John Gosden says that the best is yet to come from Cracksman as his star colt attempts to make a stylish return to Ascot in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot on Wednesday.
Although an unconvincing winner of the Coronation Cup at Epsom earlier in the month, Cracksman was at his brilliant best on his previous outing at the Berkshire course in last season’s Champion Stakes, where he scorched seven lengths clear.
Speaking at Ascot on Tuesday, Gosden re-iterated the problems Cracksman had at Epsom but does not believe this prize is the be-all and end-all.
"Tomorrow we run Cracksman," he said.
"I'm very happy with him. The ground here is genuinely good to firm and we're hopeful of a huge run.
"I always feel he's the type of horse who'll do better later in the year, I’ll be looking forward to the Arc with him.
"Hopefully if we run here and run a big race, fine, if we win, we win, if we lose, we lose. Still the plan would be the King George and freshen for the Arc.”
It took all of Frankie Dettori’s strength and guile in the saddle to drive Cracksman up close home to beat outsider Salouen, but Gosden expects the more conventional track to be in his favour. At a best-priced 8-13 in a race where horses such as Treve have been turned over he will need to be.
“He is fine," he said. It was a bit of a muddle at Epsom, but he got the job done.
“It would not be the ideal prep race coming in, but we are happy to run him and he is in good form at home.
“The horse was a little bit at sea all the time at Epsom. He did whack his head in the stalls. I could understand why he didn’t like coming down the hill.
“He seems happy at the moment. He has breezed since Epsom and Frankie has ridden him. He is pleased with the horse going into the race.
“The ground rode very soft on Champions Day and this is a different ball game. This is summer racing on fast summer ground so it is a different ball game.”
Owner Anthony Oppenheimer said: “I hope he will be the star attraction, but you can never tell. It was amazing he won at Epsom, as we had no idea he bumped his head at the beginning.
“John said he wasn’t travelling at all well in those first five furlongs. It was so unlike the horse that he was keen. He had a hell of a bump on his head and he almost became a unicorn!
“Fortunately he won, although it was quite close. I thought a furlong out he was beaten.
“The ground was soft and I was thinking ‘how he is going to catch up?’ but he did. It is bit firmer than it was on Champions Day, so we will see what happens, but hopefully it will be the same result.”
Hawkbill has been around for a few years and on his day has proved capable of some top-class form, like when he won the Eclipse.
However, he was a long way behind Cracksman at Epsom, but Charlie Appleby's stable could hardly be in better form and struck with Blue Point in the King's Stand Stakes on Tuesday.
“We were slightly disappointed with Hawkbill’s run at Epsom, as he had his ground there,” said Appleby.
“He is becoming more versatile as he gets older and has put up decent performances on quick ground as well as soft ground.
“He does get himself worked up, but he got a bit more worked up as well and maybe there was a bit of freshness as well that day because he had a break since the Sheema Classic victory in Dubai.
“He’s come out of the race very well and Hawkbill is Hawkbill – when he brings his A game, he is a hard horse to pass.”
Cliffs Of Moher is Aidan O’Brien’s representative and while he looks up against it, there was not much between him and Cracksman in the Derby last year.
“He came on well from his first run this year to his second and we think he has progressed again since the Tattersalls Gold Cup,” said O’Brien in a stable tour for At The Races.
Martyn Meade was at a loss to explain Eminent’s display at Chester on his return to action. At first a heart problem was blamed, but that theory has since been debunked.
Meade said: “I think he’s better on fast ground so I think the ground will suit him, it was quick in France when he won and in the Craven.”
Oisin Murphy, who rides Eminent in the QIPCO Briish Champions Series contest, added: Murphy, appointed to ride him this year, said: "Everyone’s hoping Cracksman doesn’t run to his rating. He didn’t at Epsom and if he doesn’t then we’ve got a live chance. I have a lot of belief in Eminent and he has the type of physique which suggests he should improve from three to four, and on pedigree he’s also bred to do well at four.
“Some of his runs last year were top class and if they had fallen a different way maybe results would have been different. I’ve been handed the reins on him and all I want to do is the best for the horse. If he’s healthy, he will run a massive race.”