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Alcohol Free one of the highlights for Murphy in another championship season

Oisin Murphy has enjoyed another fine season, with his 153 winners sealing a third jockeys’ championship. Here, we take a look at five of his high-profile domestic successes in 2021:

Alcohol Free – Sussex Stakes, Goodwood.

Oisin Murphy punches the air after winning the Sussex Stakes on Alcohol Free
Oisin Murphy punches the air after winning the Sussex Stakes on Alcohol Free (John Walton/PA)

Andrew Balding’s star filly has provided Murphy with some great days – but her victory in the Sussex Stakes against the boys gave him plenty of pleasure, and rightly so. Up against 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace winner Poetic Flare, Breeders’ Cup Mile victor Order Of St George, her Falmouth Stakes conqueror Snow Lantern and Summer Mile scorer Tilsit, Alcohol Free displayed a devastating turn of foot to give Murphy arguably his biggest thrill of the campaign.

Buzz – Cesarewitch, Newmarket

Oisin Murphy times it right on Buzz in the Cesarewitch
Oisin Murphy times it right on Buzz in the Cesarewitch (Tim Goode/PA)

There is nothing better in racing than when a long-term plan comes together and that was the case in the Cesarewitch. Nicky Henderson might be better known for his jumpers, but he was winning the race for the third time so it was perhaps quite surprising Buzz was as big as 8-1 when news got out the champion jockey had been booked weeks in advance. The grey looked to have plenty to do when Burning Victory shot clear, but Murphy had saved just enough for the closing furlong to win one of the biggest handicaps of the season.

Berkshire Shadow – Coventry Stakes, Royal Ascot

Oisin Murphy celebrates winning the Coventry Stakes on Berkshire Shadow
Oisin Murphy celebrates winning the Coventry Stakes on Berkshire Shadow (David Davies/PA)

It seems an age ago now, but the first day of Royal Ascot took place on fast ground in beautiful sunshine and Murphy got things spot on in the Coventry Stakes. A winner at Newbury on his debut, he was sent off 11-1 to remain unbeaten but had a wall of horses in front of him two furlongs out. As is typical of the Royal Ascot juvenile races, though, they had gone very fast in front – usually led by a Wesley Ward runner – and Murphy weaved his way through tired horses to hit the front close home.

Benbatl – Joel Stakes, Newmarket

Benbatl showed the fire still burns bright in the Joel Stakes
Benbatl showed the fire still burns bright in the Joel Stakes (Mike Egerton/PA)

Murphy will always hold Benbatl close to his heart given Saeed bin Suroor’s stalwart provided him with a first Royal Ascot winner in the Hampton Court Stakes way back in 2017. And the seven-year-old showed he is still capable of a high level of form at Newmarket. Narrowly denied on his return from a long absence in the Celebration Mile, the globetrotter had too much close home for some much younger rivals in the Group Two.

Starman – Duke of York Stakes, York

Starman edges out Nahaarr on his return
Starman edges out Nahaarr on his return (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

A slight setback prevented Ed Walker’s sprinter from turning up on Champions Day, meaning he was denied the crowning moment he probably deserved as he also won the July Cup and went close in the Prix Maurice de Gheest and Haydock Sprint Cup. Tom Marquand rode him in all those, but on his first run of the season he was claimed to ride Nahaarr for his boss William Haggas, meaning Murphy stepped in. The two fought out the finish with Starman just prevailing.

Alcohol Free leads 17 seeking Sun Chariot glory

Alcohol Free and Snow Lantern are among 17 fillies confirmed for the Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes.

Having already won the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, the Andrew Balding-trained Alcohol Free will bid for her third Group One success of the season in Saturday’s Newmarket feature.

The daughter of No Nay Never will drop back in distance over the Rowley Mile after seemingly having her stamina limitations exposed over 10 furlongs when sixth in the Juddmonte International at York on her latest appearance.

Richard Hannon’s Snow Lantern was behind Alcohol Free at Royal Ascot and Goodwood, but reversed that form when claiming top-level honours in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket’s July Course.

The Frankel filly was last seen finishing fourth behind the brilliant Baaeed in the Prix du Moulin at ParisLongchamp – and Hannon feels his star filly has an “outstanding chance” of getting back on the winning trail this weekend.

“Snow Lantern is in good nick. She didn’t scope very well after France, but she has had the antibiotics since then and she has scoped fine,” said the Herridge handler.

“She did a bit of work yesterday morning and will now be turning up in the Sun Chariot on Saturday. She will run a lot better than she did in France.

“This is a golden opportunity against her own sex and hopefully she has an outstanding chance.”

Mother Earth winning the 1000 Guineas under Frankie Dettori
Mother Earth winning the 1000 Guineas under Frankie Dettori (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Mother Earth won the 1000 Guineas over the course and distance in early May. She is closely matched with Alcohol Free and Snow Lantern on her subsequent form, having finished third in the Coronation and second in the Falmouth Stakes.

Aidan O’Brien’s charge has since doubled her Group One tally in the Prix Rothschild, but could only finish third behind Jessica Harrington’s No Speak Alexander when last seen contesting the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown. The pair could renew rivalry on Saturday.

O’Brien could also run Empress Josephine, with Champers Elysees (Johnny Murtagh), Epona Plays (Willie McCreery) and Shale (Donnacha O’Brien) completing the potential Irish challenge.

Jane Chapple-Hyam’s Saffron Beach and Althiqa from Charlie Appleby’s yard also feature.

QEII target back at a mile for Alcohol Free

Alcohol Free is set to drop back to a mile for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot after failing to get home in Wednesday’s Juddmonte International.

Already a dual Group One winner this season after landing the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Sussex at Goodwood, connections made the bold decision to go for glory over a mile and quarter in the feature event of York’s Ebor Festival.

But it was a gamble that ultimately failed, with Andrew Balding’s filly finishing sixth of seven runners behind the brilliant winner Mishriff and she will now be trained for Qipco Champions Day on October 16.

“Going up to a mile and a quarter was always going to be a punt,” said Balding.

“She looked like she had come there and was only going to be beaten a couple of lengths into second. Having looked like she was going to get placed, she didn’t quite get home over the last 100 yards, but we have learned something from it.

“She was fine this morning. She will have a little holiday now as she has been busy enough.

“She is entered in the Sun Chariot, but the plan is to come back and have a go at the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Champions Day.”

Smith gambles on Alcohol Free’s stamina for International assignment

Owner Jeff Smith feels he has “nothing to lose” by allowing his star filly Alcohol Free to line up for the Juddmonte International at York.

A daughter of American sprinter No Nay Never, Andrew Balding’s charge will take a step into the unknown on the Knavesmire as she tries a mile and a quarter for the first time.

There were doubts about whether the Cheveley Park Stakes winner’s stamina would even last out over a mile earlier in the year – but those have been extinguished by further top-level wins in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

Never one to shirk a challenge, Smith is ready to roll the dice over another two furlongs in Wednesday’s Group One feature – a race he won with 50-1 shot Arabian Queen in 2015. His brilliant colt Chief Singer was third in the 1984 renewal.

“The favourite (St Mark’s Basilica) is out, but it’s still a top-class, Group One race,” said Smith.

“The Juddmonte International is a championship race, so what else would you expect?

“I haven’t seen the filly for a few days, but I’m told she’s absolutely thriving and full of health.”

Although Alcohol Free’s two victories this season have come on easy surface, Smith is unfazed about the prospect of faster conditions at York and admits only time will tell whether the mile and a quarter is within her compass.

He added: “We’re not fussed about the ground – she’ll go on anything.

Owner Jeff Smith (left) after the victory of Alcohol Free at Royal Ascot
Owner Jeff Smith (left) after the victory of Alcohol Free at Royal Ascot (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“We have nothing to lose. Either she stays or she doesn’t stay. I’m really relaxed, or as relaxed as one can ever be before a big race.

“There’s no disgrace if she doesn’t stay. If she doesn’t, we’ve simply got the best miler – well, thank you very much!

“She’s got three Group Ones in the bag and proper Group Ones as well.

“It’s going to be interesting.”

The top two in the market are a pair of proven stayers in Mishriff and Love, who renew rivalry after finishing second and third respectively in the King George at Ascot.

John and Thady Gosden’s Mishriff has already enjoyed a hugely-lucrative campaign, having won both the Saudi Cup and the Dubai Sheema Classic earlier in the year before being placed in the Eclipse and the King George.

Gosden senior said: “I was very happy with his King George run. Obviously, what he achieved earlier in the year was considerable, to say the least.

“We’ve very much been targeting the Juddmonte. The slightly extended mile and a quarter, we feel that’s his best trip.

“We’ve been happy with him since the King George. The race has changed a little bit in complexion, but we’re pleased to be going where we planned for a long time.”

Aidan O’Brien had to rule out hot favourite St Mark’s Basilica on Monday morning, but has an able super-sub in the brilliant filly Love.

Love winning last year's Yorkshire Oaks
Love winning last year’s Yorkshire Oaks (David Davies/PA)

The daughter of Galileo won the 1000 Guineas, the Oaks and the Yorkshire Oaks last season and O’Brien feels she is better than she showed at Ascot three and a half weeks ago.

“The King George was a little bit of a mess really. We kind of thought it would be an evenly-run race and it probably wasn’t,” the trainer told Racing TV.

“Ryan (Moore) followed them into the straight and just as he was ready to come out, David (Egan, on Mishriff) came up and cut the head off him. That was more rhythm broken and he just had to wait then.

“She ran on very well and Ryan was very happy with the run. We saw all the things that went wrong for her.

“She came out of the race well and in good form. It will be interesting when she meets the three-year-olds again in a solid run race and see what will happen – she will definitely improve.”

Love is one of two Irish challengers along with the Jim Bolger-trained Mac Swiney.

Since narrowly beating esteemed stablemate Poetic Flare to Classic glory in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, the son of New Approach has finished fourth in the Derby at Epsom and sixth in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh.

Bolger said: “I won’t be underestimating him, anyway. He’s a very good ‘doer’, so he doesn’t get a lot of time out. In any case, he’s very well, so I’m happy with him.

“We’re hopeful that going back to a mile and a quarter will bring out the best in him.

“As usual, it’s a hot race. York has been a lucky track for me and I’m hoping that the luck will stay with us.”

Mohaafeth winning the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot
Mohaafeth winning the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot (David Davies/PA)

William Haggas saddles two Royal Ascot winners in Mohaafeth and Alenquer. Mohaafeth lost his unbeaten record for the season when third in the York Stakes on his latest outing, while Alenquer was last seen occupying the same finishing position in the Grand Prix de Paris.

Reflecting on Mohaafeth’s last visit to York, Haggas said: “It was a balls up, from start to finish.

“The pacemaker went too slow and Jim (Crowley) was too far back. It was a mess, and you can put a line through it.

“Angus (Gold, of owners Shadwell) felt that if you ignore that run and concentrated on the good bits, he was well worth a chance here.

“The trip is fine and the ground should be OK, too. He’s got a bit to find, but he’s useful.”

Alenquer after winning the King Edward VII Stakes
Alenquer after winning the King Edward VII Stakes (Steven Paston/PA)

Alenquer was priced up as ante-post favourite for the Great Voltigeur Stakes, but connections have opted to instead bid for top-level honours in the Juddmonte.

“The owners felt that as he had already won a Group Two there was no point running in another one. They want to test him against the best, and he’s very well,” Haggas added, ahead of another leg in the Qipco British Champions Series.

“He’s improving, and again you can put a line through his latest run at Longchamp as he was way too far back and never got into it at all.

“I don’t think he’s the soft or heavy ground horse that some have him down as, but he might just want a bit further. He’s not a bad horse.

“It’s an ambitious route for both horses, but they’ll both run a good race. Whether they are good enough is another matter.”

Monday Musings: Smith still having all the laughs

Thirty-eight years ago Littleton Stud owner Jeff Smith was at Royal Ascot to watch 10,000gns bargain yearling buy Chief Singer make his debut in the Coventry Stakes, the most important two-year-old race at the Royal meeting, writes Tony Stafford.

Trained by Ron Sheather, Chief Singer, a giant at 16.3hh, stood out in the field of more conventionally sized juveniles. This was so much the case that before the start Lester Piggott took time out to talk to Ray Cochrane, rider of the Smith horse.

Piggott was disparagingly dismissive about the colt to which Cochrane replied: “Have a good look at his face as that’s the last time you will. All you will see at the finish is his backside!”

Chief Singer, 20-1, duly bolted up by four lengths. The following year, Chief Singer was the only horse to give El Gran Senor a race in the 2,000 Guineas and he followed that performance with consecutive victories in the St James’s Palace by eight lengths, back to six furlongs for an easy victory in the July Cup at Newmarket, and he then completed the hat-trick in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

That proved to be his final win as his temperament got the better of him and he was sold in a £4 million deal to go to stud. Smith had been the owner of Littleton Stud in Hampshire since 1976 and unfortunately as the Racing Post only began publication in 1988 any winners before that have been difficult to access.
What I can say without fear of contradiction though is that the ever-suffering Arsenal fan, Jockey Club member (since 2009) and Chairman of his local Salisbury racecourse for a year longer, has enjoyed winners every season (mostly home-breds) since 1988 with Group 1 triumphs liberally sprinkled along the way.

You couldn’t ever describe the always genial Smith as a small owner-breeder, but he does have much more interest in breeding winners for himself than producing horses for others to benefit from.

In those 34 seasons I make it 485 wins for Smith with trainers like David Elsworth, especially, Ian and now Andrew Balding, James Eustace, (recently retired in favour of his son Harry) and Ralph Beckett. No doubt Jeff, who made his money designing and providing internal fittings for aircraft, will have a figure way above 500 as his personal measure.
The reason for all the attention to Jeff Smith at this stage of the season is partly the result of yesterday’s running of the Group 1 Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville together with the prospect of next Wednesday’s Juddmonte International at York.

In gaining a second successive Jacques Le Marois, the Gosdens’ Palace Pier needed to see off a sustained challenge by the 2,000 Guineas and St James’s Palace hero, Poetic Flare. John Gosden suggested his colt had been only at around 80 per cent efficiency but form advocates would be more inclined to take the result at face value; Palace Pier (rated 125 officially) having a neck to spare over 122-rated Poetic Flare, trained and bred by Jim Bolger. Third, just under two lengths back, was the Aidan O’Brien-trained Order of Australia, a winner at the Breeders’ Cup last year.

The Jeff Smith interest here is plain. Poetic Flare, who has danced every dance this year, was gallant all the way to the line at Deauville, as he had been in his previous start in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood last month. The ground was easier there and Una Manning, daughter of Bolger, suggested obliquely by saying yesterday’s ground was perfect, implying that Poetic Flare hadn’t been entirely comfortable in the Sussex Stakes.

But it would be hard to discern too much difference in Poetic Flare’s finishing effort there or anywhere else in his busy 2021 campaign. And whose colours finished ahead of Poetic Flare? None other than Jeff Smith’s.

In a year of many top-class three-year-old fillies – cite Aidan O’Brien’s quintet of Group/Grade 1 winning fillies from the Classic generation of 2021) - Alcohol Free, trained by Andrew Balding, is one of the best having won not just the Sussex Stakes but also, against her own sex, the Coronation Stakes at Ascot. In between she was a fast-finishing, unlucky-in-running, third to old rival Snow Lantern in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket and earlier a close fifth in the 1,000 Guineas to Mother Earth as joint-favourite in deference to her Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes victory last year.

On Wednesday, she has a real giant-killer’s task in the Juddmonte International, not least because she is stepping up to ten furlongs, but also as she has to overcome St Mark’ Basilica. When the Aidan O’Brien colt added the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown last month to the two facile wins in the French 2,000 Guineas (Poule d’Essai des Poulains) and French Derby (Prix du Jockey-Club) he was awarded a European-high rating of 127 by the BHB’s handicappers.

That figure has since been matched by Godolphin’s Derby winner Adayar after his emphatic performance in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. In Wednesday’s feature, Mishriff, the globe-trotting and highest-earning horse trained in Europe, stands clearly second-highest rated on 124.

Mishriff, trained by John and Thady Gosden, earned a combined near £10 million for his Middle Eastern exploits in his owner Prince AA Faisal’s native Saudi Arabia (£7.5million), and Dubai (£2.3 million), at the end of last winter. He was reckoned a shade short of peak (that old Gosden chestnut!) when third and comfortably outpaced behind St Mark’s Basilica at Sandown but was probably more the finished article when runner-up in the King George.

So where does that leave Alcohol Free, rated 119? For one thing she comes into Wednesday’s race as an inmate of the stable that leads the trainers’ rankings in the UK. In recent seasons top place has invariably meant John Gosden or Aidan O’Brien. Two years ago Balding set his record earnings of more than £3.6 million from 124 wins. So far in 2021 his 106 wins have yielded stakes of £3.036 million, so he is firmly on target to beat both figures.

That 2019 Balding tally was some way less than half the earnings of the front two, with John Gosden at £7.91 million (192 victories) exceeding runner-up O’Brien’s £7.68 million from his 13 top-class winners by barely £230,000.
Now though, Gosden has made little impact with the Classic generation in his first year’s partnership with son Thaddeus and is languishing down at number six (81 wins and in his case a paltry £2.117 million). They trail Charlie Appleby and Godolphin (64 and £2.731 million); O’Brien (eight wins and £2.337 million); Mark Johnston (148 and £2.283 million) and Richard Hannon (101 and £2.143 million).

What that sextet has in common (although obviously O’Brien campaigns by far the greatest proportion of his team at home) is they all have strings exceeding 200. Size matters in racing these days, as indeed it probably always has done.

It will be difficult for Balding to hold on especially from Charlie Appleby who has not just the Derby winners, Adayar and Hurricane Lane (Irish, and also six-length winner of the Grand Prix De Paris), but also a host of horses primed to win Group and Listed races for the rest of the year when the two-year-olds will come increasingly on stream.

In the younger division, Balding can point to Berkshire Shadow and the unbeaten filly Sandrine as potential major earners for the rest of the season. For a trainer whose father Ian trained the great Mill Reef, one of the outstanding thoroughbreds of the Post War era, his now being firmly in the top echelon of his profession must be highly satisfying, the more so with his father and mother Emma still around at Kingsclere to enjoy it. Like Appleby, Andrew is modest about his achievements.

For Jeff Smith, the Juddmonte might not have been the obvious next step apart from the fact that the race holds a special place in his racing experience. Six years ago, the hitherto-unbeaten Golden Horn, winner latterly of the Derby and Eclipse Stakes for John Gosden and Anthony Oppenheimer, took a 130-rating into the Juddmonte.

Languishing on a mark a full 21lb lower, although she was getting the 3lb filly allowance in the York race, was the David Elsworth-trained Dubawi filly Arabian Queen, a daughter of Smith’s hard-working mare Barshiba. Nobody but Elsworth would have asked such a question of the Group 3 winner, but the veteran trainer had the first, last and all the laughs in between as Smith’s 50-1 outsider ran down the Frankie Dettori-ridden 9-4 on favourite in the last 50 yards. Golden Horn went on to win two more Group 1 races and was only narrowly beaten by Found in the Breeders’ Cup in his final race and second defeat.

For all his success over almost 40 years, Jeff Smith can be forgiven for telling his local newspaper in an interview last autumn that the Cheveley Park Stakes win for Alcohol Free had been his happiest moment in racing.

There have been two more great triumphs since for her and victory on Wednesday would no doubt put the cherry on the cake. But then you realise Jeff amazingly has owned three Racehorses of the Year in Chief Singer, his fabulous sprint filly Lochsong (Ian Balding), which he also bred, and the popular staying Flat-racer Persian Punch.

Over eight seasons in 63 races for David Elsworth, Punch won 20 races, 16 at Stakes (Group and Listed) level and never knew when he was beaten, much in the manner of his trainer. Persian Punch ranks alongside the great steeplechaser Desert Orchid as two undoubted horses of a lifetime for Elsworth.

I’d love Alcohol Free to win, but I hold with my belief that St Mark’s Basilica is a great champion. I also hope to see Snowfall put in another domineering performance after her Oaks and Irish Oaks cakewalks in the manner of Love last year in the Yorkshire Oaks on Thursday. Exciting days ahead - I wish I could be there, but it will have to be next year!

Alcohol Free confirmed an intended runner in Juddmonte International

Andrew Balding has confirmed that Alcohol Free will take her chance in Wednesday’s fascinating Juddmonte International at York.

With the leading three-year-old over 10 furlongs in St Mark’s Basilica lining up, as well as one of the best older horses in training in Mishriff, now one of the best fillies in training has been confirmed an intended starter on the Knavesmire.

A Group One winner at two, she has won the Coronation Stakes and the Sussex Stakes – against the boys – this season, beating 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes hero Poetic Flare at Goodwood.

The race holds dear memories for owner Jeff Smith, whose Arabian Queen caused a 50-1 shock in 2015 when beating Golden Horn.

“We’ve just made the decision she probably will run,” Balding told ITV Racing.

“Jeff is never one to shy away from a challenge and the filly is in great form which is the most important thing.

“She’s thriving at the moment, so why not? If she doesn’t stay, she doesn’t stay.”

York challenge on the agenda for Sussex heroine Alcohol Free

Alcohol Free is set to take on the colts again next month after overcoming Poetic Flare in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

Successful in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, the Andrew Balding-trained filly attempted to make all in the Falmouth at Newmarket last time out but had to give best close home to Snow Lantern, who took her on again.

Champion jockey Oisin Murphy was determined to delay his challenge on this occasion and made sure he played his hand late.

After a slow early pace, Century Dream injected some speed into it a long way from home and caught a few rivals on the back foot.

Kevin Manning set off in pursuit on 11-8 favourite Poetic Flare and on entering the final furlong hit the front – but Jim Bolger’s 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes hero was soon to face a bigger challenge, as Alcohol Free (7-2) quickened impressively and went on to win by a length and three-quarters.

Snow Lantern, who could have run in the Nassau Stakes over 10 furlongs later in the week, made up plenty of late ground to claim third, the same distance away, completing a one-two-three for the three-year-olds against their elders.

Oisin Murphy salutes the crowd after winning the Sussex Stakes
Oisin Murphy salutes the crowd after winning the Sussex Stakes (John Walton/PA)

Balding said: “Maybe we got lucky with Here Comes When (winner in 2017), although that was hugely rewarding, don’t get me wrong.

“But this filly has already won two Group One races, so it was lovely to see her cement her place at the top of the tree.

“It’s a privilege, it really is. Just watching her at home in the mornings is demoralising for the other horses, we have to keep swapping the lead horse because she’s just so good. She’s hardly blowing afterwards, it’s just effortless for her.”

He went on: “I was awful (watching the race), I was calling Oisin all sorts of names! It was a rough race and I’m sure there were hard luck stories, but I think she was easily the best horse on the day.

“It’s just lovely to see her do that because we’ve always believed in her, it’s no easy task coming and taking on the colts and the older horses and to do it in that style is just fantastic.”

Looking to future plans, Balding suggested the daughter of No Nay Never could be seen on the Knavesmire next month.

He said: “We had a long debate yesterday, Mr (Jeff) Smith and I, about spending five grand of his hard-earned (money) keeping her in the Juddmonte (International).

“It’s a mile and a quarter, it’s a big ask, but as Jeff said, she’s won Group Ones already.

“We’ve got nothing to prove, but it’s a possibility she may turn up there.”

He added: “She doesn’t need too much (training), she doesn’t even need training to be honest, she does it all herself.

“She’s always been very good, right from the start, we ran her on one bit of work when she went to Newbury and absolutely hosed up.

“She’s been the victim of bad draws whenever she’s run and I think she probably could have won more – in the Guineas she’d have been placed if she was drawn in the middle or on the far side.

“There is trepidation with taking on any of those horses, Poetic Flare and Snow Lantern as well.”

Smith last won the race in 1984 with Chief Singer, while he has also tasted Goodwood glory with the likes of Lochsong and Persian Punch.

He said: “This filly is something else, the way she has won that, it’s simply incredible.

“I’m thrilled to pieces, and what a wonderful job Andrew and the whole team have done.

“She’s a champion. There’s no question in my mind, she’s the real deal.”

Murphy paid his tribute to both the filly and the team behind her.

The rider said: “I can’t thank everyone at Park House enough. Alcohol Free really can be a handful in the mornings. Cassia has to deal with her every day and deserves a medal because she can be really tough work.

Oisin Murphy celebrates with Alcohol Free
Oisin Murphy celebrates with Alcohol Free (John Walton/PA)

“Anyone who follows me on Instagram will see that, when I go to tack her up, she looks like she is going to bite or kick me. Then when you get near her, she is quite the opposite. She is a special character.

“Alcohol Free is so, so talented and what a thrill I got from that. I’ve won this race before on Lightning Spear and last year it all went wrong on Kameko. Day to day, you have to just keep kicking.

“She thrives on racing, and she felt super on Saturday – we only went four furlongs, but I was full of confidence to be honest, particularly when the rain came.

“Jeff Smith has been an incredible supporter of horse racing for a long time. I don’t know how many employees there are at Park House Stables, but they all play their part and this will mean the world to them.”

Manning felt ground conditions had not played to the strengths of Poetic Flare.

He said: “It was the same story as in Paris (sixth in French 2000 Guineas), and we were running a little bit behind the bridle, while on good ground he travels into his races. This ground has blunted his speed.

“I felt he was spinning on the ground and going up and down on one spot, though to give him credit he dug very deep and fought back when the filly went past him.

“The ground was tacky and holding, and there was no bounce in it.”

Una Manning, Bolger’s daughter, added: “Poetic Flare has lost nothing in defeat. He loves his racing, loves his work. He’s an easy horse to deal with and to travel. Bringing him over here wasn’t going to be any sort of disadvantage to him even if the ground didn’t turn out like he wanted.”

Of Snow Lantern, Richard Hannon said: “I’m delighted with her run, it was a good, sound effort. She hit a flat spot, but the way she stayed on suggests she might want a mile and a quarter.

“The ground was a little bit sticky, but she showed she handles it, while she doesn’t have much to find with the winner.”

Smith so proud of ‘champion’ Alcohol Free

As perfectly illustrated by Euro 2020 and the Olympics, sport moves in cycles.

Injury might preclude one from team selection, a below-par showing might deny one of a medal, but often, all in good time, the opportunity is presented again somewhere along the line.

Only in the sport of horse racing, however, can one man triumph in the same event either side of a 37-year gap.

That man is Jeff Smith, chairman of Salisbury racecourse and long-standing racehorse owner.

It was in 1984 that Smith’s dark brown colt Chief Singer emerged the victor after a roughly-run renewal of Goodwood’s Sussex Stakes.

Clad in Smith’s purple and pale blue colours, the horse was riding the crest of a wave having also won the St James’s Palace Stakes and the July Cup.

Jeff Smith (far left) after Alcohol Free's Coronation Stakes win
Jeff Smith (far left) after Alcohol Free’s Coronation Stakes win (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The same is true of his 2021 runner Alcohol Free, who won the Fred Darling and the Coronation Stakes before being narrowly beaten by Snow Lantern in the Falmouth.

The Sussex Stakes is a different proposition to those contests, of course, with colts very much on the scene and no upper limit on the age of contenders.

Those conditions pitched Alcohol Free alongside her most esteemed rivals to date, the chief threat amongst them being Jim Bolger’s 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace winner Poetic Flare.

Alcohol Free is famously restless, and while Poetic Flare strode calmly at the side of his one handler, Andrew Balding’s filly strained against the two staff tasked with guiding her around the parade ring.

Oisin Murphy celebrates aboard Alcohol Free
Oisin Murphy celebrates aboard Alcohol Free (John Walton/PA)

Sent to post in a tell-tale red hood, the devil horns associated with racing’s tricky customers, she put her raucousness to good use as she scrapped from the rear of the field to the front, eyeballing Poetic Flare at the furlong pole and then pulling away happily under Oisin Murphy.

A tearful Smith and an elated Balding gathered to meet them in the paddock, where she stood so placidly in a large, braying crowd that one might conclude all of her pre-race mischievousness is produced purely for dramatic effect.

“This filly is something else, the way she has won that is simply incredible,” said Smith, whose Persian Punch and Lochsong have also famously graced the Goodwood winner’s enclosure.

“I’m just thrilled to pieces, what a wonderful job Andrew and the whole team have done.

“Providing she got cover and something to aim at, then I felt, not confident, but I felt very hopeful.

“Then she was bumped around and pushed back and I thought ‘oh bloody hell, I’m not so sure’.

Alcohol Free returns to the winner's enclosure
Alcohol Free returns to the winner’s enclosure (John Walton/PA)

“But the way she picked back up, she showed what she really is.

“She’s a champion, there’s absolutely no question in my mind, she’s the real deal.”

Asked about Chief Singer, who led him to the exact same spot in the Goodwood winner’s enclosure in 1984, the owner said: “Well it was 37 years ago, I had jet black hair and no worries in the world and I thought it was all very easy, I’d just come back and do it again.”

Now he has, under no illusions as to how hard Group One winners are to come by and how rare it is to find a filly that can shrug off top-class colts with such ease.

It is difficult, as evidenced by a Sussex Stakes roll of honour almost exclusively made up of colts, but you would be hard pressed to convince Alcohol Free of that fact.

It looks like being a clash with the colts next, too, for Alcohol Free – in a race that will present a test of a different kind, namely distance.

Balding explained: “It was Jeff Smith’s idea in the first place, and I don’t think it’s a bad idea, to put her in the (Juddmonte) International at York and we decided to keep her in at yesterday’s forfeit stage.

“It might be asking a bit much, going a mile and a quarter, but she’s a filly that has won three Group One races, so we have very little to lose.

“If it doesn’t work, we’ll regroup and go back to the mile race on Champions Day.”

Alcohol Free denies Poetic Flare in Sussex Stakes

Alcohol Free beat the colts to provide owner Jeff Smith with a famous victory in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

Successful in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, the Andrew Balding-trained filly attempted to make all in the Falmouth at Newmarket last time out but had to give best close home to Snow Lantern, who took her on again.

Champion jockey Oisin Murphy was determined to delay his challenge on this occasion and made sure he played his hand late.

After a slow early pace Century Dream injected some speed into it a long way from home and caught a few rivals on the back foot.

Kevin Manning set off in pursuit on the favourite Poetic Flare and on entering the final furlong hit the front – but Jim Bolger’s 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes hero was soon to face a bigger challenge, as Alcohol Free (7-2) quickened impressively and went on to win by a length and three-quarters.

Snow Lantern, who could have run in the Nassau Stakes over 10 furlongs later in the week, made up plenty of late ground to claim third, the same distance away.

Smith last won the race in 1984 with Chief Singer, while he has also tasted Goodwood glory with the likes of Lochsong and Persian Punch.

He said: “This filly is something else, the way she has won that, it’s simply incredible.

Oisin Murphy salutes the crowd after winning the Sussex Stakes
Oisin Murphy salutes the crowd after winning the Sussex Stakes (John Walton/PA)

“I’m thrilled to pieces, and what a wonderful job Andrew and the whole team have done.

“She’s a champion. There’s no question in my mind, she’s the real deal.”

Balding said: “It’s a privilege, it really is.

“Just watching her at home in the mornings is demoralising for the other horses, we have to keep swapping the lead horse because she’s just so good.

“She’s hardly blowing afterwards, it’s just effortless for her.”

He went on: “I was awful (watching the race), I was calling Oisin all sorts of names! It was a rough race and I’m sure there were hard luck stories, but I think she was easily the best horse on the day.

“It’s just lovely to see her do that because we’ve always believed in her, it’s no easy task coming and taking on the colts and the older horses and to do it in that style is just fantastic.”

Looking to future plans, Balding suggested the daughter of No Nay Never could be seen on the Knavesmire next month.

He said: “We had a long debate yesterday, Mr Smith and I, about spending five grand of his hard-earned (money) keeping her in the Juddmonte (International).

“It’s a mile and a quarter, it’s a big ask, but as Jeff said she’s won Group Ones already.

“We’ve got nothing to prove, but it’s a possibility she may turn up there.”

He added: “She doesn’t need too much (training), she doesn’t even need training to be honest, she does it all herself.

“She’s always been very good, right from the start, we ran her on one bit of work when she went to Newbury and absolutely hosed up.

“She’s been the victim of bad draws whenever she’s run and I think she probably could have won more – in the Guineas she’d have been placed if she was drawn in the middle or on the far side.

“There is trepidation with taking on any of those horses, Poetic Flare and Snow Lantern as well.”

Manning felt ground conditions had not played to the strengths of Poetic Flare.

He said: “It was the same story as in Paris (sixth in French 2000 Guineas), and we were running a little bit behind the bridle, while on good ground he travels into his races. This ground has blunted his speed.

“I felt he was spinning on the ground and going up and down on one spot, though to give him credit he dug very deep and fought back when the filly went past him.

“The ground was tacky and holding, and there was no bounce in it.”

Of Snow Lantern, Richard Hannon said: “I’m delighted with her run, it was a good sound effort. She hit a flat spot, but the way she stayed on suggests she might want a mile and a quarter.

“The ground was a little bit sticky, but she showed she handles it, while she doesn’t have much to find with the winner.”

Balding optimistic as Alcohol Free seeks Falmouth glory

Andrew Balding is “full of hope” that Alcohol Free can follow up success at Royal Ascot with another Group One victory in a mouthwatering renewal of the Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes.

Having rounded off her juvenile campaign with a top-level triumph in the Cheveley Park Stakes, the daughter of No Nay Never made a successful return in the Fred Darling at Newbury to earn herself a tilt at Classic glory in the 1000 Guineas.

Alcohol Free was beaten two lengths into fifth place over the Rowley Mile, but turned the tables on the winner Mother Earth when landing the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot last month.

The pair will do battle for a third time in the feature event on day two of Newmarket’s July Festival, with Coronation Stakes runner-up Snow Lantern also in contention.

Balding said: “It looks a proper race – but Alcohol Free is in good form, and we hope she’ll be as effective on the faster conditions as she was on the heavy ground at Ascot.

“We were delighted with her performance in the Coronation, so we go to Newmarket full of hope.

“We’re renewing rivalry with a couple, and there are some very good older fillies in the race as well – it’s a proper Group One race.”

Richard Hannon has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds Snow Lantern, whose dam Sky Lantern finished a neck second to Elusive Kate in this race in 2013 – a result connections felt should have been reversed following interference.

Snow Lantern was hugely impressive when breaking her duck at Newbury in April – and while she was a beaten odds-on favourite at York next time, her runner-up finish to Alcohol Free at Ascot was a big step back in the right direction.

Snow Lantern winning at Newbury
Snow Lantern winning at Newbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Her performance in the maiden at Newbury was top class,” said Hannon.

“She has been brilliant apart from that one bad race at York, where she was disappointing. She didn’t breathe for three furlongs – she just held her breath.

“She was back to her best at Ascot. She came with a lovely run – she just got tight for room for a little bit, but she ran a lovely race, and it showed you could put a line through the York effort.

“The winner won well at Ascot, but we look forward to taking her on again in the Falmouth.

“We didn’t really have the rub of the green that day. Hopefully the ground will be better this time, which will help our filly.”

Primo Bacio has been off the track since beating Snow Lantern at York in May, having been withdrawn from the Coronation Stakes on account of the testing conditions.

Trainer Ed Walker hopes that decision will pay dividends.

He said: “It was a really difficult decision to take her out – we didn’t know that she would not have liked that ground, because she’s by Awtaad who loved the mud. Lots of people were questioning my decision on that basis – but knowing the filly, I just didn’t feel it was right.

“She is a good-moving filly with a really smart turn of foot, and I think running her on a stiff mile in real bottomless ground and putting a massive emphasis on stamina just wasn’t right.

“Andrea Atzeni got on seriously well with her at York and he rides her again, so that’s good news. I’ve known Andrea for a long time and use him a lot when available, and he’s a brilliant rider. He’s got that cool, and it suits a filly like that really well.”

Jane Chapple-Hyam’s 1000 Guineas runner-up Saffron Beach drops back to a mile after seemingly failing to stay over a mile and a half in the Oaks at Epsom last month.

“When she went for the 1000 Guineas I felt she’d be in the first three – and although the Falmouth looks a very strong race, she’s definitely entitled to be involved in the finish again,” said Chapple-Hyam.

“One thing we have going for us is that nearly all of her main opponents – bar Primo Bacio – ran at Royal Ascot, so it’s going to be interesting to see how they turn around in just three weeks, particularly the three-year-olds who ran in the Coronation on heavy ground.

“We’ve had five weeks since the Oaks, and that’s definitely a plus.”

The older brigade includes the first five home in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes at the Royal meeting.

On that occasion, John and Thady Gosden’s Indie Angel led home Lady Bowthorpe (William Jarvis), Queen Power (Sir Michael Stoute), Champers Elysees (Johnny Murtagh) and Lavender’s Blue (Amanda Perrett) respectively.

Frankie Dettori celebrates after winning the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes on Indie Angel
Frankie Dettori celebrates after winning the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes on Indie Angel (Steven Paston/PA)

Indie Angel had to be supplemented for this race – and Chris Richardson, managing director for owners Cheveley Park Stud, said: “She deserves to be in it.

“If it had closed a day after the Duke of Cambridge. rather than the day before, she would have been in it.

“She bounces off quick ground, so we’re just hoping there’s no more rain.

“She’s in good form. John is very happy with her, and hopefully Frankie (Dettori) can work his magic again.”

Illykato (Mick Channon), the unbeaten Just Beautiful (Ivan Furtado) and Pretty Gorgeous (Joseph O’Brien) complete the field.

Falmouth thriller in prospect as Group One rivals square up again

Alcohol Free and Mother Earth will meet for the third time this season in the Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket –  with the score delicately poised at one win each so far.

Aidan O’Brien’s Mother Earth came out on top when winning the 1000 Guineas, but Andrew Balding’s Alcohol Free levelled up in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Mother Earth was third that day, and splitting the pair was Richard Hannon’s Snow Lantern – who will also face the Group One winners again on Friday.

Ed Walker’s Primo Bacio was a late absentee from the Ascot race because of the softening ground but had earlier looked top class when winning at York.

Before that, she was not far behind Alcohol Free in the Fred Darling at Newbury.

“I’m massively excited about this step up in class – and more so after Ascot when the form was franked so much,” said Walker.

“The second at York (Creative Flair) has gone on to win a Listed race, and the third (Snow Lantern) has gone on to finish second in a Group One, so I can’t wait to see where this filly will end up.”

Another form line from Ascot is the Duke of Cambridge Stakes, which saw Indie Angel beat Lady Bowthorpe, and that pair also clash again.

Indie Angel was impressive at Royal Ascot
Indie Angel was impressive at Royal Ascot (Steven Paston/PA)

John and Thady Gosden’s Indie Angel needed to be supplemented by her owners Cheveley Park Stud.

“We think it worth the supplementary entry,” said Cheveley’s Chris Richardson.

“My only concern would be the ground. It was rock hard on the Wednesday (at Royal Ascot), and we think she bounces off the ground, so hopefully it is no worse than good.”

Saffron Beach is back at a mile, ridden by David Egan with Adam Kirby unable to do 8st 12lb. Johnny Murtagh runs Champers Elysees – with Joseph O’Brien also sending Pretty Gorgeous, last year’s Fillies’ Mile winner.

Queen Power, Lavender’s Blue, Illykato and Just Beautiful complete the field.

Sandrine relished the mud at Ascot
Sandrine relished the mud at Ascot (David Davies/PA)

Elsewhere on the card, nine will line up in the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes – headed by Albany Stakes one-two Sandrine and Hello You.

Balding’s Sandrine appeared to relish the testing ground at Ascot, winning by a length and a half, while Hello You had really impressed on her debut with a six-and-a-half-length victory on the all-weather.

Nick Bradley Racing have three fillies sporting their colours – Oscula, Honey Sweet and Shouldavbeenmore.

Simon and Ed Crisford’s Flotus, well fancied for the Albany but a big disappointment, and Stuart Williams’ Desert Dreamer also line up.

Murphy in pole position for top Ascot rider after day full of ups and downs

Racing’s ups and downs were demonstrated perfectly when Oisin Murphy turned despair into euphoria in a dramatic hour at Royal Ascot on Friday.

The champion jockey had every reason to be at rock bottom after losing the Commonwealth Cup in the stewards’ room, having finished first past the post on the Archie Watson-trained Dragon Symbol.

However, there was no time to dwell on what might have been in what was the first of two Group One races on the card.

The six-furlong showpiece was awarded to Campanelle, ridden by racing’s number one superstar, Frankie Dettori, and trained in America by Wesley Ward, who loves coming to England, especially for the Royal meeting.

But Murphy showed why he is at the top of his profession by putting that reverse to the back of his mind and turning his attention to the next Group One straight afterwards.

Joy for Oisin Murphy after Dragon Symbol quickly turned to despair
Joy for Oisin Murphy after Dragon Symbol quickly turned to despair (David Davies/PA)

Nothing was going to stop him giving the Andrew Balding-trained Alcohol Free the perfect ride in the Coronation Stakes. Not even the officials could take that triumph away from him.

“Welcome to horse racing and I suppose that’s what makes it so exciting,” said Murphy when asked about the turbulent hour he had just gone through.

“I didn’t give the inquiry much thought. I went into the stewards’ room knowing I was on the best horse, but it didn’t go my way.

“I’m very disappointed for the connections of Dragon Symbol. I hope he’ll have his day in the sun. Sorry to the Japanese fans and to Archie Watson’s team, and well done to Wesley Ward. The horse finished the race in front, but it wasn’t meant to be. Thankfully we were able to make amends.

“I said to my valet when he put his hand around me ‘there’s no place for tears in here. There are far worse things going on in the world, we’re in the entertainment industry, and I’m steering these marvellous animals and keep looking forward to the next one’.

“It’s great for Andrew Balding and Park House Stables. It’s three Oscar winners for them this week. I’m over the moon for them.”

The weather played a part in Alcohol Free’s win as the heavy rain that jeopardised the meeting taking place resulted in the stalls being moved to the far side of the round course, making a seemingly disadvantageous draw in 10 a favourable one.

“I didn’t get a chance to stress ahead of Alcohol Free – Andrew is very good to me. He never ties me down to instructions. I felt if he relaxed she’d win. She had a good trip and it was fantastic.

“I had a plan and I don’t know if he agreed with me, but he filled my with confidence when I told him what I was going to do and it paid off.”

“She jumped normal and what worried me was the clerk of the course decided to put the stalls on the far rail. That was fine, but then everyone wants to get to that rail, so it is congested and I was worried it was going to get congested.

“Alcohol Free relaxed, I stayed on the bit for as long as I could and given her pedigree, she was always going to handle the ground.”

Murphy had been part of the delegation that inspected the course at lunchtime before the day’s card got the go-ahead.

Oisin Murphy found himself on the wet Ascot turf after Alcohol Free's victory
Oisin Murphy found himself on the wet Ascot turf after Alcohol Free’s victory (Steven Paston/PA)

And he had to pick himself up off the floor a second time as an excitable Alcohol Free threw him on to the muddy Ascot turf on pulling up after the winning line.

Even that did not affect his opinion of the inquiry, where he was handed a four-day ban for careless riding on Dragon Symbol (July 2, 4, 5, 6).

“It doesn’t matter what I felt about the stewards’ decision earlier. The stewards felt Campanelle deserved the race and well done to Wesley Ward,” he said.

The 25-year-old’s day got better. With his confidence sky high he completed a double with a supreme ride on Quickthorn for trainer Hughie Morrison in the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap.

Murphy goes into the final day of the five-day festival as the leading rider with four winners so far and odds-on to take the crown from Dettori.

“This armband normally belongs to Frankie. He’s usually top dog,” he said.

“Me, wearing this armband at Ascot, the top meeting of the year – as James Doyle says, it’s the Olympics of our sport.”

Alcohol Free crowned in Coronation Stakes

Oisin Murphy was a Group One winner again – less than half an hour after being denied in the stewards’ room – when Alcohol Free posted an emphatic Coronation Stakes success at Royal Ascot.

Murphy was first past the post on Dragon Symbol in the preceding race, but was adjudged to have caused enough interference to Campanelle that the placings were reversed.

Putting that disappointment behind him, Murphy proved why he has been champion jockey for the past two seasons with an ice-cool ride on Andrew Balding’s filly.

Winner of the Cheveley Park last season, she was only fifth in the 1000 Guineas when connections felt she was on the wrong part of the track.

Up against the Guineas heroine Mother Earth and Empress Josephine, the winner of the Irish equivalent, all the right fillies were in the line-up.

It was the German raider Novemba who set the pace and with a furlong and a half to run she had burned off half the field, although Frankie Dettori looked menacing on Pretty Gorgeous.

Her run flatted out, however, and it was Alcohol Free (11-2) who could be seen powering home down the near side with an irresistible run.

The lightly-raced Snow Lantern made late gains into second, beaten a length and a half, with Mother Earth back in third.

Murphy said: “It’s brilliant for Andrew Balding and Park House Stables. Three Royal Ascot winners for them (this week) – I’m over the moon for them.

“Andrew is very good to me, he never ties me down with instructions and I would have been happy to lead today, my only thought process was do not touch her mouth and I felt if she relaxed, she would win and thankfully she had a good trip and the horse was fantastic.

“She was very well bought by David Bowe, Mr (Jeff) Smith’s racing manager, she was cheap and now she’s very valuable!”

Balding – who struck in the opening Albany Stakes with Sandrine – said: “She’s very good. We had heavy hearts after Newmarket because there are not many times you head to a Classic expecting to win, but for whatever reason it didn’t pan out that day and she was below par. But she was back to her best today.

“Today was the first time she’s ever had cover. It has just been through bad fortune rather than design, but the slightly awkward draw turned into a really good draw when they went under the trees as it meant she got some cover. She’s very classy.

“She won a Group One last year as well so there’s never been any doubt about her ability.

“This week is the reason we do it. We had such high expectations and had plenty to run. We should be having one winner with the horses we had, two would be fantastic but three is cloud nine.

“She’s in the July Cup, the Sussex Stakes and the Falmouth so all sorts of options, we’ll have a think next week.”

Richard Hannon was delighted with Snow Lantern – and feels her time in the spotlight will come.

He said: “She had a point to prove after York, but she’s an aeroplane, and her day will come.”

Her rider Sean Levey said: “She was settled today and that’s the way to ride her. We could have done with better ground.”

Of the gallant Novemba, who stuck on for fourth, rider David Egan said: “She jumped well and travelled beautifully in the ground. Just as in the German Guineas she changed leads and sprinted away in the early straight. It was a very good run.”

Alcohol Free passes distance test in Fred Darling

Alcohol Free booked her Qipco 1000 Guineas ticket as she narrowly came out on top from Statement in a tight finish to the Dubai Duty Free Stakes at Newbury.

Andrew Balding’s filly was the only Group One winner in the race better known as the Fred Darling, and as a result she was sent off the 9-4 favourite.

Caught wide and with no cover through most of the seven-furlong contest, Oisin Murphy brought his mount through to take up the running over a furlong out and it all looked to be going to plan.

However, Alcohol Free began to hang slightly, making Murphy’s task harder, and to compound matters Statement had burst out of the pack to throw down her challenge.

Statement would not go away, but the Jeff Smith-owned Cheveley Park winner held on by a determined short head. Two outsiders took minor honours, with the Charlie Fellowes-trained Vadream coming from almost last into third and Ed Walker’s 100-1 chance Primo Bacio fourth.

“We’ve said for the last week if she just ran a nice race and finished placed and showed us that she’d trained we’d be happy, as she hasn’t done a huge amount of work,” said a delighted Balding.

“So it was very pleasing to see her win like that. She stayed the seven furlongs well and it wasn’t easy for her caught on the wing. She settled well and Oisin has given her a lovely ride. Oisin seems pretty confident she’ll stay a mile.

“The idea was that this was a stepping-stone to the Guineas – I think she only got one flick behind the saddle as it wouldn’t have been ideal if she had a hard race.

“She’s been slow coming in her coat and I haven’t done much with her, which is why we weren’t really expecting to win. But this is really encouraging because we know she’s still got it, stayed seven well and Oisin said she was beautifully settled so the 1000 Guineas is definitely the plan.”

The winner was cut to 10-1 from 12s for the Classic by Betfair, while the runner-up is 20-1 from 66s.

Alcohol Free takes Classic test in Fred Darling

Alcohol Free puts her Classic credentials on the line as she returns in the Dubai Duty Free Stakes at Newbury.

Andrew Balding’s charge won the Cheveley Park Stakes on her final juvenile outing, giving her owner Jeff Smith a first Group One win since Arabian Queen sprang a 50-1 shock in the 2015 Juddmonte International.

David Bowe is general manager of Smith’s Littleton Stud, and the team there are excited to take the wraps off their flagship horse for the 2021 campaign on Sunday, in a race registered as the Fred Darling Stakes.

Oisin Murphy will be on board again at Newbury
Oisin Murphy will be on board again at Newbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He said: “We are certainly looking forward to getting started for the year, and it looks like she has trained on.

“She came back to Littleton for her winter break, and then we sent her back to Andrew after Christmas, and he has been pleased with her since.

“I think she will stay the seven furlongs, but we will find out much more in regards to her trip on Sunday.

“Oisin (Murphy) has been to ride her. He was very happy with her, and Andrew is confident she has trained on.”

Jeff Smith with homebred sprint sensation Lochsong in 1992
Jeff Smith with homebred sprint sensation Lochsong in 1992 (Rebecca Naden/PA)

Smith is famed for his homebred stars such as Lochsong, Dashing Blade and Arabian Queen – but Alcohol Free is a rare purchase for the owner, having been bought by Bowe for 40,000 euros as a foal back in November 2018.

Bowe added: “There’s always a certain amount of luck involved with these things, but I’m delighted it has worked out so well and that she has turned out to be a good one for Jeff.

“With Jeff being an owner-breeder, you know these kind of fillies will be coming back into the fold when they have finished racing.

“We’re not short of black-type calibre mares here by any means – but as we bought her, she brings a different bloodline. She a very nice filly, though – she has a Group One win and she will let down into a lovely broodmare when the time comes.”

Happy Romance came out on top at Salisbury
Happy Romance came out on top at Salisbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Alcohol Free will face some familiar rivals in a 17-strong field, with Cheveley Park third Umm Kulthum in opposition, but none more so than the Richard Hannon-trained Happy Romance.

The duo have clashed twice previously, with Happy Romance coming out on top in the Dick Poole Stakes – one of her four juvenile wins – before Alcohol Free reversed the form when beating her old rival into fourth in the Cheveley Park.

“She won the Super Sprint, then she went to the York sales race and won another fortune and then to the Group Three at Salisbury,” Hannon told Sky Sports Racing.

“I do think she’s slightly under-appreciated in terms of what she has achieved – that was an awful lot to achieve in one year.

“She was never a two-year-old for me. I always thought she was a big girl who is going to make a nice three-year-old -and hopefully make a miler.

“I think she’ll be better for going further and I think she’s improved from two to three. She’s a tough filly and she’s very happy.”

Dandalla impressed with victory in the Albany at Royal Ascot
Dandalla impressed with victory in the Albany at Royal Ascot (Julian Finney/PA)

Dandalla is another to renew rivalry with Alcohol Free, having suffered her only defeat in four juvenile starts when beaten just over five lengths in fifth at Newmarket.

Karl Burke’s filly had previously landed the Albany at Royal Ascot in impressive style before just holding on in the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket, with her North Yorkshire-based trainer admitting the daughter of Dandy Man was not at her best in the second half of the campaign.

He is also aware that switching up to seven furlongs for the first time is a learning curve, although he has full faith in Dandalla’s stamina.

Burke said: “She’s been ready to run for a couple of weeks now and is getting a bit bored going up and down the gallops.

“We’re very much looking forward to running her. She looks fit and well and great in her skin, actually.

“It’s a trial and it’s a trial for us on trip as much as anything. I personally think she’ll get seven furlongs stood on her head, and it’s a question of whether she’ll get a bit further or not.

“In her work at home, she’s definitely not slow. The options are there, and we’ll know after Sunday whether to drop her back to six or whether we should give her a go over a mile.”

He added: “After Royal Ascot, she was never really moving as well as she had been beforehand. We were always behind the black ball a little bit.

“She had a good rest after the Cheveley Park and has been moving brilliantly all spring.

“We couldn’t be happier with her really, and I expect her to run very well.”

Isabella Giles won the Rockfel at Newmarket in fine style
Isabella Giles won the Rockfel at Newmarket in fine style (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Isabella Giles has already won twice over seven furlongs, claiming the Group Three Prestige at Goodwood before adding the Group Two Rockfel at Newmarket to her CV.

However, the daughter of Belardo failed to sparkle on her final outing, with trainer Clive Cox believing her lacklustre ninth place was down to the effects of a busy campaign after six runs in total.

He said: “She’s wintered really well, and we’ve had a good prep with her. She’s improved physically, as you would expect from two to three, and her work’s been very pleasing.

“I think we can excuse her the run in the Fillies’ Mile after a busy enough season. I hope we can step back into a positive performance this weekend, because all her other performances were rock solid.

“We’ll take it a step at a time, but I’m very pleased that we’re coming here with a filly that seems to be in good form.”

John and Thady Gosden will field two contenders
John and Thady Gosden will field two contenders (Edward Whitaker/PA)

John and Thady Gosden are double-handed, with all-weather winners Miss Finland and Wild Iris taking a huge leap in class.

Gosden said: “One has run twice and the other only ran once.

“They are there to learn, just to get them going, get them out.

“The aim is to find out whether you’ve got a nice one, and you (sometimes) find out you probably haven’t, but it’s all educational stuff for them.”

The Roger Varian-trained Zaajirah won on her only start for Roger Varian last year, taking a Kempton novice event, with owners Shadwell’s racing manager Angus Gold curious to see how she fares in much better company.

Gold said: “She won well on her only start and has been pleasing them with her work.

“When they’ve won a maiden, you don’t know where you are – but she looks a nice, progressive filly in her homework.

“She obviously lacks experience, but she hasn’t done anything wrong so far, so let’s see where she fits in.”