Haggas working towards Hardwicke goal with Desert Hero

A Royal Ascot repeat will be on Desert Hero’s agenda when he returns to the track this summer, with William Haggas keen to head to the Hardwicke Stakes in peak condition.

The son of Sea The Stars entered the record books at last year’s Royal meeting when his last-gasp King George V Stakes success provided the King and Queen with their first Royal Ascot champion and prompted joyous scenes in the royal box.

He would go on to land the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood on his next start which teed-up a shot at the St Leger, where Desert Hero would finish an honourable third in the presence of his owners.

Initial talk of a Melbourne Cup bid was soon curtailed and with the Somerville Lodge handler electing against taking him to Australia this side of the new year, he is pleasing Haggas at home as he builds towards the start of his four-year-old campaign.

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The King and Queen with Desert Hero after winning at Royal Ascot
The King and Queen with Desert Hero after winning at Royal Ascot (David Davies/PA)

The earlier part of the season will have a Royal Ascot focus, with the Hardwicke Stakes currently nominated as Desert Hero’s target for the summer showpiece.

“He’s done really well and I’m really pleased with him,” said Haggas.

“We cut (gelded) him over the winter and took the view he was unlikely to make a stallion, or a stallion that would be popular for anyone, and that he still had plenty of mileage as a racehorse. I think he will be better for being gelded and hopefully he will have a good season.

“He will have a run or two, probably only a run, and it would be very much the Hardwicke. It would be lovely to go back to Ascot with a chance for him.”

For his Royal Ascot tune-up, Desert Hero could tread a similar path to 12 months ago by appearing on Lockinge Day at Newbury on May 18.

The four-year-old reappeared in the London Gold Cup on that card in 2023 and Haggas has tentatively suggested that the Al Rayyan Stakes, previously known as the Aston Park, could be the ideal spot to return to action.

“It will depend how quickly he comes to hand, but the obvious race is the Aston Park,” he continued.

“He ran in the London Gold Cup last year at Newbury and the Aston Park is on the same day, a valuable Group Three race.

“He will be penalty free for that and if you are asking me in March where he will go, then off the top of my head that is what I would say.

“It’s very possible he will start there. That to me looks the perfect place to start him with a nice gap until Royal Ascot.”

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