Impressive Newmarket winner Mohaafeth set for Derby

Mohaafeth is set to take his chance in the Cazoo Derby after bursting into the big-race picture with an impressive victory at Newmarket.

The Frankel colt out of a Sea The Stars mare, French Dressing, trounced Secret Protector in a Listed contest on Guineas weekend to win for the third time this season.

Mohaafeth was slashed to joint second-favourite at 7-1 with some bookmakers – and connections of the William Haggas-trained colt are keen to run him at Epsom.

“He won well, obviously. I think as long as William is happy with the horse and he’s going the right way and Sheikh Hamdan’s family want to run him in the Derby, that is where we will go next,” said Angus Gold, racing manager for owners Shadwell Estate.

“We’ll see what happens in the next 10 days with all the trials. That is going to be informative.

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“He’s earned the right to run.”

Mutasaabeq could step back down to seven furlongs, possibly for the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot, after his run in the 2000 Guineas.

The Charlie Hills-trained colt finished seventh behind Poetic Flare, but may have lacked the experience for such a tough test on only this third start.

“At this stage I’d have thought the obvious race is the Jersey, but let’s see how he is in two weeks’ time when we start back with him,” said Gold.

“The important thing is he’s a good horse and we’ve go to make him into a proper horse and into a stallion.

“He needs to get some Group form under his belt.

“We know he’s a promising horse and I’m sure he will get better as the year goes on. We always knew it was asking a lot going to the Guineas on only his third outing.

“We saw at the weekend it’s hard to win a Guineas off so few runs.”

Al Zaraqaan (blue and white colours) is to drop back in trip after being beaten in the Jockey Club Stakes
Al Zaraqaan (blue and white colours) is to drop back in trip after being beaten in the Jockey Club Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Dropping back in distance is on the cards for Al Zaraqaan after he finished fourth in the Jockey Club Stakes.

“Jim’s (Crowley) first reaction was he didn’t stay, having thought last year he would definitely stay,” said Gold.

“I did when he was winning at Kempton on the all-weather and this year when he beat Almigwhar on the all-weather. Jim felt he came there sweetly and didn’t go anywhere.

“We’ll bring him back to mile and a quarter. He has plenty of speed on the dam’s side of the family. We thought Golden Horn might put his stamina in, but he didn’t get home on Saturday and Jim felt he’d prefer slightly easier ground.

“We’ll see if that is the case, but we will coming back in trip with him.”

Mutasaabeq set to be added to 2000 Guineas field

Mutasaabeq is set to be supplemented for the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday.

The son of Invincible Spirit, trained by Charlie Hills, is out of Ghanaati, who carried the colours of the late Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum to victory in the 1000 Guineas in 2009.

Mutasaabeq, who is now owned by Sheikh Hamdan’s family under the Shadwell Racing banner, has won both his starts over seven furlongs at Newmarket, with his latest victory coming earlier this month.

“As long as all is well with the horse tomorrow morning, we will supplement him,” said Angus Gold, Shadwell’s racing manager.

“We’ve been thinking about it. We didn’t put him in at the first stage because we thought it might come a bit quick for him.

“Mentally he was always a fizzy horse, but the team did a great job to keep a lid on him. Then he won first time out at Newmarket late in the season.

“Obviously he was impressive when he won there the other day. It’s impossible to say what he beat, but the way he did it was visually impressive and he ran right to the top of the hill and Jim (Crowley) said he would have no problems going a mile.

“I saw the horse a few days later and he seems to have take that race particularly well. He seems very relaxed at home.

“Dane O’Neill rode him a little half-speed (gallop) yesterday and said he felt in great form. I spoke to Sheikh Hamdan’s family to discuss the options and they said they would like to supplement him.”

Alkumait campaign on hold due to knee injury

Alkumait will not return to action until the autumn at the earliest after suffering an injury on his seasonal bow at Newbury on Sunday.

Last season’s Mill Reef winner returned to the Berkshire circuit in a bid to provide trainer Marcus Tregoning with a second successive victory in the Greenham Stakes, following the victory of the brilliant Mohaather when the race was last run in 2019.

Angus Gold, racing manager for Shadwell Estate Company, admitted beforehand he had doubts about whether Alkumait would stay the seven-furlong trip of the Greenham – and expects him to return to sprint distances in due course after finishing seventh.

However, when that will be remains uncertain after Alkumait was found to have chipped a knee.

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Gold said: “Sadly he’s come out of it with a little chip on a knee, which we’re going to have to take out.

“Apart from anything else, I think the run confirmed he doesn’t stay, even if a chip on a knee was hardly going to help him.

“I think he’s going to be a sprinter, but he’ll miss the whole of the summer and we’ll try to get him back in the autumn.”

Alkumait was one of two Greenham runners for Shadwell along with the Charlie Hills-trained Mujbar.

Connections had hoped the Group Three winner could earn himself a shot at the Qipco 2000 Guineas with a bold showing, but he could now be bound for the French equivalent after finishing only eighth.

“All his best form last year was definitely with give in the ground and I think we learned the other day he would prefer it easier. He was also far too keen, anyway,” Gold added.

“Hopefully we’ve got that out of him now on his first run back and we might look at the French Guineas or something like that.

Mutasaabeq is a potential Guineas contender
Mutasaabeq is a potential Guineas contender (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We’ll see how he does between now and then, but he won’t be going to Newmarket for the Guineas.”

While Mujbar will not be contesting the first Classic of the season on Saturday week, the Shadwell team are still considering whether to supplement his stablemate Mutasaabeq, who was seriously impressive in a conditions race at Newmarket’s Craven meeting.

Gold said: “No decision has been made yet. We’ll wait to hear from Sheikh Hamdan’s family whether they would like to supplement him for the Guineas or head towards (Royal) Ascot and go the more gentle route.”

Setback raises Royal Ascot doubt for Battaash

Champion sprinter Battaash is not certain to make Royal Ascot after suffering an injury while wintering at Shadwell Stud.

The seven-year-old sustained a small fracture which has set him back a month and put in doubt his attempt at repeating last year’s victory in the King’s Stand Stakes.

However, he is back cantering and it is hoped he will go back into training with Charlie Hills in a couple of weeks’ time.

“He just had a tiny little fracture in a joint during the winter and we’ve had to give him plenty of time off. He’s had a pin put in it,” said Angus Gold, Shadwell’s racing manager.

“He’s been back cantering for five weeks now and he seems fine at the moment and we will give him two more weeks cantering there and then, all being well, he will go back into training at that stage.

“Obviously the horse’s welfare is our main concern.

“He’ll be a month later going into training than normal, but (the late) Sheikh Hamdan did say to try him again as long as he was sound.

“Because he is going back in later than normal, it’s not guaranteed he’ll get to Royal Ascot. Hopefully he will, but we will see how he goes when he gets back in. He’s seven years old and we need to make sure he’s in one piece.”

Hugely influential owner-breeder Sheikh Hamdan dies, aged 75

Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum has died, at the age of 75.

Sheikh Hamdan, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, was a hugely prominent owner of a string of Classic and Royal Ascot winners for more than 30 years.

His blue-and-white colours, under the livery of his Shadwell Racing banner, are among the most famous throughout the racing world.

A triumphant Willie Carson aboard Derby winner Nashwan
A triumphant Willie Carson aboard Derby winner Nashwan (PA)

On Wednesday morning Sheikh Hamdan’s younger brother Sheikh Mohammed posted on Twitter: “We belong to God and to Him we shall return … May God have mercy on you, my brother, my support and my companion.”

Among the best of Sheikh Hamdan’s many Group One winners, he was most widely associated with 1989 Derby and 2000 Guineas winner Nashwan, the brilliant 1990 dual Classic-winning filly Salsabil and outstanding sprinters of different generations in Dayjur and Battaash.

Others to have carried his silks included Oaks and King George heroine Taghrooda, another Derby victor in Erhaab and two winners of the Melbourne Cup in the shape of At Talaq and Jeune, who triumphed at Flemington in 1986 and 1994 respectively.

Shadwell issued the following statement on their website: “It is with great sadness that Shadwell announces the death of His Highness, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He died peacefully on Wednesday 24th March 2021.

Salsabil (right), winning the Irish Derby in 1990 with Willie Carson in the saddle
Salsabil (right), winning the Irish Derby in 1990 with Willie Carson in the saddle (PA)

“It is a time to reflect on his achievements and his enormous contribution to the global thoroughbred industry. His legacy will live on through his horses.

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“Everyone at Shadwell is so proud to have worked for such a loyal, generous, humble and wise man.”

Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation was among the first to pay tribute.

A tweet on the official account read: “Everyone at Godolphin is deeply saddened to hear of the death of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum. A great loss to Dubai and our sport. He was one of the greatest owner breeders of modern times. Our deepest condolences to His Family and all @ShadwellStud.”

Richard Hills was Sheikh Hamdan’s retained rider from 1997 until his retirement in 2012 and continued to work for him under the Shadwell banner as assistant racing manager.

“It’s really sad. We’re all devastated. From 17 years old, throughout my whole career to now,” he said.

“He was such a great man, he was like a father to me.

Nayef wins the 2001 Dubai Champion Stakes at Newmarket in the hands of Richard Hills
Nayef wins the 2001 Dubai Champion Stakes at Newmarket in the hands of Richard Hills (Haydn West/PA)

“We had some great times. I was in a lucky position. He was my friend, and I was riding his horses, which was his passion. It was joy all the way through.

“Every one of the Classic winners I rode him meant everything to me – four Guineas, an Oaks and a Leger. All of them were special.

“Nayef was great because he was out of Height Of Fashion. He was tough and he won six Group Ones. There was Almutawakel who won the Dubai World Cup.

“I rode 550 winners in Dubai. I don’t think I took a week off for 15 years.

“It was a joy to get up in the morning and ride those horses.”

Sheikh Hamdan's racing manager Angus Gold
Sheikh Hamdan’s racing manager Angus Gold (PA)

His long-standing racing manager Angus Gold believes it was Sheikh Hamdan’s passion that was the key to his success.

“It’s a very say day. From my point of view he was an amazing man, and we spoke for the first 25 years nearly every day – whether about horses or just about what was going on in the world,” Gold told Sky Sports Racing.

“He’s been a lot busier recently, so I didn’t bother him quite so much, but he’s been more than a boss.

“To have the sort of success he had you’ve got to have the passion – and he had that in abundance. He absolutely loved the business – particularly the breeding, as everyone knows. A home-bred Classic winner was the highlight for him. That’s why Nashwan was so special and close to his heart, as he always said.

“He was absolutely passionate about the business. He loved going to look at the foals and the yearlings and to see them on the racecourse – I’m sure that’s what kept him going for so long. He was so passionate about it.

“It was a truly global operation – America, Australia and South Africa – and when Dubai opened up he loved having runners and winners there in his homeland, so his influence was very global. We were very lucky he played such a big part in it.

“It was wonderful to talk to a man who was so immersed in the whole thing, the fact he was very busy in his own right in Dubai and obviously a rich and powerful man, yet what he loved was talking about his horses.

“He would often ring me about the smallest thing that you wouldn’t think he had time to notice – but he watched every runner and had very strong opinions.

“It’s too early to talk about what the future will bring. We will wait and see what Sheikh Hamdan’s family want to do, but I think just from the breeding point of view some of the families he has helped develop over the last 40 years will be around for a long time to come.”

Sheikh Hamdan’s blue and white lightened a sombre summer

One of the many memorable themes of a truncated Flat campaign has been the success enjoyed by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.

Performances by such stars as Battaash, Mohaather and Nazeef has helped the owner have arguably his best ever season.

With five domestic Group Ones, more than 100 winners and a strike-rate of 20 per cent, plus big-race wins abroad, it has been a year to remember for Sheikh Hamdan – albeit one tempered by the effect of the pandemic.

“It’s been a horrible year for everybody globally, let alone just us, but on the track we’ve been very lucky,” said Sheikh Hamdan’s racing manager Angus Gold.

“We’ve had a very good year. It’s been as good a year probably as we’ve ever had, at least for 30 years.”

Gold reflected on a Flat racing year shortened for obvious reasons but at the same time blessed with many memorable performances, supported by a stern resilience and determined will to keep the show on the road.

Racing was suspended from March 18 to June 1 – but just two weeks into the season came Royal Ascot and a first-day treble in the familiar blue and white colours to help light up a dark 2020.

“We’ve been very lucky on the track, and it started fantastically well at Ascot. It’s hard enough to get one winner there, but to have six was extraordinary,” said Gold.

Sheikh Hamdan's racing manager Angus Gold reflected on a successful year on the track
Sheikh Hamdan’s racing manager Angus Gold reflected on a successful year on the track (Mike Egerton/PA)
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“The first day was amazing. Probably what was so good was the sheer number of good horses we had. Normally you rely on two or three. This year we were winning Group races with a number of different horses, which obviously makes a big difference.”

For Gold there were so many good performances. However, Mohaather’s effort in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, when he finally got his Group One, stood out.

“I suppose the highlight of the year was Mohaather in the Sussex. He got a big one, and he hadn’t had much luck before then,” he added.

“It was great to get his day in the sun.

“Battaash was tremendous and held his form through the year. Enbihaar was good again. She did brilliantly, and Nazeef came from being a handicapper last year to winning a Group One.

“We only kept her in training because we thought she could definitely get some black type, so to go from a Listed to Group Two to a Group One was wonderful.

“We had a couple of nice fillies in France, Raabihah and Tawkeel, so that was tremendous as well – and then it was backed up with some nice two-year-olds as well, which was nice.

Minzaal wins the Gimcrack Stakes for owner Sheikh Hamdan
Minzaal wins the Gimcrack Stakes for owner Sheikh Hamdan (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Gold is looking to this year’s juveniles to develop into Classic contenders for 2021.

“Owen Burrow’s Minzaal won the Gimcrack, Marcus’s (Tregoning) horse (Alkumait) won the Mill Reef and then there was the Horris Hill as well with a horse of Charlie’s (Hills) (Mujbar),” he said.

“It was across the board, which was the satisfying bit.

“That is what you need, and the older horses kept us going early.

“We were light on some Classic three-year-olds, but hopefully some of those two-year-olds from this year have shown enough to suggest they could make up into something next year.

“There’s a horse of Dermot Weld’s that was just beaten the other day (at Leopardstown) called Wuqood, who could be very nice.

Albasheer (right) finishing a close second in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster
Albasheer (right) finishing a close second in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“There’s a number of nice, more backward horses here. I still like Albasheer of Owen Burrows’. I think it all came a bit quick for him, but he’s a potentially nice horse in the making.

“There have been one or two that have shown up just recently – winning maidens, that sort of thing – who could go on.

“It was weird to have such a good year and yet we feel, not deflated, but not being able to enjoy it really with what’s going on the world. We’ve been incredibly lucky.”

Nazeef poised to take on stablemate Palace Pier in QEII

Nazeef will fly the flag for the fillies when she takes on the colts, headed by her unbeaten John Gosden-trained stablemate Palace Pier, in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

The four-year-old has progressed through the ranks, climbing from a maiden success all the way up to two Group One victories this season.

Those came against her own sex in the Falmouth Stakes and the Sun Chariot, so the British Champions Mile, sponsored by Qipco, will be her toughest task – but it is one connections feel she deserves to take.

“She’s done us proud all year,” said Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.

“Obviously, she had a couple of setbacks in terms of Goodwood, where they felt she didn’t come down the hill, and it was horrible ground in Deauville, but she bounced back to form the other day.

Nazeef has more than paid her way this season
Nazeef has more than paid her way this season (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“She is very tough, and has a great attitude. John says all she does is eat and sleep, that she doesn’t over-exert herself at home and so doesn’t take a lot out of herself – hopefully she’s still in good form.

“At his time of year you never know, but they are happy with her. She handles easy ground. If it got really bad, I don’t know what would happen.”

Sheikh Hamdan’s other likely runner, Molatham, has something to find on ratings, though he does have smart form.

Trained by Roger Varian, the three-year-old colt won the Group Three Jersey Stakes over seven furlongs at Royal Ascot and was third behind Wichita in the Group Two Park Stakes at Doncaster last month.

“He’s a nice horse,” said Gold.

“He’s going to have to step up a couple of gears to get involved in something like this, but he won the Jersey well on the same track.”

Grounds for concern – but Battaash still on track for Abbaye

Battaash remains an intended runner in the Prix de l’Abbaye as things stand, despite the prospect of very soft ground at ParisLongchamp.

Charlie Hills’ stable star could finish only 14th behind Glass Slippers in the race 12 months ago, in a defeat many put down to the soft ground.

The six-year-old gelding has been imperious this season, winning at Royal Ascot for the first time in the King’s Stand, collecting a fourth King George Stakes at Goodwood and claiming a second Nunthorpe at York.

His only success on ground described officially as soft came in 2017 – when the Prix de l’Abbaye was run at Chantilly during Longchamp’s redevelopment.

“We haven’t got as far as saying he is 100 per cent a definite runner, but from what I’ve been told it’s going to be very soft,” said Angus Gold, owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s racing manager.

“Who is that going to suit? I don’t know. At the moment he runs, but if it turns into an absolute quagmire I can’t tell you – but at the moment he runs.

“Everyone has their own theories about it. I don’t personally think it was the ground that beat him last year, he was just never at the races so I wouldn’t say that.

“We know he handles easy ground, it was soft when he won the Abbaye. If it was to get really bad – I can’t tell you.”

Enbihaar retired as minor injury rules out Prix de Royallieu

Enbihaar has been retired following a minor setback which will force her to miss Saturday’s Prix de Royallieu at ParisLongchamp.

Trained by John Gosden, the five-year-old mare won seven of her 12 races – including five at Group Two level.

She ran in just one Group One, the Prix de Royallieu 12 months ago when beaten a length and a half by stablemate Anapurna.

Kept in training with the intention of breaking her duck at the highest level, she would have been among the favourites this weekend – having beaten the boys in the Lonsdale Cup at York last time out.

“Enbihaar will miss the Royallieu as she is currently at Shadwell Stud. She had a minor injury, and as a result has been retired – very sadly,” said Angus Gold, owner Hamdan Al Maktoum’s racing manager.

“She’s been an absolute star, and I wish we had a few more like her – with her enthusiasm and ability.

“It was sad not to win a Group One. But she did very well to win what she did, and she was a real torch-bearer for us for the last few years.

“She was beautifully trained – I must say that. It’s very sad, but it was fantastic to keep her in training this year to win a couple more Group races.

“She’s given us a lot of fun, and obviously we’ll give her a proper chance at stud.”

Dewhurst enters Alkumait calculations

Connections of Alkumait will consider supplementing for the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket next month, following his impressive display in the Mill Reef at Newbury.

Marcus Tregoning’s juvenile faced a significant step up in class for Saturday’s six-furlong Group Two, after a comprehensive victory in maiden company at Glorious Goodwood in late July.

However, the son of Showcasing proved more than up to the task – and top-level assignments beckon.

Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Hamdan Al Maktoum, said: “We were absolutely thrilled with him. He showed a really nice turn of foot and won very nicely.

“The Mill Reef/Middle Park double has never really worked out for us, so we were never going to go down that route.

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“His action would suggest he prefers top of the ground. That’s not to say he wouldn’t handle cut in the ground, but I certainly don’t think he would want it heavy.”

Tregoning said in the immediate aftermath of Alkumait’s weekend win that he would be keen to run him again this season – potentially over seven furlongs to see if he could be a contender for next year’s 2000 Guineas over a mile.

The Dewhurst appears an obvious option, although the owner already has a likely candidate for the Group One contest in the Owen Burrows-trained Albasheer, who was narrowly beaten by Richard Hannon’s Chindit in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster recently.

Albasheer (right) is also in the mix for the Dewhurst
Albasheer (right) is also in the mix for the Dewhurst (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

However, Gold does not rule out the possibility of both horses lining up on the Rowley Mile.

He added: “Marcus would like to run Alkumait again this year – and as he said on Saturday, the only race for him really is the Dewhurst, which we didn’t enter him for because he’d only won a maiden at that stage.

“We’ll see how the land lies. We also have Albasheer as a possible for the Dewhurst – I think he was undone by his inexperience as much as anything at Doncaster.

“There would be a question mark over the trip for Alkumait – but if he settled well, like he did on Saturday, he’d give himself a chance. Seven furlongs at Newmarket is a different test to six at Newbury, so we’ll see.

“It wouldn’t be the end of the world if he didn’t run again this year, (but) the Dewhurst is the best two-year-old race in England, so if you can give yourself a better chance of winning it, maybe you should. ”

Alkumait completed a big-race double at Newbury for his leading owner, with Elarqam getting his career back on track in the preceding Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup Stakes.

Mark Johnston’s charge had disappointed on his two previous starts in the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot and when defending his crown in the York Stakes, but he bounced back to form on Saturday.

Gold said: “I was delighted for the horse to get back winning again. He looked fantastic and clearly still has the enthusiasm for it.

“He’s probably a few pounds below the very best around, but he’s tough and genuine and will win his races.

“I’m not sure what Sheikh Hamdan wants to do with him. An obvious race for him would be something like the Canadian International – but whether that will be logistically possible, I don’t know, and Sheikh Hamdan might prefer to keep him at home.”

Raabihah not ruled out of Arc reckoning

Raabihah could still take her chance in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, despite suffering defeat in the Prix Vermeille at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.

Connections of the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained filly will wait a few days and see how the daughter of Sea The Stars has taken the race before committing her to Europe’s premier all-aged middle distance contest.

Raabihah was sent off the 6-5 favourite to take her track record to four wins from five starts, but went down by three lengths to the Dermot Weld’s impressive Tarnawa after staying on to edge long-time leader Dame Malliot for second place.

“The winner looked very good. I’m not taking anything away from her. I expected to see more acceleration from our filly than we did,” said Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s racing manager, Angus Gold.

“Mr Rouget felt otherwise, so we said we’d see how she comes out of it. She needs to improve to win an Arc on what we saw on Sunday.

“That has always been the plan after the Vermeille. We’ll see at the end of the week how things are.”

Gold expects Hukum to take high order in 2021 after falling short on his first try at Group One level in the St Leger at Doncaster on Saturday.

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The three-year-old colt, trained by Owen Burrows, had earned a crack at the world’s oldest Classic after winning the Group Three Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury.

However, he could only manage fifth place behind Galileo Chrome on what was his fifth career start.

Trainer Owen Burrows and jockey Jim Crowley believed the horse did not stay the extended mile and three-quarters.

“That was the trainer’s and the jockey’s thought. I just noticed Jim niggling him three out, which surprised me,” said Gold.

“He stayed a mile and five at Newbury and ran right to the line. He was gone well before a mile and five on Saturday.

“I don’t know if it was just lack of stamina. Jim said to me they went a faster pace on Saturday than they did at Newbury.

“Owen has always said he’d got a lot of toe and a lot of pace so was not a guaranteed stayer, so maybe he didn’t. He would prefer easier ground, but I’m not with excuses. He was either not good enough or didn’t stay.”

He added: “Whether he runs again this season has yet to be decided. It’s too soon to decide. That is possibly it for the year. We’ll see how he comes out of it.

“I’m sure he’ll go back to a mile and a half next year. He’s a very inexperienced horse and has a big future ahead of him.”

Gold felt a lack of racing experience cost the Burrows-trained Albasheer when he was beaten a length by Chindit in the Champagne Stakes, also at Doncaster.

It was only his second start, while the winner had the benefit of two races.

“He ran a very good race. I thought he looked short of experience to me and was beaten by a better horse on the day who’d had a second run,” said Gold.

“Sadly, we’d only got the one run in. It looked like he needed the experience of another run.

“We were happy with him and the run.”

Albasheer could go for the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket next month, when he could face Chindit again.

“It’s the Dewhurst next, as long as he comes out of it well and goes forward,” he said.