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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.”

Berkshire Shadow seeking Vintage victory on day one at Goodwood

Royal Ascot hero Berkshire Shadow puts his unbeaten record and tall reputation on the line in the Unibet Vintage Stakes at Goodwood.

A narrow winner on his racecourse debut at Newbury in the spring, Andrew Balding’s juvenile successfully stepped up to Group Two level on just his second career start when running out an impressive winner of the Coventry Stakes.

The Dark Angel colt moves up to seven furlongs for his latest assignment on Tuesday, with the rain-softened ground on the Sussex Downs his trainer’s only concern.

Balding said: “The likelihood is he’s going to encounter different ground conditions to what he did at Ascot, which is an unknown, but I’m very happy with the horse – and I think the extra furlong will suit him well.

“It was a very good performance in the Coventry, and likewise first time out he was very impressive.

“He’s obviously a horse with a huge amount of talent. It was always the intention to step up to seven furlongs after Ascot, and I hope if he handles the ground he’ll go very well.”

Berkshire Shadow’s biggest threat appeared to be the Richard Hannon-trained Lusail – but that rival was ruled out when the going turned heavy after an overnight thunderstorm.

Hannon will therefore rely on outsider Secret Strength, of whom he said: “(He) is no mug. He’s got plenty of ability, and if he goes in the ground he could run a big race.”

Eldrickjones (black and white colours) was not far behind Berkshire Shadow at Ascot
Eldrickjones (black and white colours) was not far behind Berkshire Shadow at Ascot (David Davies/PA)

The Nick Bradley Racing-owned Eldrickjones has ground to make up on Berkshire Shadow, having filled the runner-up spot in the Coventry.

“I’d be hopeful we could at least finish a bit closer to Berkshire Shadow, based on the fact I think we were on a less favoured part of the track than the winner at Ascot,” said Bradley.

“I think the step up to seven furlongs will be a help for us, and probably a help for him as well.

“With horses like this, there’s only so many races you can go for – and I’ve had this race in mind for some time for our horse.”

Aidan O’Brien’s The Acropolis, the Ralph Beckett-trained Angel Bleu and Austrian Theory from Mark Johnston’s yard complete the line-up.

Bangkok digs in for narrow success in York Stakes

Bangkok surprised some better fancied rivals to win the Group Two Sky Bet York Stakes.

Starting at 14-1 under David Probert, Bangkok raced in mid division and threw down his challenge in the last furlong, locking horns with race leader Juan Elcano before Mohaafeth became involved after covering ground late on.

Andrew Balding’s bay crossed the line a head in front of the former horse, with William Haggas’ 4-5 favourite Mohaafeth a further neck behind in third.

The victory is a first Group Two success for Bangkok, who is something of a globetrotter having run in a string of valuable races in the Middle East.

Probert said: “The pace of the race wasn’t overly strong early on and he likes to have a little bit of cover and he got into a nice rhythm.

“We got racing from three and a half and I couldn’t see where Jim (Crowley on Mohaafeth) was or the O’Brien horse (Armory), so I had to read the race on my own accord.

“About a furlong down, he dropped back to third, but he responded very well for pressure and got back up on the line. I’m delighted with him as it shows he has the ability.

“He’s probably been the forgotten horse as he’s shown his true form on the all-weather. He probably needed his best to win and hopefully he’ll take a big step forward.”

Speaking away from the track, Balding said: “I’m really pleased. David gave him a lovely ride and the horse deserved that. He’s so tough and consistent, talented at the same time so it’s lovely to win a nice race with him.

“Unfortunately, he’s not in the Juddmonte International so we would have to supplement him, but we’ve got some overseas targets in the autumn anyway to take on board. We’ll put everything into the mix and come up with a plan.”

Haggas said of Mohaafeth’s performance: “I thought he ran a very nice race. A disappointing result but he ran a good race.

“I learnt a bit today. I thought it was as far as he wants to go. Absolutely not a criticism but the rail was put out 43 yards and if it hadn’t been he’d have lasted. I don’t want to bring that into it at all. The winner won fairly.

“I thought our horse ran a very good race and he’s going to be fine.

“I’ve no idea where we go next. I’ll talk to the owner.”

Bangkok digs in for narrow success in York Stakes

Bangkok surprised some better fancied rivals to win the Group Two Sky Bet York Stakes.

Starting at 14-1 under David Probert, Bangkok raced in mid division and threw down his challenge in the last furlong, locking horns with race leader Juan Elcano before Mohaafeth became involved after covering ground late on.

Andrew Balding’s bay crossed the line a head in front of the former horse, with William Haggas’ 4-5 favourite Mohaafeth a further neck behind in third.

The victory is a first Group Two success for Bangkok, who is something of a globetrotter having run in a string of valuable races in the Middle East.

Probert said: “The pace of the race wasn’t overly strong early on and he likes to have a little bit of cover and he got into a nice rhythm.

“We got racing from three and a half and I couldn’t see where Jim (Crowley on Mohaafeth) was or the O’Brien horse (Armory), so I had to read the race on my own accord.

“About a furlong down, he dropped back to third, but he responded very well for pressure and got back up on the line. I’m delighted with him as it shows he has the ability.

“He’s probably been the forgotten horse as he’s shown his true form on the all-weather. He probably needed his best to win and hopefully he’ll take a big step forward.”

Speaking away from the track, Balding said: “I’m really pleased. David gave him a lovely ride and the horse deserved that. He’s so tough and consistent, talented at the same time so it’s lovely to win a nice race with him.

“Unfortunately, he’s not in the Juddmonte International so we would have to supplement him, but we’ve got some overseas targets in the autumn anyway to take on board. We’ll put everything into the mix and come up with a plan.”

Haggas said of Mohaafeth’s performance: “I thought he ran a very nice race. A disappointing result but he ran a good race.

“I learnt a bit today. I thought it was as far as he wants to go. Absolutely not a criticism but the rail was put out 43 yards and if it hadn’t been he’d have lasted. I don’t want to bring that into it at all. The winner won fairly.

“I thought our horse ran a very good race and he’s going to be fine.

“I’ve no idea where we go next. I’ll talk to the owner.”

Bryan another fine advertisement for Balding apprentices

Andrew Balding was delighted to see Josh Bryan rewarded for his hard work with the biggest victory of his career on Johnny Drama in the John Smith’s Cup at York on Saturday.

Bryan is one of many riders who have honed their trade as apprentices at the Balding stable over the years, including William Buick, David Probert and champion jockey Oisin Murphy.

The 21-year-old has been at Kingsclere for five years and this could be Bryan’s breakthrough season.

He rode out his claim in March and has now made the most of his chance on the big stage, with an accomplished display on Johnny Drama for his boss in one of the most competitive handicaps in the calendar.

Though Bryan regularly partners Johnny Drama at home, he was only taking the mount on the six-year-old gelding for the second time in public since the horse joined the Balding yard from Ger Lyons’ Irish stable two years ago.

“I was really pleased. Josh rides the horse a lot at home and he puts in a lot of work behind the scenes with other horses, so it was nice to give him the opportunity of a decent winner and he gave him a great ride,” said Balding.

“He’s been with us a while now. He’s a very capable rider and I’m pleased he got his opportunity.”

Balding reports Johnny Drama to have taken the race well, but where he runs next will be dictated by the handicapper.

“Johnny Drama is fine. Obviously we’ll see what his handicap (mark) is on Tuesday. That will dictate what we do with him,” he said.

“It was a good, tough performance having been off the track a while. It was a good effort.”

Drama delivers for Balding and Bryan at York

Johnny Drama pulled off a hard-fought victory in the John Smith’s Cup for in-form trainer Andrew Balding and young jockey Joshua Bryan at York.

Apprentice Bryan, riding by far the biggest winner of his career, had 22-1 shot Johnny Drama up with the pace from the outset and stayed on best in the final strides to get the better of long-time leader Cockalorum.

Balding, who won this major handicap with Pivoine two years ago, is enjoying an outstanding season and was following up big-race success with Sandrine in Newmarket’s Duchess of Cambridge Stakes 24 hours earlier.

Johnny Drama was a prolific winner on all-weather surfaces last winter, having also twice been successful on turf in Ireland two years ago.

He began his career by finishing seventh to Cockalorum in a Leopardstown maiden three years ago – and it was that same rival, sent off at 40-1 this time, who got closest to him again.

But Balding’s six-year-old, running for the first time since finishing last of five in the Winter Derby at Lingfield in February, proved strongest by just a head – with Strait Of Hormuz and Dawaam a nose and two lengths further back in third and fourth respectively.

Bryan said: “That was amazing, Johnny Drama is a gutsy horse.

“He can be a bit slow out of the gates, but he pinged the lids today and we got a lovely position.

“I got a lovely run up and I thought I had the leader on my right beat, the horse on my inside came late on and he only won because he tries so hard and he put his head down.

“I’ve been there (at Balding’s) since I was 16 as an apprentice, I’m 21 now and I lost my claim in March so that’s a great way to start.

“I’ve had a couple of rides here, I actually won a pony race here back when I was 15 but I don’t think that really counts, you don’t get the same prize money!”

There was a sad postscript to the race when it was confirmed that Surrey Pride, pulled up two furlongs out, suffered a fatal injury.

Sandrine puts down Classic marker with Newmarket victory

Sandrine looked a filly right out of the top drawer when following up her Royal Ascot victory in the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket.

Andrew Balding’s youngster caused something of a surprise when winning the Albany Stakes at 16-1 last month on soft ground – but she was even more impressive on this occasion on a quicker surface.

In taking her career record to three from three, Sandrine was given quotes around the 16-1 mark for next year’s 1000 Guineas – with Coral making her their 14-1 favourite.

Like at Ascot ridden by David Probert, the daughter of Bobby’s Kitten raced on the far side group, tracking Ellade on Hello You.

When the field bunched up with just over a furlong to go, Sandrine quickly shot clear and put the race to bed in a matter of strides.

Desert Dreamer made up plenty of ground from the rear to chase her home, but was beaten a length and three-quarters by the 11-5 favourite. Hello You was third, having been second to the winner at Ascot.

Balding said: “That was very good. She got a little bit lonely in front, I think, but she’s got a lot of ability, which is exciting.

“She’s so relaxed, which I hope bodes well for her chances of staying a mile next year.

“She’s got physical scope – she’s not a compact, two-year-old type. She’s got a bit more length and depth to her, I think. Hopefully she’ll make up into a nice three-year-old.

“It’s good she’s proved Royal Ascot wasn’t a fluke. There was a little bit of nerves going into this as she’d looked so good at Ascot and it’s nice to see that confirmed on different going today.”

Asked about future plans for the Kirsten Rausing-owned winner, Balding said: “We’ve loosely discussed it. I don’t really want to travel her at this stage and the only Group One options are in France and Ireland.

“I think we’ll just have to sit it out, give her a little break and try to gear her up for the Cheveley Park.”

Probert said: “She had to prove herself on that quick ground today, but she travelled great, she’s got a great temperament and was in a great rhythm throughout the race.

“When we split away from the main pack, I was lucky enough to be able to follow the Ralph Beckett filly (Hello You) through into the race – and when the pace lifted, she’s done it with such ease and found many lengths.

“She hit the rising ground really well and galloped out. It took me a while to pull her up, so it’s not out of the question that she could stay further.

“She’s very exciting. I haven’t had a Group One winner in this country yet – hopefully she could be it.”

Of Desert Dreamer, trainer Stuart Williams said: “I’m very pleased with her. It was slightly unfortunate that the winner was on the other side of the track.

“If we could have followed the winner through we might have given it a better race, but the winner is a high-class filly and we are improving. I’m delighted with the filly and with Oisin’s (Murphy) ride. We live to fight another day.

“She has got a good turn of foot and she is settling very well, so I’m very pleased with her.”

He added: “I will probably head to the Lowther (at York) now, where the winner would have a penalty if she wanted to take us on again. I think that is probably the logical route.”

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.

Alounak lifts Old Newton Cup at Haydock

Alounak bounced back to form to claim an impressive victory in the bet365 Old Newton Cup at Haydock.

A Group Three winner in Germany and runner-up in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, Andrew Balding’s charge appeared dangerously well handicapped on the pick of his form.

However, he lined up for this prestigious handicap with plenty to prove, having never threatened to land a telling blow on either of his two previous outings this season at Ascot.

Sent off at 14-1 in the hands of three-times champion jockey Silvestre de Sousa, Alounak arrived on the scene travelling powerfully inside the final two furlongs before powering three lengths clear in the rain-softened ground.

Win O’Clock narrowly beat my Frankel to the runner-up spot.

“He’s done it very well out there,” said the winning rider.

“He travelled really well throughout the race. I was confident when I went back through his form as I knew he would go on the soft ground.

“I don’t think he’s at his best in this ground, but he’d run some good races in the past and he’d come down in the handicap, so it was all suitable for him.”

Auria in tune in Distaff at Sandown

Auria looked a filly to follow as she continued trainer Andrew Balding’s fine form with victory in the Coral Distaff at Sandown.

The stable had four winners at Royal Ascot, headed by Coronation Stakes heroine Alcohol Free, and Auria carried on the good work with a clear-cut Listed success over a mile.

Oisin Murphy had the daughter of Muhaarar in the front rank from the outset, before going on as they approached the home turn.

Auria (100-30) quickly went into a handy lead and maintained the gallop to cross the line two and a half lengths clear of Seattle Rock. Glesga Gal was three-quarters of a length away in third place.

Balding said: “She’s a good strong galloper and kept going which is great. She was back in trip, but I think she will stay a mile and a quarter.

“There’s a Group Three back here in August which is the obvious one, but we haven’t ruled out going a bit further in time as well. The ground certainly does not inconvenience her.

“She was due to run in the Musidora, but she reared over saddling and cut her head so she missed a bit of work going into Newbury last time and she wasn’t quite at her best.”

Chil Chil too hot in Chipchase

Chil Chil came with a rattling late run to take the Group Three honours in the William Hill Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle.

Andrew Balding’s five-year-old mare had plenty to do with a furlong left, but she produced a telling turn of foot when given the office by Silvestre de Sousa.

Storming past long-time leader Good Effort, Chil Chil (15-2) galloped on strongly to land the spoils by three-quarters of a length with Diligent Harry a further half-length away in third place.

Good Effort made the running from his stands’ rail draw while the well-fancied Diligent Harry was up with the pace in the centre of the track.

The 5-2 favourite Khuzaam appeared to have very chance but never threatened when dropped down to six furlongs for the first time.

Good Effort kept up the gallop but had no answer to Chil Chil, who was cut to 20-1 from 40-1 for the July Cup with Betfair and Paddy Power and 7-1 from 14-1 for the Stewards’ Cup with both firms.

Balding said: “I’m delighted, she’s a mare who has improved a lot since last year.

“She’s very effective on a sound surface and I’m delighted she’s now a now Group-race winner.

“We couldn’t run her in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot last week because of the soft ground and it’s worked out well.”

On future plans, he added: “I think we’ve probably blown our cover for the Stewards’ Cup now given the weights haven’t been published yet.

“If the ground came up fast, I think we’ll probably have a crack at the July Cup.”

De Sousa was also impressed, adding: “She’s a very talented mare. She has disappointed a few times, but when she’s right she’s very good.

“She was very lean early on last year but she’s different now, she’s grown up a lot mentally and physically. Andrew has done a great job, shown a lot of patience with her, and it’s paid off today.”

Balding considers plans for winning Ascot juveniles

Andrew Balding will take his time as he plots the next targets for his unbeaten Royal Ascot two-year-old winners Berkshire Shadow and Sandrine.

Berkshire Shadow confirmed himself a very exciting prospect when backing up his Newbury debut win with a Group Two success in the Coventry Stakes on Tuesday.

“Berkshire Shadow has come out of his race well,” said Balding.

“He’s obviously a smart horse. I’ve no fixed plans at the moment.”

Sandrine also followed up her successful debut, at Kempton in her case, when winning the Group Three Albany Stakes on Friday.

“Sandrine did it nicely. There was no fluke about it,” said the Kingsclere trainer.

“I thought she was impressive. I haven’t given much thought to what next for her.

“We’re blessed to have two horses like that in the yard.”

Foxes Tales secures top rider honours for Oisin Murphy

Oisin Murphy sealed the top jockey crown for the week when steering Foxes Tales from last to first in the Golden Gates Stakes.

Down the field in a Derby trial at Chester, he was having just his fourth career outing in the red-hot atmosphere.

As the field were taken along at a breakneck pace by Fantastic Fox, also owned by King Power Racing and the choice of their retained rider Silvestre de Sousa, Murphy was plum last in the early stages.

When Fantastic Fox drifted away from the rail a huge gap appeared and Murphy was able to guide his mount, who quickened impressively, to the front.

However, just as it appeared the race was over the inexperience of Foxes Tales came to the fore and he began to drift markedly to his left.

Thankfully for his supporters the 13-2 chance had enough in hand to win by two and a quarter lengths from Visualisation, with Irish Legend third.

It was a fifth winner of the meeting for Murphy and a fourth for Balding.

Oisin Murphy celebrates after winning the Golden Gates Stakes
Oisin Murphy celebrates after winning the Golden Gates Stakes (David Davies/PA)

Murphy said: “It was an interesting race. He jumped well, but wouldn’t go and I was last. I decided to follow James Doyle and got a lovely run down the fence. Then he wandered across the track dramatically.

“It’s great for King Power Racing, they put so much into the game.

“It’s beyond my wildest dreams to be top jockey here. I watched this meeting with my parents and never thought this armband belonged with me. The last few days have been incredible.”

Balding said: “Four winners has been fabulous, but I’m so pleased to get a winner for King Power, they have been great supporters of ours so I’m delighted for them.”