Jockey Tony Hamilton is “hopeful rather than confident” about the chances of Forest Ranger in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown on Saturday.
Richard Fahey’s four-year-old is unbeaten in two starts this season, landing the Group Three Earl of Sefton Stakes at Newmarket and the Group Two Huxley Stakes at Chester in May.
He is a double-figure price as he steps up to the highest level in this weekend’s feature event and with Derby hero Masar, Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior among his rivals, Hamilton is fully aware of the scale of his task.
“Forest Ranger has got to improve on what he’s done but he seems on an upward curve and hopefully he will give a good account of himself,” said the 34-year-old rider.
“It’s going to be a tough race, and you’d be hopeful rather than confident, but it’s great to be involved.”
Forest Ranger was gelded during the off-season but Hamilton is not sure the operation is the main reason for his improvement.
Speaking ahead of another leg of the Qipco British Champions Series, he continued: “Chester was definitely a personal best for him. It was the first time he’s quickened like that and I thought the way he went away from the field was most impressive.
“I don’t know whether the gelding operation has had anything to with his improvement, but I doubt it. He’s a gent of a horse and no different than when he was a colt – I’d say it is more that he has just grown into his body.
“He’s a huge horse – the biggest in the yard – and is maturing. He’s just getting better with age and I think he’ll keep getting better.”
Hamilton admits Forest Ranger saves his best work for the racecourse, adding: “I ride him in all his work. He doesn’t do a lot at home and you just go by his well-being and demeanour.
“If you are working him with a 60- or 70-rated horse he will just go with it, but if you take him with a nice horse he’d go with that too.
“They are the ones you want – those who don’t do a lot at home but sprout wings when they get to the track.”