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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.”

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.

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.

Bangkok seals Saudi Cup bid with Lingfield victory

Bangkok booked a trip to Saudi Arabia as he sealed his second successive Betway Winter Derby Trial Stakes at Lingfield.

Andrew Balding’s five-year-old took his revenge on runner-up Felix, who had beaten him and also the reopposing Forest Of Dean narrowly at Wolverhampton last month.

Bangkok had made much of the running at Dunstall Park. But here, on 3lb better terms with his Wolverhampton rivals, Ryan Moore held the well-backed 8-13 favourite off the pace set by outsider Vintager and was only third into the straight as Forest Of Dean began his challenge ahead of him.

It quickly became apparent Moore had things very much under control, though, as Bangkok easily out-speeded the rest in the final furlong – winning by half a length from the staying-on Felix.

Bangkok holds an entry this month in the Winter Derby itself – in which he was third last year over this course and distance – but Balding is more minded to take up an alternative target.

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“He’s got an invitation to the Saudi Cup and that’s where we’d like to go, as long as he comes out of today’s race all right,” the trainer said.

“We’ll see him in the morning and assess him over the next few days. Saudi is in two weeks so there would be nothing for him in between.”

Reflecting on the performance, the Kingsclere handler said: “We are really pleased because he has done it nicely and not had too hard a race. That was our intention and Ryan gave him a lovely ride.

“The horse settled very well, and Ryan was following the right horses, in touch to strike when he thought it was time to.

“Running on the dirt will obviously be an experiment and we won’t know until we try, but I have always thought strongly-run races like that would suit him well. As long as he comes out today’s race well, he will be going there in perfect condition.”

Exalted Angel sprang a 20-1 shock and foiled runner-up Fizzy Feet’s bid for a poignant success in the Betway Kachy Stakes, also a Listed fast-track qualifier on the card.

Karl Burke’s five-year-old defied the widest draw of all in a nine-strong field to be prominent from the early stages and then run down long-time leader Fizzy Feet just in time to win by a neck under Clifford Lee.

It was an agonising outcome for connections of Fizzy Feet, running in the colours of owner David Lowe in this Listed race newly named in honour of his ill-fated 2018 and 2019 winner Kachy.

Exalted Angel also saw off Misty Grey, another neck back in third after being forced wide into the straight.

The 11-4 favourite had to settle for third for jockey Richard Kingscote and trainer Tom Dascombe – who previously teamed up to such effect for Kachy’s string of sprint victories here and elsewhere.

Exalted Angel, belatedly up to six furlongs and making his first trip to Lingfield, was posting a clear career-best.

Winning jockey Lee said: “We always knew he had ability – he was up in trip today, and he’s obviously loved that.

“I thought he (Rossa Ryan on David Loughnane’s Fizzy Feet) had just nicked half a length or a length on us coming round the bend – but my lad has got that turn of foot, and he got stuck in today.”

Bangkok entered for Winter Derby Trial defence

Last year’s winner Bangkok is one of eight entries in the Betway Winter Derby Trial at Lingfield on Saturday.

Three of the contenders – Felix, Bangkok and Forest Of Dean – all met recently at Wolverhampton.

Marco Botti’s Felix appeared to have plenty to find on the figures, but was delivered perfectly by Hollie Doyle to get up close home and deny Bangkok, with Forest Of Dean back in third.

That was Felix’s first run for 10 months, while the John Gosden-trained Forest Of Dean had been off for almost 500 days.

Botti has a big decision to make, however, after a phone call out of the blue on Sunday evening.

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“We had been set on running here, then the Winter Derby and Finals Day, but last night he got invited out to Saudi Arabia,” said Botti.

“The race is over 10 furlongs on turf and worth £600,000, so it’s a big decision whether we run in one or the other or both. They are only two weeks apart, but the problem would be then getting him qualified for Finals Day as he’s only had the one run.

“It was pleasing to see him win at Wolverhampton as he beat some good horses, but we felt he’d come on for the run.

“He’s only lost once for us (at Wolverhampton last February) and we don’t know what happened there as he was last of six.

“He was trained by Luca (Cumani) and then Sir Michael (Stoute) and we are reaping the benefits of how he has been looked after.”

It was Bangkok’s second narrow defeat in a row having been touched off by Sangarius in the Quebec Stakes before Christmas and his trainer Andrew Balding could also run Johnny Drama, who was fifth in that race having won his previous four contests.

However, Saudi Arabia is also uppermost in Balding’s mind at this stage for Bangkok.

The trainer said: “Bangkok is a possible runner in the Winter Derby Trial, although we will not make a final decision until we have to declare on Thursday morning.

“The other option for him hinges on whether or not he gets an invite for the Saudi Cup meeting, which is still a possibility.

“Johnny Drama is entered for the trial as well and will probably run if Bangkok doesn’t.”

Ed Dunlop’s eight-year-old Red Verdon is a possible along with Simon and Ed Crisford’s Vintager.

The in-form Mark Johnston has two entries in Sky Defender and West End Charmer.