John Gosden has again warned punters that Reach For The Moon will be better for the run in the Coral Heron Stakes at Sandown on Thursday evening.
The son of Sea The Stars was well supported to end the Queen’s wait for a winner in the Cazoo Derby following a promising second 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.
Following an interrupted preparation ahead of his three-year-old campaign, he makes his debut against five rivals at the Esher track, with Derby plans shelved and Royal Ascot on the radar for the Clarehaven Stables team, should he come through his initial Listed test under Frankie Dettori.
Gosden said: “It is his first run of the season. He sustained an injury last year and he has been away for three months at the stud (at Sandringham) and they have done a good job with him.
“He is ready for a run – we have to get one into him – and he will come on for that run, but I have been clear about this, he would 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 debut last October, and opening his three-year-old campaign with a six-and-a-half-length win in a mile maiden at Yarmouth.
A half-brother to Classic hero Galileo Gold, Akhu Najla is already as short at 10-1 with Coral for the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and his jockey David Egan feels his finishing kick could prove decisive.
Egan said: “He could not have won any more impressively last time. He did everything right and he was well behaved. He has matured a lot from two to three.
“He is a horse who showed a very good turn of foot at Yarmouth and that will be one of his greatest assets.
“He has got a quick pedigree – he is by Kingman and a half-brother to Galileo Gold, so there is plenty of speed there.
“At the same time, he is laid back at home. Roger, at the moment, thinks we’ll stick to a mile. You never know. He will have the potential to step up to 10 furlongs in time.
“A stiff mile at Sandown should be well within his capability.”
William Haggas has his string in superb form and he is represented by My Prospero, who similarly makes the third start of his career, having chased home Claymore in a Newmarket seven-furlong novice in October before opening his account in a mile maiden at Newbury last month.
Haggas said: “It’s a strong race but we need to find out where we are before Ascot, so this has always been the plan.
“Obviously Roger’s looks very good (Akhu Najla) and Frankie’s is good (Reach For The Moon) so it will be tough but there you go, that is what we are trying to find out.
“The form of our race at Newbury hasn’t worked out at all, so it may be that he will be found wanting, but I think he’s a pretty nice horse.”
Big-race jockey Tom Marquand added: “He won beautifully at Newbury. He had a nice run at the backend of last year and obviously returned with a performance that was impressive at Newbury and we’re really hopeful following that.
“It’s a tougher race and stiff opposition, but hopefully he can take a step forward.”
Harrow is the most seasoned performer among the sextet, having run 10 times already.
The Andrew Balding’s charge won three times last year and was not beaten far in his last juvenile start behind subsequent French 2,000 Guineas winner Modern Games at Newmarket.
Though beaten 11 lengths by Star Of India in the Dee Strakes at Chester when upped to 10 and a half furlongs last time, Harry Herbert, managing director of owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, feels he has answered a few questions.
“Harrow didn’t stay at Chester,” said Herbert. “He travelled beautifully but simply didn’t stay.
“He has bounced out of it beautifully and on the one hand you think, why did we run him at Chester, because it so annoying, but you have to find out these things.
“I love the track for him. I think the stiff mile is absolutely his bag. He has done so well from two to three that, if you take Chester out, his other two runs this season (when runner-up at Kempton and Chelmsford) are extremely good, arguably on racecourses that don’t suit him.
“Probably we haven’t seen the best of him. Sandown smells right as far as track and trip are concerned but obviously it is a very hot race.
“We haven’t got beyond what plans are after the Dee. There is nothing for him at Royal Ascot I don’t think. The Jersey is going too short and there isn’t a mile race that fits. So this is an important one.”
Ian Williams saddles Oneforthegutter, a Muhaarar colt who makes his three-year-old debut, having finished runner-up in a French Group Three on his penultimate start last term, before a disappointing display behind Royal Patronage in the Royal Lodge at Newmarket.
Williams said: “He had a very good start to his career as a two-year-old and disappointed at Newmarket on his final start, when he didn’t handle the track.
“But he has had a good winter and will probably want a little further in time, but a mile is a good place to start him off.
“He ran well in Deauville. When you see the places The Wizard Of Eye (third) has turned up since, that form is not bad.
“We’ll make plans on the back of what he does tomorrow.”
Rounding out the field is the James Horton-trained Encourageable, who did not race at two, but opened his account on his second start at Wolverhampton last month and tackles a mile for the first time.
Horton said: “He has done nothing wrong in his two races and the form has worked out very well. His homework has been decent and we are going there to work out where we are.
“We’ll find out about the mile. It is an interesting race. You have some very solid yardsticks and then three horses who have exactly the same profile as him.
“It will be an interesting race and a few people will be a bit wiser on Thursday evening.
“He is in the St James’s Palace because the plan was to run in the Heron and if he went and won it and he wasn’t in the race, we would look very silly.
“I would be hopeful that after tomorrow night, we will be able to work out if he is a St James’s Palace horse or whether he is a Jersey horse or whether he is neither.”