Align The Stars shines to demonstrate his promise at Haydock

Charlie Johnston is excited to see how high Align The Stars can climb the ladder after plundering the £100,000 bet365 Handicap at Haydock.

The full-brother to multiple Group-race winner Al Aasy set connections back 100,000 guineas as a yearling in the autumn of 2022 and while three juvenile outings failed to yield a victory, he offered plenty of hope for the future.

The son of Sea The Stars again had to make do with minor honours on his first three starts of the current campaign, placing at Newmarket, York and Hamilton before opening his account with a clear-cut victory at Thirsk last month.

Stepping up in class and trip for this one-mile-six-furlong contest, Align The Stars was a 7-1 shot in the hands of Joe Fanning and after racing close to the pace for much of the way, he dug deep when challenged to score by a length and a half.

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bet365 Old Newton Cup Day – Haydock Park Racecourse
Align The Stars returns victorious at Haydock (Ian Hodgson/PA)

Johnston said: “He’s a huge horse and thank God he is because that’s probably the only reason we were able to afford him at the yearling sales given his pedigree. He’s bred to be a top-class horse and he was near enough that size as a yearling, so that probably made him affordable to us.

“We probably ran him more than we wanted to last year, chasing his Book One bonus. We always knew he was a horse that was going to get better this year, particularly when he stepped up to these kind of distances.

“He’d been a little bit unlucky on his first couple of starts this year, but he’s started to put things together at Thirsk, we felt he was going the right way and this was the next step on the ladder.”

While the Middleham handler is not ruling out an interim appearance at Glorious Goodwood for his imposing colt, the prestigious Melrose Handicap at York’s Ebor Festival next month is considered as a major target.

“This is a race that we’ve won a few times in the past, including with Sir Ron Priestley, and Subjectivist actually got beat in it trying to carry top-weight,” the trainer added.

“I’ve always hoped this horse would be a Group horse in time and I’ve not seen anything today that doesn’t give me that confidence.

“If he went to Goodwood he’d have to come back to a mile and a half and Tony (Farmer, owner) is a big York man, so the Melrose has been on the radar for a long time.

“I’ll have an eye on stakes company as well because I think that’s where this horse belongs.”

Rossa Ryan produced the Robert Cowell-trained Cloud King with a well timed challenge to claim top honours in the Bet Boost At bet365 Handicap.

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Cloud King won the opening race at Haydock
Cloud King won the opening race at Haydock (Ian Hodgson/The Jockey Club)

Turning out just five days after finishing fourth at Windsor, the 17-2 shot was held up off a brisk early gallop before quickening up to smartly run down the leaders and score by a length and three-quarters from Vince L’Amour.

“I thought he’d enjoy a bit of dig in the ground and there’s a good enough headwind out there and we went a good gallop, so I was confident that if I got the gap I’d go and take it,” said Ryan.

“I just had to wait and I thought I had everyone covered.”

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