Royal Ascot looks to be on the agenda for Maria Branwell, who took advantage of the 5lb fillies’ allowance to land the Coral National Stakes at Sandown by a neck.
The David O’Meara-trained daughter of James Garfield overcame greenness on debut to take a 15-runner Thirsk maiden on her debut 12 days previously and backed that up with an eyecatching second run.
Danny Tudhope’s mount showed her inexperience in the early stages as the odds-on Crispy Cat, who had been short-headed by the smart Blackbeard in a Listed race at the Curragh last time, set a good tempo.
Maria Branwell (3-1) was a little slowly into her stride in the Listed five-furlong contest, but once finding her stride two furlongs out, she picked up nicely and wore down Ross Ryan’s mount in the final 200 yards.
The pair drew six and a half lengths clear of Rumstar, and Tudhope was rightly impressed.
He said: “This was only her second start and she is still learning. She was up against the boys today.
“I sat on her at home a few weeks ago and she has taken a nice step forward. She gave me a nice feel going down to the start. I liked her.
“She has a great attitude, good temperament and is a very likeable filly in the way she did her work in the last furlong. I’m sure she will get six furlongs.
“She was a little bit outpaced and off her feet in the first few furlongs but she came good halfway and picked up great, really good, and I was always confident I was going to get there.
“I’m pretty sure she will come into her own over six furlongs, but that was only her second start. She’d still be a bit green. But it was great, though.”
Trainer Mick Murphy is part of the owning Bronte Collection 1 syndicate, which was set up by Steve Parkin.
Murphy added: “The genesis was British Champions weekend last year and Steve said he was going to put together a syndicate with a group of friends.
“There are 15 or 20 horses. We train one and David O’Meara has this one. They have already got a good horse with Kevin Ryan in Thunder Moon, who won at York.
“According to Danny, Royal Ascot is in the thoughts, but we will leave it to the trainer.”
Amanda Perrett has previous form in the Royal Hunt Cup and will target that Royal Ascot race again with Rebel Territory, who made a winning seasonal bow under joint top-weight in the Coral Whitsun Cup Handicap.
The strapping four-year-old was successful in two of his last three starts in 2021 and is starting to fill his scopey frame.
On his first run for six months, the Territories gelding was keen in the early stages of the mile contest and Jim Crowley did well to settle him as the well-supported Inigo Jones set a lone, wide path.
Ryan Moore’s mount did a little too much on his first run of the season, however, and was a sitting duck two furlongs out.
The former champion jockey had the benefit of the far rail and eased to the front inside the final furlong and had plenty in the tank as Ouzo and Saffie Osborne loomed up on his withers.
In the end, Rebel Territory (4-1) had a cosy neck to spare, with Lyndon B five and a half lengths further back in third.
Crowley said: “It was pretty straightforward. He was a bit keen and fresh early on, but he is a decent horse. They went a decent gallop and he might be a nice horse for the Hunt Cup or something.”
The yard won that race in 2017 with Zhui Feng and the trainer’s husband, Mark Perret, confirmed that may well be the target.
He said: “He has done really well over the winter and is just starting to fill his frame. You can see what a big horse he is. He was still able to do what he did last year when a big, weak horse.
“We were fairly optimistic. He is starting to settle down. Last year he was a bit keen, but he is starting to grow up.
“He has needed a bit of settling down at home. He can be a bit keen still now. It depends on what mood he is in.
“The Hunt Cup will hopefully be a nice plan. Onwards and upwards. The track will suit him at Ascot. It is a galloping track and the faster they go, the better he will be.”