Stay Well aiming to stake late claim for Derby honours

Hughie Morrison hopes to see Derby entry Stay Well live up to his name and his ancestry in Goodwood’s British Stallion Studs EBF Cocked Hat Stakes.

Stay Well, one of 29 possible runners in the premier Classic after this week’s forfeit stage, faces five rivals in Friday’s Listed event.

Formerly the Predominate Stakes, the Cocked Hat is one of the last feasible trials for the Derby early next month – and among the opposition at Goodwood, Martyn Meade’s Lone Eagle and Charlie Appleby’s Yibir also both retain Epsom aspirations.

Morrison acknowledges he is setting Stay Well a stern test of his Derby credentials, on just his third career start following a highly-promising runner-up effort on debut in a Doncaster maiden last September and then an impressive Windsor victory in similar company on his return last month.

“He’s going to have to make a quantum leap from his maiden win to compete against proven Group horses,” said the Berskhire trainer, mindful of the presence of last year’s Zetland Stakes winner Lone Eagle.

In addition, Yibir was third in the Group Three Classic Trial at Sandown, while Ralph Beckett’s Aleas is seeking a four-timer and David Simcock’s Man Of Riddles was a winning debutant at Wolverhampton in March.

Stay Well’s eight-length Windsor success under Tom Marquand was eyecatching, and enough to keep the Derby dream alive for owners Ben and Sir Martyn Arbib.

Morrison said: “So far time has proven that those behind him haven’t complimented the form – but you can only win like that really.

“Tom (Marquand) just said he’s a nice horse, and we’ll find out plenty more on Friday – whether that’s ability or liking for ground.”

Any further deterioration from the forecast soft would be a concern for Morrison, who is nonetheless much happier with an ease in the ground than anything faster.

Stay Well, out of a dual winner up to a mile and six furlongs in the same colours, appeared suited by the move up in trip at Windsor.

Morrison is hoping he will be at home too over 11 furlongs this week, and further in time – although he explained the son of seven-furlong specialist Iffraaj derives his name from topicality rather than an anticipated abundance of stamina.

“He was named Stay Well in recognition of the sayings this time last year ‘Stay Alert, Stay At Home’ – not (necessarily) that he would stay well,” he added.

“But his mother did stay very well – she should have won at Goodwood actually (close second at Listed level).”

Stay Well’s owner-breeders hope he may rise to greater heights.

Morrison said: “Martyn and Ben breed to win the Derby – so if you’ve got half a chance of running in the Derby that’s what you do.

“It’s close enough to the Derby. (But) my feeling is, if we were going to the Derby, we’d have to give him a very good gallop some time in the next 10 days.

“(So) if we did end up in it, this is his racecourse gallop.

“If it was firm ground I’d be more worried. I think firm ground takes a lot more out of these horses than soft ground.

“What you don’t know is how much heavy ground will take out – which it could be by Friday.”

Lone Eagle (nearside) returns to Goodwood for the Cocked Hat Stakes
Lone Eagle (nearside) returns to Goodwood for the Cocked Hat Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Meade is expecting an improved performance from Lone Eagle after his seasonal debut at Sandown where was fourth to Alenquer in the bet365 Classic Trial, although he will have to shoulder a 5lb penalty.

Lone Eagle returns to the scene of his first victory in August.

“He was a little bit disappointing at Sandown. He just didn’t seem to spark, but then again it was his first time back and he is a lazyish horse,” said the Manton handler.

“He does need motivating and he was a bit ring-rusty, so maybe tomorrow we will see him in a better light.

“I needed to give him another run. It’s not ideal having to carry a penalty. That’s not good but at the same time if he’s good enough, he should manage with it.

“I just wanted to get him out and get him running. Hopefully the track will suit him. We’ll just see where to go from there.”