Elarqam has either Hardwicke or Prince of Wales's Stakes on agenda

Wed 10 Jun 2020

Elarqam is likely to break new ground at Royal Ascot by racing over a mile and a half for the first time in the Hardwicke Stakes on Friday week.

The Mark Johnston-trained son of Frankel is being lined up for a tilt at the Group Two contest, although a return to the top table in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes earlier at the meeting has not been ruled out.

After beating one home in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on his final start last season, the Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned five-year-old found only Lord North too strong on his return to action in the re-arranged Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Haydock on Sunday.

Charlie Johnston, son and assistant trainer, said: “We’ve spoken to Sheikh Hamdan this morning and he is happy leaving things up to us, which is great for him to do.

“At this moment in time Plan A would be the Hardwicke, but we will keep an eye on the Prince of Wales’s and see what turns up.

“It will be interesting to see him going up to a mile and a half and there is a strong possibility it will bring out more improvement.

“Obviously it is a slightly shorter than normal turnaround, but we are not too concerned about that for him. He will definitely come forward for the run like he did last year after his comeback in the Earl of Sefton.”

Though Elarqam was just denied a winning return to action, Johnston believes there are plenty of positives to take out of the race.

Johnston added: “He was only beaten a short head on Sunday, so it is easy to take the positives out of the race, but at the same time you want to win.

“He was a slight victim of the way things panned out, having to do all the work early on and in hindsight we wish he could have committed early to draw the sting out of them.

“He could have easily folded a furlong out and finished third beaten a few lengths, but once he had the winner in sight, he knuckled down and stayed all the way to the line so it was a good solid run.”

Johnston confirmed Frankie Dettori will continue his partnership with Norfolk Stakes favourite Eye Of Heaven at the Royal meeting after steering the Exceed And Excel colt to glory on his debut at Newmarket.

He said: “We are likely to have five first-time-out winners going there and a couple of nice horses that finished second on debut, but you would have to say Eye Of Heaven is the one we are most excited about.

“We thought he was the best one before we started racing again and nothing has changed our minds. He looks the real deal.

“Frankie Dettori has been confirmed to ride him. Wesley Ward could send over something that was like Air Force One and I don’t think Frankie would get off this lad.”

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