Reach For The Moon 'will need the run' warns John Gosden

Thursday: 7.15 Sandown
Coral Heron Stakes (Listed) | 3yo | 1m | RTV

John Gosden has saddled the last three winners of the Heron Stakes but Mostahdaf, King Of Comedy and Without Parole arrived with different credentials to this season’s favourite Reach For The Moon. Each had the benefit of a prep run and were using the Heron as a stepping stone to the St James’s Palace Stakes.

Reappearing over a mile at Sandown was never the initial goal for the injury stricken Reach For The Moon. His connections considered the three-year-old a live Derby hope, and his future is surely over a longer trip.

His only upcoming entry at Royal Ascot is in the King Edward VII Stakes over 1m4f. While he boasts significantly the best form and could be tough to peg back, he is crying out to be opposed.

Akhu Najla is deemed the likeliest to expose any vulnerabilities in Reach For The Moon according to the early betting and the Roger Varian-trained colt has a great chance.

He looked a top prospect when bolting up by six and a half lengths in a Yarmouth novice and is a best-priced 10-1 for the St James’s Palace.

Akhu Najla registered some eyecatchingly fast closing sectionals from two furlongs out to the finishing line there and won eased down under David Egan.

The only concern is Varian’s stable form as the trainer is 1-28 over the past fortnight and that brings the equally unexposed My Prospero into the equation.

My Prospero is a half-brother to the smart My Oberon and his trainer William Haggas is in electric form. He is 16-36 over the last 14 days and the 66-1 about My Prospero for the St James’s Palace will be long gone if the big two underperform.

Reach for the top
Let us celebrate Reach For The Moon's presence and look to a happy future rather than mourn previous absence – just as we have done with his owner.

The Queen missed the state opening of parliament but was at the Windsor Horse Show last week and unveiled a plaque at Paddington to mark the completion of the Elizabeth Line, raising hopes she will be at the Cazoo Derby.

Reach For The Moon might also have been at Epsom – what better way would there be to mark his owner/breeder's platinum jubilee than by landing the only Classic that has eluded her, 69 years after she went so close with Aureole in the week of her coronation?

That was not to be as he was ruled out when it was decided he would not be ready to go on trial in the Dante Stakes at York.

However, Epsom is not the be all and end all and the Heron Stakes has proved a springboard to big-race success for the Gosden stable, which has won the last three runnings.

The 2018 winner Without Parole landed the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, in which King Of Comedy was a close second the following year, while Mostahdaf has added two Group 3 victories since last season's triumph.

Reach For The Moon holds entries in the King Edward VII Stakes at the royal meeting and the Coral-Eclipse, suggesting he is still thought to have a bright future.

Frankie Dettori's mount returns to the scene of last season's Solario Stakes win, but John Gosden warned: "He spent three and a half months at Sandringham Stud where they did a very good job with him.

"He is now coming back and is just ready to run and will definitely need the race to bring him on."

What they say
Roger Varian, trainer of Akhu Najla
It looks a strong race but he's a nice horse, we've always liked him and he won well at Yarmouth. This will test his credentials ahead of Ascot and it's only his third start. He's been good since Yarmouth, his work has been solid and he looks the part.

James Horton, trainer of Encourageable
It looks a tough race but he's done very little wrong and his form looks pretty strong. He's been pleasing us at home so we're going to give it a go.

Harry Herbert, managing director of Highclere Thoroughbreds, owners of Harrow
He's a big price but he deserves to take his chance. We went too far at Chester, he was rolling along beautifully until he hit a brick wall and he's a miler.