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Tactical performance sets up Royal Ascot return

Tactical set up a return to Royal Ascot as he provided the Queen with a poignant winner in the bet365 European Free Handicap at Newmarket.

Successful at the Royal meeting last season, the Andrew Balding-trained Toronado colt had questions to answer as his form had tailed off.

When Oisin Murphy had his original path blocked by Adam Kirby on Royal Scimitar he looked like being an unlucky loser, as Naval Crown attempted to make all. But William Buick’s mount drifted off the rail, allowing Tactical just enough room to get up and win by a neck.

John Warren, the Queen’s bloodstock adviser, said: “Andrew and I had been discussing with the Queen about his trip and we needed to find out if he was a Jersey horse, a St James’s Palace one or Commonwealth Cup horse.

“Today was a learning mission to see if we’d come back to six (furlongs), but he’s proved seven is no problem so I think all roads lead to Ascot for perhaps the Jersey. He’ll probably have an entry in the St James’s.

“It’s been our imponderable over the winter why his form tailed off, there were mitigating circumstances in the Morny and perhaps he lost his way after that.

“He’d been working very well at home and Andrew was very happy with him. He’s trained on nicely.”

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Murphy said: “Normally when you get stopped here it’s the end of your race, but watching the replay it didn’t perhaps seem as abrupt as it felt.

“Newmarket’s uphill finish means it’s the slowest part of the race which meant I was able to catch William.

“As he relaxes so well I wouldn’t rule out a mile, but at this time of year there are better options over seven.”

Hollie Doyle produces Desert Dreamer (left) to win the opener
Hollie Doyle produces Desert Dreamer (left) to win the opener (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The day started with another big-priced winning debutant as Stuart Williams’ Desert Dreamer left some better-fancied runners in her wake to win the bet365 British EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes.

Following on from 150-1 and 28-1 juvenile winners already this week, the daughter of Oasis Dream was sent off at 25-1.

She still had plenty to do coming out of the dip, but Hollie Doyle did not even need to pick up her whip to win by three-quarters of a length from another 25-1 chance, Bellarena Lady.

“We hadn’t had a juvenile winner on the Rowley Mile in 136 tries I believe, but I was pleased with her,” said Williams.

“She’s been very straightforward since the day we got her and I did fancy her, but when I got here I found out there were half a dozen that were fancied so I’d have been happy with mid-div!

“I hope she’s an Ascot filly, we’ll take her somewhere else first, the National Stakes at Sandown or the Marygate at York, and then hopefully we can think of Ascot after that.

Amanda Perrett’s Count Otto continued his good recent all-weather form back on the turf in the bet365 Handicap Stakes.

Count Otto (centre) brought his all-weather form to the turf
Count Otto (centre) brought his all-weather form to the turf (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Third in the apprentice race at Lingfield on Good Friday, he managed to hold off the late lunge of Chil Chil by a neck.

“He’s a wonderful little horse, he had an injury after Epsom last summer when something galloped into the back of him and that gave him a holiday,” said Perrett.

“He’s come back well since then and it’s great to see him do it on the turf.”

She added: “He’s run in the consolation Stewards’ Cup twice before and that might be his aim again or it would be even better if he got in the big one.”

William Haggas enjoyed a treble on the day
William Haggas enjoyed a treble on the day (Nigel French/PA)

Having won the Earl Of Sefton with My Oberon and the Nell Gwyn with Sacred, William Haggas completed a treble in the closing 10-furlong handicap with Mohaafeth (6-4 favourite).

“I don’t think the handicapper could have given him much more than 85, but I think he’s a nice horse,” said Haggas.

“We wanted to see if he’d be effective at this trip, which he clearly is. How far he’ll go, I don’t know.

“There are two routes. The obvious race is the London Gold Cup at Newbury or he could go for a Derby trial. He’s in the Dante, but the Dee Stakes could be interesting for him.

“I’ll talk to Shadwell and see what they want to do, but it’s very hard when you have a horse rated in the 90s, like he will be, to run them in a stakes race.”

Napper Tandy strikes Newcastle gold

Andrew Balding enjoyed a big-race double at Lingfield on Good Friday and was also on the mark at Newcastle with the promising Napper Tandy.

While Bangkok winning the Easter Classic and Ranch Hand being crowned the leading all-weather stayer will have been more beneficial financially for the Kingsclere handler, as a lightly-raced three-year-old Napper Tandy represents the future.

A winner over a mile at Kempton in November having gone down by just a short-head on his debut, he was a beaten even-money favourite last time out when stepped up to a mile and a half.

The slow pace did not suit that day though, and while David Probert initially looked worried at the top of the straight this time, he came back on the bridle in the Ladbrokes-sponsored handicap.

Hot favourite Defined never looked likely to win having raced keenly and the 5-1 chance was ridden out to score by a length and three-quarters, looking as his stamina is his forte.

Speaking from Lingfield, Balding said: “He was quite impressive today and possibly he could be a Queen’s Vase horse for Royal Ascot.”

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Probert said: “He actually won over a mile at Kempton in a race that worked out well when I was given an easy time in front, but possibly last time at Wolverhampton he found the track too sharp.

“It suited him well today. I was a little bit worried on the turn about getting him crowded, but as soon as I had him out and in his top gear, he really hit the line quite nicely.”

Kevin Ryan registered what is likely to be the first of many juvenile winners of the season when Anadora came from last to first to win the Ladbrokes Home Of The Odds Boost Fillies’ Conditions Stakes.

Kevin Stott returns on Anadora
Kevin Stott returns on Anadora (Nick Robson)

Slowly away, the daughter of Havana Gold was sent off a 13-2 chance as the market spoke in favour of George Boughey’s Cashew, but he was beaten by halfway.

Having missed the break, Kevin Stott guided his mount to the rail and she finished with a real rattle to catch Alaskan Jewel and win by a head.

“She missed the break, but other than that did everything right. She was a bit green early doors, but I got a nice, clean run and I had the rail to help me,” said Stott.

“I couldn’t fault her and this is a nice place for them to start off.”

Ryan was also on the mark with Treble Treble (7-1) in the Betway Handicap, ridden by Tom Eaves.

Jonny Peate has ridden three winners from just nine rides
Jonny Peate has ridden three winners from just nine rides (Nick Robson)

Charlie Johnston was full of praise for apprentice jockey Jonny Peate, who got his fractions spot on aboard Gobi Sunset (4-1) in the Bombardier Handicap.

Caught on the line at Wolverhampton last time out, this time Peate kicked his mount into a huge advantage at halfway and was still four and a half lengths in front at the post.

“It was basically all over at halfway, the favourite (Broctune Red) gave us a 15-length head start,” said Johnston, assistant trainer to his father, Mark.

“I know it can be a difficult place to make all, but not when they’ve got that much of a lead.

“That’s Jonny’s third winner from just nine rides. He came to us briefly last summer, went to do his course at the British Racing School and has been back about eight months. He’s got a fantastic attitude to work and life – as all of our apprentices do, two more (Andrew Breslin and Oli Stammers) were in that race!”

The day will be forever remembered by fellow apprentice Aidan Redpath, who rode his first winner on Michael Dods’ Havagomecca (14-1) in the five-furlong novice.

Bangkok bags Easter Classic honours

Bangkok asserted in the closing stages to land the odds in the Betway Easter Classic All-Weather Middle Distance Championships at Lingfield.

Andrew Balding’s five-year-old showed he had recovered from his trip to Riyadh for the world’s richest race, the Saudi Cup, six weeks ago to justify his short price.

Bangkok (5-6 favourite) had to work hard, but he was a willing partner for Silvestre de Sousa.

Bangkok following his Easter Classic victory
Bangkok following his Easter Classic victory (Neil Morrice/PA)

Making his move just before the home turn, De Sousa closed the door on his main market rival, Forest Of Dean. That have him a crucial edge, but Bangkok still had to catch Palavecino.

His touch of class and stamina enabled Bangkok to get the verdict by a neck from the 8-1 shot.

It was an All-Weather Championships double for Balding, who won the Marathon with Ranch Hand, and an across-the-card treble after the victory of Napper Tandy at Newcastle.

Bangkok (left) proved too good for Palavecino
Bangkok (left) proved too good for Palavecino (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Balding said: “I thought Silvestre gave him a masterful ride in keeping Forest Of Dean in at the right time.

“He’s a very tough horse that has travelled all over the place in recent months, and it’s great that he can bring his A-game to the table today.

“He hasn’t quite hit the heights we thought he might after he won the Classic Trial at Sandown, but he settles so well that I think he might get a mile and a half now.

“Silvestre said we should drop him back to a mile, but the most likely race for him is the Huxley Stakes at Chester, as long as the ground is all right.

“Bangkok only has a Listed penalty, so he is eligible for lots of races including Group Threes without a penalty, so we will have a lot of fun trying to pick races which he can be competitive in.”

Ranch Hand swoops to claim Marathon title at Lingfield

Ranch Hand showed a neat turn of foot in the straight to land the Betway All-Weather Marathon Championships Conditions Stakes at Lingfield.

James Doyle produced Andrew Balding’s five-year-old with a well-timed run to lead just over a furlong out.

Ranch Hand quickly put the race to bed and he galloped on strongly to hold the late challenge of Rock Eagle by a length and a half, with Lucky Deal third.

There was a strong pace early on with Australis, Ranch Hand and Amtiyaz to the fore, but the tempo slackened before the field passed the winning post for the first time.

Martin Harley was the first to make his move, sending Rainbow Dreamer on four furlongs out, but the 3-1 favourite could not hold on as his rivals hunted him down in the straight. He eventually finished fourth – and Harley later received a four-day suspension for careless riding, covering April 16, 17, 19 and 20.

Balding said: “I thought James always had him in the right position but that he might get caught flat-footed off the very slow pace, but he’s a classy horse and got out of trouble.

“He’s now four from four on the all-weather – and while I was worried whether he would act round Lingfield, I shouldn’t have been.

“This was very much Plan B, because we ran out of jumping options, and I think we’ll stick to the Flat now. The most likely target is the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot.”

Doyle added: “It was a messy race that lacked pace, making it very frustrating because I jumped soundly, but Hollie (Doyle, on Amtiyaz) took my position.

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“The good thing was that when the race opened up he was fine. His run in a Listed race at Newmarket was pretty solid, and I knew he had the form coming into this.”

Pholas mowed down the opposition in the closing stages to cause a 25-1 upset for Hollie Doyle in the Ladbrokes All-Weather Fillies’ And Mares’ Championships Conditions Stakes.

George Boughey’s four-year-old came from last to first thanks to a devastating turn of foot in the hands of his record-breaking jockey.

Five-time course winner Fizzy Feet made the running from Arafi and Nirodha, but the pace was only steady – and all six were in with a chance as they turned for home.

It was Pholas, running for the ninth time this year already, who held all the answers – charging late to get home by a neck from Shimmering Dawn, with Arafi third.

Hollie Doyle sprang a 25-1 surprise on Pholas
Hollie Doyle sprang a 25-1 surprise on Pholas (Mike Egerton/PA)

The disappointing horse in the race was the 4-5 favourite, Indie Angel, who could not get in a blow.

Doyle said: “I thought she was a well-handicapped horse, but that it was a big ask for her in a conditions race.

“To win she needed to do things smoothly and get into a rhythm, with a pace to aim at. She hit a flat spot two out, but picked up really well.”

Diligent Harry looked a smart sprinter in the making when storming to victory in the Ladbrokes 3 Year Old All-Weather Championships Conditions Stakes.

Diligent Harry (green/red) impressed at Lingfield
Diligent Harry (green/red) impressed at Lingfield (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The Clive Cox-trained colt came with a pulsating run to wear down Mighty Gurkha in the final furlong and win in cosy fashion.

Adam Kirby, who was on a high after taking the Sprint Championships on Summerghand, had Diligent Harry in a good position just off the pace.

Bravado led in the early stages, but Hollie Doyle soon took it up on Mighty Gurkha after getting across to the rail from a wide draw.

Mighty Gurkha led into the straight, but Diligent Harry (2-1 favourite) had him in his sights and kicked away to score by two lengths. Mighty Gurkha held Zamaani by a nose for second spot.

Diligent Harry was cut to 16-1 from 25-1 for the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot with Betfair and Paddy Power.

Cox said: “I’m over the moon, because having not run since January it was a big ask. He was beaten here last time, but on the positive side he gained knowledge of the track, and he’s shown today that when it all goes right it’s fabulous.

“He’s as exciting as a few of the good sprinters we’ve had, but as he’s done a lot in a short time, I shall give him a recharge now.”

Kirby said: “On his previous run here we got bumped out on the turn. It’s been a learning curve for the horse and a lot has happened in three and a half months.

“He’s still a bit babyish, but has taken a step forward. It’s a long way to Ascot, but I’m looking forward to the future.”

The closing Bombardier All-Weather Championships Apprentice Handicap went to Lord Of The Lodge (5-1 joint-favourite) for trainer Karl Burke and jockey Pierre-Louis Jamin.

Balding anticipating bold show from Bangkok in Easter Classic

Bangkok and Forest Of Dean lock horns in what promises to be an intriguing battle for the Betway Easter Classic at Lingfield on Friday.

The Andrew Balding-trained Bangkok sets the standard on ratings, having won the Winter Derby Trial over the course and distance in each of the past two seasons.

He was last seen picking up considerable prize-money for finishing eighth in the Saudi Cup in Riyadh in February, while last summer he was not beaten all that far in either the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot or the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.

With his charge returning to the course and distance over which he excels for the £100,000 feature on All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Balding is in confident mood.

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“He’s been a bit unlucky this year,” the trainer told Sky Sports Racing.

“He was just nodded in a strong Listed race here (in December), having met a bit of trouble in running, then he was just chinned at Wolverhampton in a conditions race as well. I don’t think he did anything wrong.

“He’s pretty straight forward nowadays and I’d hope if he brings his best form to the race, he’s the one to beat.

“He’s had two wins, a second and a third over the course and distance. The one time he was a little bit disappointing was in last year’s Winter Derby, which was a falsely run race.

“I’d like to think Silvestre (de Sousa, jockey) would have the confidence that if the pace wasn’t strong enough for him (on Friday), he’d be versatile enough now to go forward.

“The course and distance seems to bring out the best in him.”

John and Thady Gosden’s Forest Of Dean was three-quarters of a length behind Bangkok when third in February’s Winter Derby, since when he has reversed form with the runner-up Felix to land the Winter Derby itself.

Assimilation in winning action at Lingfield
Assimilation in winning action at Lingfield (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The small but select field is completed by four other course-and-distance winners in Assimilation (Ed Walker), Byford (Ivan Furtado), Palavecino (Brian Meehan) and Sky Defender (Mark Johnston).

Walker said: “Assimilation is in cracking form. Whatever he lacks in ability, he makes up for in heart and determination.

“Six months ago, if you said to me that he would have a chance on Finals Day, I would have laughed at you. He just continues to surprise us with his progress through the ranks.

“He seems to be thriving and Luke Morris knows him inside out. He probably won’t be good enough, but who knows?”

Five take on Bangkok in Easter Classic

Bangkok will face five rivals in the Betway Easter Classic at Lingfield.

The £100,000 contest is the centrepiece of a seven-race card for All-Weather Championships Finals Day on Friday – and Bangkok is a hot favourite for trainer Andrew Balding.

The five-year-old was last seen finishing eighth in the Saudi Cup in Riyadh, having previously won the Winter Derby Trial for the second year in succession over this course and distance.

Bangkok’s biggest threat appears to be John and Thady Gosden’s Forest Of Dean, who won the Winter Derby itself on his latest appearance.

Assimilation (Ed Walker), Byford (Ivan Furtado), Palavecino (Brian Meehan) and Sky Defender (Mark Johnston) complete the sextet.

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Palavecino has run two good races over the course and distance this season, including when fourth behind Sangarius in the Quebec Stakes in mid-December – a race in which Bangkok was second.

Meehan said: “Palavecino had a break over Christmas as he’d had a busy enough time of it up until then.

“It just seemed a good moment to give him some time off and he has come back really well. We have had an eye on the Easter Classic the whole time and his preparation has gone very smoothly.

“He is fresh, he is improving, and I would see him in there with a very solid chance.”

The finals day card gets under way with the Betway All-Weather Marathon, for which seven runners will go to post.

Balding again has a leading contender in Ranch Hand – as does the Gosden team with Amtiyaz, the mount of Hollie Doyle.

It is Rainbow Dreamer from Alan King’s yard, however, that sets the standard on ratings.

Indie Angel, another Gosden inmate, is a warm order for the Ladbrokes All-Weather Fillies’ And Mares’ Championships.

Her five opponents include Fizzy Feet, who is stepped up in distance by David Loughnane, and the James Tate-trained Shimmering Dawn.

Irish raider Harry’s Bar (Ado McGuinness) and last summer’s Stewards’ Cup hero Summerghand (David O’Meara) are two of 12 runners declared for a fiercely competitive renewal of the Betway All-Weather Sprint.

Diligent Harry (Clive Cox) and Mighty Gurkha (Archie Watson) are the market principals in a 10-strong Ladbrokes 3 Year Old All-Weather Championships, while Khuzaam (Roger Varian) and Mums Tipple (Richard Hannon) are two of 10 runners in the Bombardier All-Weather Mile.

The Bombardier All-Weather Championships Apprentice Handicap brings the card to a close, with Karl Burke’s Lord Of The Lodge heading a field of 14 hopefuls.

Balding stays patient with Alcohol Free

Andrew Balding is waiting for Alcohol Free to shed her winter coat so he can give his Cheveley Park Stakes heroine a prep run before the Qipco 1000 Guineas.

The Kingsclere trainer believes having a race before the fillies’ Classic on May 2 will help her relax on the big day.

The ideal race would be the Group Three Dubai Duty Free Stakes, registered as the Fred Darling Stakes, over seven furlongs at Newbury on April 17.

“I’m delighted with her – the only problem is she’s still wearing her winter collection at the moment,” Balding told Sky Sports Racing.

“I’m just hoping the coat starts to shift – which it should do, with the weather we’ve got forecast over the next week.

“I’d hope to see a change in that, but she’s been showing all her usual ability in her work.

“She’s done two fast pieces of work, and I’m really pleased where we’re at in terms of her fitness levels and well-being – apart from the coat being a bit woolly.”

Balding accepts he may yet have to revert to Plan B, and head straight to Newmarket with Alcohol Free.

“The plan was to run in the Fred Darling as a prep for the Guineas,” he added.

“I think it’s important with her to hopefully have a run before going a mile – but if she’s not ready in time we’ll go straight to Newmarket.

“That has always been the plan, and she relaxes so well – certainly at home.

“It gives her a chance of getting a mile, but if we can get a race in as a prep to make sure she does settle that would be to her advantage.”

Sheema Classic could be next for Berkshire Rocco

Berkshire Rocco may be bound for the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan following a fine effort on his first start for four months in Qatar.

Andrew Balding was delighted with the four-year-old’s run in the H H The Amir Trophy at Doha when beaten two and three-quarter lengths by Noor Al Hawa.

The Kingsclere trainer expects an even better performance next time from last year’s St Leger runner-up.

“He ran a smashing race. It was his first run for a while, and he’s entitled to come on for that,” said Balding.

Berkshire Rocco (red cap) ran a huge race in the St Leger
Berkshire Rocco (red cap) ran a huge race in the St Leger (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“All being well, he might head towards Meydan for the Sheema Classic.

“He’s effective at a mile and a half and further, and is just a great horse to have in the yard.”

Stablemate Spanish Mission could also head to Dubai after finishing second in the Red Sea Turf Handicap in Riyadh, for which he earned £364,000.

“He ran with great credit and he too might end up going to Dubai for the Dubai Gold Cup,” said Balding.

Bangkok picked up plenty of prize-money with his run in the Saudi Cup
Bangkok picked up plenty of prize-money with his run in the Saudi Cup (John Walton/PA)

The handler was pleased Bangkok managed to pick up excellent prize-money as well in the world’s richest race, the Saudi Cup – earning £291,000 for eighth place.

“He’s probably not quite as good as the others, which is obvious, but he won some really good prize-money and is back here and bouncing,” said Balding.

“There were great rewards up for grabs, and that was the main reason we ran. The rewards were there as long as he could finish in the first 10, and he did that and has done us proud.”

His next run will be much closer to home, in the All-Weather Championship Finals at Lingfield on April 2.

“He will more than likely head to Lingfield for Good Friday,” added Balding.

Bryony Frost warms up for Frodon date with Fakenham winner

Bryony Frost will be hoping her victory aboard Martello Sky at Fakenham is a sign of things to come when teaming up with Frodon in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.

The 25-year-old, who will be seeking a second Grade One on the 2019 Ryanair Chase hero at Kempton on Saturday, made her only ride of the day a winning one in the Vote Hollie Doyle Sports Personality 2020 Mares’ Maiden Hurdle.

Picking up well for pressure, the Lucy Wadham-trained four-year-old met the last on a good stride before defeating Allavina by three and a quarter lengths to make it three wins from as many visits to the Norfolk track.

Frost said after her success aboard the 11-8 favourite: “I couldn’t quite hold my position, but the ground is better down the inside and we had to sit and suffer for a minute. The last, she saw it, measured it and pinged it carefully and she went away very well.

“She is very clever and is nimble and balanced for a young mare. She also has a great turn of foot.

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“It is brilliant to get another winner on the board and her owners are all local. I’m sure they will pop a bottle of champagne for her.”

Although Frodon is a general 20-1 chance to strike gold in the King George, Frost reports the Paul Nicholls-trained eight-year-old to be in good order ahead of his return to Grade One company.

She said: “Frodon is squealing and in good health at home. The ground was very tacky between the fences at Aintree (last time out) and I know some people say I’m making excuses, but it’s a race that didn’t happen for us.

“We will push it under the carpet and he has come out of it great. So we will take our chances.”

Archie Watson is better known for his exploits on the Flat, but Juge Et Parti enhanced his healthy strike-rate at the course when bouncing back to form to land the British Racing School Handicap Hurdle by five lengths.

The Lambourn handler said of the 14-1 shot: “I’ve actually got a very good strike-rate here. Bazarov, Premier D’troice and this lad have won here.

“He has been through a lot this horse. He had a fractured tooth which then ended up developing a big sinus infection. He has come out of it well and it his first run since.

“He obviously had an almighty headache which we have relieved and he has come up and won it well. Brodie (Hampson) has given him a great ride.”

Niall Houlihan equalled his best-ever seasonal total of seven winners aboard the Gary Moore-trained Gorham’s Cave (9-2), who claimed the Fakenham Skips Supporting EACH and RBL Handicap Hurdle by nine and a half lengths.

Houlihan, deputising for Josh Moore, said: “It was probably too commanding (how far he won). I didn’t realise how far clear I was until I got to the last hurdle.

“He really enjoyed it around there today. His hurdling improved throughout the trip. He is a very athletic horse and has taken to it well.”

Useful Flat stayer Diocletian (100-30) gave Classic-winning handler Andrew Balding his first winner at the track when prevailing by 10 lengths in the Christmas Holidays Maiden Hurdle.

Winning jockey Page Fuller said: “That is definitely the most mature he has been over hurdles. He settled well and you could ride a race on him today.

“He had four nice horses in front of him at Newbury last time and I’d like to think off the back of that run he can go on to bigger and better things.”

Haydock next for Ranch Hand

Andrew Balding has earmarked Haydock as the next port of call for his talented jumps recruit Ranch Hand.

The Dunaden gelding will be given the chance to follow up his debut victory over timber at Exeter when he travels to Merseyside for an introductory hurdle on December 2.

Ranch Hand had previously finished the Flat season on a winning note in the Listed Rose Bowl Stakes at Newmarket.

Balding said: “He jumped well, and that’s the main thing. He was a bit eager early on but he might have been a bit fresh, because he had a little bit of a break from his last run on the Flat.

“He got a bit tired near the end, but the plan will be to keep him over hurdles for the time being. He is a decent horse

“All being well, he will head to Haydock on December 2.”

A step up in trip is on the agenda for stablemate Diocletian, who finished fourth on his hurdling debut at Taunton.

Balding said: “Diocletian ran fine and he jumped well. He needs further, and probably a more galloping track would suit him.

“It was not a bad starting point for him, because the main thing was his jumping – which he was fine with.”

Kameko seeking glorious farewell at Keeneland

Guineas hero Kameko bids to go out in a blaze of glory in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.

Andrew Balding’s colt has raced over a variety of distances since winning the season’s first Classic at Newmarket – finishing fourth over a mile and a half in the Derby, over a mile in the Sussex at Goodwood and over 10 furlongs in the Juddmonte International at York.

He got back on the winning trail over a mile in the the Group Two Joel Stakes at Newmarket in September – and having since sidestepped the QEII at Ascot on account of the testing conditions, he is set for his swansong this weekend before being retired to stud in 2021.

David Redvers, racing manager for owners Qatar Racing, said: “The horse is in great shape – I’ve seen some lovely photographs of him looking imperial and he’s apparently very well.

“It would be fantastic if he could win a Breeders’ Cup Mile.

“We just have to hope he gets his luck in running and if that is the case, I think we’ll see him at his best.”

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Kameko is part of a strong European presence in the race, with Ger Lyons’ Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Siskin also set for the final outing of his racing career following a recent announcement he would stand at stud in Japan.

Colin Keane’s mount appears well placed in stall four – and Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to owner Khalid Abdullah, reports the son of First Defence to have settled in well to his new surroundings.

He said: “The draw is what it is, but certainly we have no complaints.

“The horse has travelled out there and seems in good form.

“He’s coming into it fresh, Ger is very happy with him and we hope the track will suit.”

Aidan O’Brien declared Circus Maximus, Lope Y Fernandez and Order Of Australia in a bid to win the race for a first time, with the latter getting a run following the withdrawal of the William Haggas-trained One Master.

The tough-as-teak Circus Maximus was fourth in last year’s renewal and appears to be the stable’s first string.

O’Brien said: “We think he’s in good form. He’s a tough, hardy, consistent horse who gets a mile well.

“We think and hope the conditions will suit him.”

Safe Voyage (centre) represents Yorkshire-based John Quinn
Safe Voyage (centre) represents Yorkshire-based John Quinn (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The raiding party is completed by John Quinn’s Safe Voyage – who has won two Group Twos this season and was last seen finishing a close-up third behind One Master in the Prix de la Foret.

“He’s been training well and we sidestepped the QEII at Ascot because we didn’t want to throw too much at him,” said Quinn.

“At York he was able to dominate, but at ParisLongchamp it was a little bit more tactical and became a test of speed, which caught him out. He was galloping through the line that day, so we were pleased with how he finished.

“Tactically, I think he’ll be able to be comfortable at Keeneland. There will be some very nice horses in the race, but if everything went well, we can dream that he will win – he’s certainly got a chance.”

Breeders’ Cup mission expected to suit Kameko

Andrew Balding believes Kameko will be suited by the American style of racing when his star colt lines up for the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland next month.

The 2000 Guineas winner will retire to stud after the race – and Balding is hoping the son of Kitten’s Joy can end his career on a high.

The Kingsclere trainer was disappointed Kameko could not sign off his domestic racing days in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot last weekend because of the testing conditions.

“It was a shame to have missed Qipco Champions Day, but we just didn’t feel we could risk him on the ground at this stage of his career,” Balding told Sky Sports Racing.

“I think it’s going to be a totally different test in America and we’ve got the travel and everything to contend with.

“I’m really pleased with his condition and how he has held his form in his home work since so early in the year. He’s an absolute star and worked really well (on Wednesday) – Oisin (Murphy) came in and had a sit on him.

“He’s a horse with a high cruising speed and loves a strong pace to aim at, and that is usually how those races are run. In any normal Breeders’ Cup Mile he’d be well suited.”

Unbeaten Palace Pier on track for QEII mission

Palace Pier remains on course to defend his unbeaten record at Ascot on Saturday after featuring among 18 remaining contenders for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Trained by John Gosden, Palace Pier is a hot favourite to extend his winning run to six under Frankie Dettori, having landed the St James’s Palace Stakes at the Royal meeting and the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.

Gosden also has high-class fillies Nazeef and Terebellum in the mix for the Qipco-sponsored showpiece following the confirmation stage.

The Andrew Balding-trained Kameko claimed Classic glory in the 2000 Guineas in the spring, and after finishing fourth in the Derby, the Sussex Stakes and the Juddmonte International, he made a successful return to a mile in in last month’s Joel Stakes.

Aidan O’Brien has a trio of hopefuls in Circus Maximus, Lancaster House and Royal Dornoch, while Benbatl is in contention for Saeed bin Suroor, although, as with Kameko, the prospect of testing conditions will be a concern.

Francis-Henri Graffard’s mud-lover The Revenant was runner-up to King Of Change in last year’s renewal and will return in a bid to go one better following a recent successful return to action at ParisLongchamp.

The Revenant (red) chases home King Of Change in last year's Champion Stakes
The Revenant (red) chases home King Of Change in last year’s Champion Stakes (Simon Cooper/PA)

Graffard said: “Everything is fine. The horse needed the run the other day, he has improved a lot and he should be spot on for Saturday.

“I don’t think the ground will be as soft as last year, but it should be fine for him.

“Hopefully he is ready to do his best and I hope he can finish in the first three, like last year.”

Simon and Ed Crisford’s Century Dream and David O’Meara’s pair of Escobar and Lord Glitters also feature.

Power too strong for Challenge rivals

Happy Power streaked clear of Pogo up the hill to win the Godolphin Stud & Stable Staff Awards Challenge Stakes at Newmarket.

Silvestre de Sousa, already on the scoreboard with Winter Power in the Cornwallis Stakes, was keen not to let Pogo get loose on the front end.

That looked a wise decision as the front two dictated the race throughout, with De Sousa always looking confident on Andrew Balding’s grey.

The 7-2 chance arrived at HQ on the back of winning his two most recent races, at Salisbury and a Group Three at Goodwood.

Up in grade again to a Group Two, he assumed control from Pogo with over a furlong to run and streaked clear up the hill to win by a length and a half.

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Glorious Journey stayed on from the rear to claim third.

De Sousa said: “I was really disappointed with him at the beginning of the year as I thought I had a really good horse for this year, but he has just taken a long time to get going. He now feels like he is flying and is in top form.

“Andrew’s horses are running well and he is just following the wagon. We’ve always liked him and Andrew had found a couple of easy options for him, but today he has proved he is a nice horse.

“We thought we had him right at the beginning of the year, but he is a horse that has probably taken a long time to get 100 per cent fit. He ran really well first time, then his next couple of runs were disappointing. He wasn’t tailed off, but he wasn’t good enough to win – since Salisbury it looks like he has found his way.

“He likes the ground. It is soft and on the slow side and it maybe just tired the other horses out. That race at Salisbury made you realise there was a little more in the tank than what he had been giving.

“Mentally there is always huge improvement when a horse wins their first race easily. When they come home and enjoy the race, you know there is improvement.

“He is in top form and he probably shouldn’t miss the chance to go there (Champions Sprint at Ascot on October 17).”

Balding believes a swift return at Ascot next week is a “possibility”.

He said: “I’m delighted with that. It has just taken him a little bit of time to find his feet at the beginning of the season, but that is three excellent wins now and he has really got his mojo back.

“He got stuck in the ground at Haydock first time out and we probably ran him a bit quick back on his third start, but he has come right now and is high class.

“He was fourth in the Sussex Stakes last year and he won a Ganton very well, so we knew he was a talented horse – he just had that slow start to the year.

“We will confirm him for the Champions Sprint on Monday and make a decision later in the week, but it’s a possibility. I think a stiff six on soft ground would be fine for him.”

Great White Shark on the hunt in Cesarewitch

Great White Shark bids to provide Willie Mullins with a third straight victory in the Together For Racing International Cesarewitch at Newmarket on Saturday.

Ireland’s perennial champion jumps trainer broke his duck in the prestigious staying handicap with Low Sun in 2018, and doubled his tally 12 months ago with Stratum.

Great White Shark finished only 10th in last year’s renewal, but returns to the Rowley Mile in excellent form, having landed a valuable handicap hurdle at the Galway Festival on her latest appearance.

Four days earlier, the Malcolm Denmark-owned mare had finished seventh on the Flat, beaten little over two lengths by the remarkable Princess Zoe, who last weekend grabbed Group One glory in Paris for Mullins’ brother, Tony.

Mullins said: “I’m very pleased with her heading over there.

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“She was good over hurdles the last day and her run behind Princess Zoe doesn’t look too bad now, does it?

“She stays well and handles soft ground, so that shouldn’t be any problem to her.”

Coltrane (left) on his way to winning at York
Coltrane (left) on his way to winning at York (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Great White Shark is joined at the head of the market by Andrew Balding’s three-year-old Coltrane, the David Pipe-trained Leoncavallo and Not So Sleepy from Hughie Morrison’s yard.

Coltrane has had this two-mile-two-furlong contest as his primary target ever since completing a hat-trick for the season in the Melrose Handicap at York in August.

Balding, who also saddles Diocletian and Cleonte, said: “The weight-for-age allowance for three-year-olds is obviously attractive for Coltrane and he won the Melrose well.

“This looked the most logical target after York. It’s obviously a tough race and he has a wide draw (34), I don’t know how that will play out, but the horse is in good form.

“Cleonte needed his comeback run after nearly a year off last month and seems in good form. Diocletian has solid handicap form and at his best would also have each-way claims.”

High-class dual-purpose performer Not So Sleepy carries a 4lb penalty for winning on his return to action at Pontefract last month – his first start since being pulled up in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

“We were very happy with his comeback run at Pontefract. We’ve just kept him ticking over since then and we are very much looking forward to the race,” said Morrison.

“He ran a very good race to finish fourth in it last year. He’ll have to raise his game to better that on Saturday, but he had a break during the summer, so he’s a fresh horse and we’re ever hopeful.

“It’s a long way – two miles and two furlongs. Fingers crossed for a bit of a luck.”

Other contenders in a huge field include William Muir’s Just Hubert, Mark Johnston’s pair of Mondain and Summer Moon and Rock Eagle from Ralph Beckett’s yard.