his debut last October and opening his three-year campaign with a six-year win and half. within a maiden mile in Yarmouth.
Half-brother to classic hero Galileo Gold, Akhu Najla is already just as short at 10-1 with Coral for the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and his jockey David Egan thinks his knockout could prove decisive.
Egan said: “He couldn’t have won more impressively last time out. He did everything right and he behaved well. He has matured a lot from two to three.
“He’s a horse that showed great turnaround at Yarmouth and that will be one of his greatest assets.
“He has a fast pedigree – he’s by Kingman and a half brother to Galileo Gold, so there’s a lot of speed there.
“At the same time, he is relaxed at home. Roger, for now, thinks we’ll stick to a mile. We never know. It will have the potential to increase up to 10 stages over time.
“A steep mile at Sandown should be well within his capacity.”
William Haggas has his string in superb form and he is represented by My Prospero, who is similarly making the third start of his career, having chased Claymore home in a seven-stay Newmarket novice in October before opening his account in a mile maiden at Newbury last month.
Haggas said: “It’s a solid race but we need to know where we are before Ascot so that’s always been the plan.
“Obviously Roger looks very good (Akhu Najla) and Frankie is good (Reach For The Moon) so it will be difficult, but that’s what we’re trying to find out.
“Our race form at Newbury hasn’t worked out at all so he may be caught out, but I think he’s a very good horse.”
Race jockey Tom Marquand added: “He won beautifully at Newbury. He had a great run at the end of last year and obviously came back with an impressive performance at Newbury and we really hope for the continuation.
“It’s a tougher race and fierce opposition, but hopefully he can make a step forward.”
Harrow is the sextet’s most seasoned performer, having already run 10 times.
Andrew Balding’s charge won three times last year and was not beaten far in his last juvenile start behind the winner of the Modern Games French 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.
Despite being beaten by 11 lengths by Star Of India in the Dee Strakes at Chester after going 10½ furlongs last time out, Harry Herbert, managing director of owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, believes he has answered a few questions.
“Harrow didn’t stay in Chester,” Herbert said. “He traveled beautifully but just didn’t stay.
“He’s bounced back beautifully and on the one hand, you think, why did we run him at Chester, because it’s so boring, but you have to find out those things.
“I love the track for him. I think the steep mile is absolutely his bag. He has done so well from two to three that, if you take Chester out, his other two races this season (when he finished second at Kempton and Chelmsford) are extremely good, arguably at racetracks that are not suitable for him.
“We probably haven’t seen the best of him. Sandown feels great as far as track and travel go, but it’s obviously a very hot race.
“We haven’t exceeded plans after the Dee. There’s nothing for him at Royal Ascot, I don’t think. The Jersey runs too short and there’s no mile run for him. So that’s an important one.”
Ian Williams saddles Oneforthegutter, a Muhaarar colt making his debut at three, after finishing second in a French group of three on his penultimate start last season, before a disappointing display behind Royal Patronage in the Royal Lodge in Newmarket .
Williams said: “He had a very good start to his career as a two-year-old and was disappointed at Newmarket on his last start when he didn’t handle the track.
“But he had a good winter and will probably want a bit more time, but a mile is a good place to start.
“He ran well at Deauville. When you see where The Wizard Of Eye (third) has gone since, that form isn’t bad.
“We will make plans based on what he does tomorrow.”
Rounding out the field, Encourageable, trained by James Horton, didn’t race as a two-year-old but opened their account on their second start at Wolverhampton last month and are tackling a mile for the first time.
Horton said: “He didn’t do anything wrong in his two races and the form worked really well. His homework has been decent and we’re going there to figure out where we stand.
“We will find out about the mile. It’s an interesting race. You have very solid stallions and then three horses that have exactly the same profile as him.
“It will be an interesting race and a few people will be a bit wiser on Thursday night.
“He’s at St James’s Palace because the plan was to race in the Heron and if he went there and won it and he wasn’t in the race we would look very foolish.
“Hopefully after tomorrow night we can work out if he is a St James’s Palace horse or if he is a Jersey horse or if he is neither.”