Hughie Morrison hopes the absence of star stayer Trueshan will give Quickthorn a good opportunity to open his account for the season in the Coral Henry II Stakes at Sandown.
Winner of the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot last summer, Quickthorn made an encouraging start to the new campaign when runner-up to Trueshan in the Further Flight at Nottingham in April.
Off the back of that fine effort, the five-year-old was well fancied for the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot last month and was beaten just a head by Irish raider Princess Zoe.
Alan King had hoped to give Trueshan his prep run for next month’s Gold Cup in Thursday’s two-mile Group Three, but with the ground deemed unsuitable he was not declared, prompting Morrison to let Quickthorn take his chance.
He said: “We wouldn’t have gone if Trueshan had been there, to be honest. It is slightly an afterthought as we thought Trueshan would be running.
“Quickthorn has had a couple of races already this season and I hope I haven’t gone back to the well too quickly.
“I don’t think he would want the ground too quick, but the clerk of the course assures me it will be different to what it was like last week and he’s a good horse who deserves to win a Stakes race.”
Quickthorn renews rivalry with the Ian Williams-trained Enemy, who was just a neck behind him when third in the Sagaro four weeks ago.
Rated 1lb superior to that pair is the Mark and Charlie Johnston-trained Thunderous, who gave Stradivarius a run for his money in the Yorkshire Cup earlier in the month and tests the water over two miles for the first time.
Harry Herbert, managing director for owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, said: “He’s in great form, came out of York very well and it’s an open-looking race without Trueshan.
“If he stays two miles then hopefully he’s got a really good chance. We’re in unknown territory, but he wasn’t stopping the other day (at York) and it looks like he’ll have every chance of staying, so we’re looking forward to Sandown.”
Ed Dunlop’s John Leeper and Andrew Balding’s pair of Alounak and Nate The Great also feature.
A clutch of exciting juveniles are set to go to post for the preceding Coral National Stakes.
The likely favourite is Roger Varian’s impressive Newmarket novice winner Tajalla, while David O’Meara’s Maria Branwell and the Richard Spencer-trained Waiting All Night are also one from one.
Further interest is added by the presence of Irish raider Crispy Cat, who won on his debut at Cork before pushing subsequent Group Three winner Blackbeard close in a Listed race at the Curragh.
“I think he’ll be hard to beat. Blackbeard has franked the form. We did well to run him to a short head and actually on the day I thought we were probably a little bit unlucky as we gave Blackbeard a lead, idled a bit in front and had our head in front after the line again,” said O’Callaghan.
“I think he’s a genuine Norfolk horse and bringing him over for another run will sharpen him up and get him street-wise.
“Tajalla looks a nice horse, but to be honest – and I could be eating my words come Thursday evening – I think the Irish two-year-olds are pretty hot this year.
“Our horse is in great form and has strengthened up a lot since he was second in the Listed race, so hopefully all goes well and hopefully all roads will lead to Royal Ascot.”