Angel Bleu returned to the winner’s enclosure with victory in the Pertemps Network Spring Trophy Stakes at Haydock.
Ralph Beckett’s four-year-old was a top-class juvenile but was winless last term in three starts.
He made his all-weather debut earlier in the year, finishing second to Berkshire Shadow in the Lady Wulfruna, and then headed to the Prix Edmond Blanc at Saint-Cloud where he came home sixth over a mile.
At Listed level over seven furlongs at Haydock he was sent off at 3-1 under Hector Crouch and took up the lead in the final furlong.
He traded blows with Andrew Balding’s Holguin but rallied to succeed by a neck, with the stewards leaving the placings unaltered after an inquiry into possible interreference.
Crouch said: “He was very tough, that was probably a furlong short of his best here today.
“He’s won Group Ones at a mile, I was really pleased to get him back on track.
“He’s had a tough couple of years since his very busy and successful juvenile career, it’s a step back to where we know he can be.
“He’s a funny horse, he can take a bit of winding up sometimes. He needed that today, it was just nice to get him back in front.”
Of the inquiry involving the runner-up, Crouch added: “He had every chance for a solid furlong and just wasn’t good enough on the day.”
Creative Force made light work of the Pertemps Network Conditions Stakes for Charlie Appleby and James Doyle.
The chestnut was third on seasonal debut in the Abernant Stakes at Newmarket and has a smart back catalogue of form with Group One successes to his name.
He has a particular liking for Ascot having won the Jersey Stakes and the Champions Sprint there, and is likely to be heading back to the Royal meeting come June.
At Haydock he was the 4-6 favourite and produced a pleasing run to cross the line three lengths ahead of his nearest rival.
Doyle said: “I’m really pleased with him. He’s a bonny horse and he’s been a real flag-bearer for us over the years. He usually comes to the fore when you need him and hopefully this is just a little stepping stone to better things.
“Obviously he does enjoy getting his toe in but he’s still effective on quicker ground and he should be in for a good campaign, he certainly hasn’t lost his enthusiasm over the years anyway.
“I was kind of looking at it and I thought it would be a bit tactical. There were no certain leaders in the race and he’s a pretty chilled out character. I didn’t think we’d be going that quick so I said to Charlie perhaps to let him pop out and prick his ears in front and I can go whenever.
“With the ground drying all the time and it being over six furlongs it’s probably his minimum trip nowadays.
“I thought he just got done for a bit of speed at Newmarket, they went really slow and dashed into the dip and kind of got in a bit of a tangle out the other side so I was keen to just let him balance up and go for home.
“He’s done plenty of winning at Ascot and did me a big favour in the Jersey Stakes a couple of years ago. When the rain comes for him it’s a big plus, so we’ll just have to see, but even on quick ground he runs his race.”