Charlie Appleby is leaning towards dropping last year’s Derby winner Masar back in trip on his eagerly-awaited return to action, after earmarking the Prince of Wales’s Stakes as his preferred Royal Ascot target.
The Newmarket handler his keen to try the son of New Approach, who has been sidelined since sustaining a setback after his victory in the Epsom Classic, over a mile and a quarter for the first time in the Group One contest.
Although aiming to get Masar – who also holds an entry in the Hardwicke Stakes – back on track at the Royal meeting, Appleby has a contingency plan in place should he fail to be ready in time.
Appleby said on Tuesday: “He is cantering away and I’m very pleased with him. We have made the entries for Royal Ascot in the Prince of Wales’s and the Hardwicke. It is a day by day situation with him and as of today we are on target.
“He is a horse that helps himself in potentially getting to Ascot as he is an athlete. He is a very clean-winded horse. On the work we have done with him, personally we might just be a bit tight.
“William (Buick) and I spoke about it this morning in the car when we watched second lot. We personally feel the mile and a quarter will be the right starting point for him. It’s a trip we’ve not explored, but potentially he shows it to be the right spot to start him off.
“His Highness (Sheikh Mohammed) was here last week and we all agreed if he comes in time then great, we will be there for sure, but if it means we are a gallop or two (short) going into Ascot then we will wait.
“If he doesn’t happen to hit that target then the likely target will be the Princess of Wales’s back at the July meeting at Newmarket.”
Looking further down the line there is only one race Appleby has set his sights on ensuring Masar gets to – the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp in October, for which he is as short as 10-1.
Appleby added: “If we go to Ascot and we go to the Prince of Wales’s or the Hardwicke and he runs well, the most logical step would be the King George.
“If we start off over 10, though, and he wins the Prince of Wales’s you put yourself into a Juddmonte picture as well.
“Our ultimate aim is the Arc. It was a race we were looking forward to last year, but with his setbacks unfortunately we didn’t get there. It is a race we are working back from.”
Having enjoyed plenty of top-level victories both at home and abroad last year, there is no doubt in Appleby’s mind where Masar’s victory in the Derby sits on his list of achievements.
He said: “Winning the Derby has been the highest point of my career and to do it in the blue colours for Godolphin and Sheikh Mohammed was a dream.
“It is something that not only us here at Godolphin enjoyed, but I think racing enjoyed it. It was applauded by all of the sport.”