William Haggas is keeping his feet on the ground ahead of Desert Hero’s bid to carry the royal colours to Classic glory in the Betfred St Leger at Doncaster on Saturday.
It is 46 years since Dunfermline landed the Doncaster showpiece for the late Queen, who also won the 2000 Guineas, the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks as an owner.
Desert Hero already has a place in history, having provided the newly-crowned King and Queen with a first Royal Ascot success in the King George V Stakes in June, since when he has enhanced his Leger claims with victory in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood.
Haggas has been pleased with the Sea The Stars colt since his latest triumph – but while expectations from the wider racing community are high ahead of his trip to Town Moor this weekend, the Newmarket handler is not getting carried away.
“He’s in good form and doing well – he worked this morning and he went nicely. He’s done now so we just have to hope for the best,” he told Sky Sports Racing.
“He was impressive at Goodwood with cut in the ground and he won on top of the ground at Royal Ascot, so I don’t think that bothers him too much.
“Obviously the softer it is the more accent it puts on stamina and he may not be a strong stayer at a mile and six and a half (furlongs), but we’ll see – I think he will.”
There were genuine concerns the royal patronage of racing would fade with the late Queen’s passing 12 months ago, but joyous scenes in the Royal Ascot winner’s enclosure following Desert Hero’s success were a huge boost to the sport.
Haggas said: “It’s wonderful that they’ve taken up the mantle from the King’s late mother and are enjoying it with great gusto. It’s terrific that they’ve got a horse that is obviously quite useful and they’re enjoying him enormously, I know that.
“Everyone who is involved in horse racing in any shape or form would like to win a Classic, whether they breed it, own it, train it, ride it or look after it.
“The Classic is everyone’s dream, so they’re no different to everyone else.”
Haggas knows Desert Hero will not have things all his own way, with a clutch of talented rivals set to be in opposition.
He added: “There doesn’t looks to be too many that shouldn’t be there. John (Gosden) has got the strongest hand with Gregory, Middle Earth and Arrest, and Aidan’s (O’Brien) horse (Continuous) was very impressive in the Voltigeur.
“I suppose Gregory and Continuous are the two, but they’re the front two in the market. Chesspiece is very solid and we’re pretty solid too, so I think it’s a good renewal and it will be a good, fun race.”
Desert Hero has also been given an entry in the Melbourne Cup, but Haggas is not looking beyond this weekend’s big-race assignment.
He said: “Obviously it’s in our minds, but much will depend on what happens on Saturday.”