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Believe In Love bounces back for Stanerra Stakes success

Roger Varian’s Believe In Love returned to her best for a decisive victory in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Stanerra Stakes at Leopardstown.

The British challenger, penalised for last year’s Saint-Cloud success at this same Group Three level, had to concede 3lb and upwards all round and was sent off a 9-2 shot in a field of six.

She also needed to bounce back to form after losing her action and eventually finishing a distant last of seven in the Bronte Cup at York on her only previous start this season.

But Believe In Love, delivered from off the pace by Ronan Whelan, proved well up to the task as she hit the front in the final two furlongs and out-speeded her rivals to win by a length and a half from Federica Sophia.

Favourite High Heels set out to make the running, closely attended by a second British challenger in Sherbet Lemon – but they both faded out of contention.

Whelan, who was riding Believe In Love for the first time, said: “She did that well. Roger told me to draw a line through the last day, and not to even look into it.

“He said her homework had been very good, he was very happy with her and that’s why she was here.

“She travelled smoothly and picked up like a nice filly when I gave her the office. She’s probably only doing enough in front.”

Believe In Love relished a very testing surface at Saint-Cloud last October but had also struck on significantly quicker ground – as she did again here.

The winning jockey added: “She seems versatile ground-wise.

“(Roger) also said to me that last year she only came into her own at this time of year, so she should have a nice end of season to look forward to.”

Believe In Love holds several big-race entries over the coming months – including the Lillie Langtry Stakes at Goodwood, for which Betfair cut her to 9-1 from 12-1 following her latest success.

Believe In Love bids to resume progress in Bronte Cup

Prolific filly Believe In Love makes her seasonal reappearance in the William Hill Bronte Cup Fillies’ Stakes at York.

Roger Varian’s charge enjoyed a fantastic campaign in 2020 – winning five of her last six starts, including a Group Three success in France on her most recent outing in October.

She must concede weight all round on her return to action in Saturday’s Group Three feature on the Knavesmire, but her trainer is nevertheless anticipating a bold showing.

Varian said: “She’s in good form. It took a while for her to come to herself through the spring, but we’ve been pleased with her the last couple of weeks.

“It looks her optimum conditions really – an extended trip on easy ground, and against fillies. It looks a nice race to get her season started in.

“It will be a tough race, and she’s got a penalty to carry, but we’d be hopeful of a good run.”

Believe In Love’s rivals include a pair of Irish challengers, with Joseph O’Brien’s Mighty Blue and the Jessica Harrington-trained Flor De La Luna both in contention.

Dual-purpose mare Mighty Blue won the Listed Vintage Tipple Stakes at Gowran Park earlier in the month, a race in which Flor De La Luna finished a disappointing eighth as the 3-1 favourite.

O’Brien told Betfair: “Mighty Blue has been a brilliant mare for us, and it was great to see her win her first stakes race in a Listed contest at Gowran Park last time. She was impressive on the day and looked better than ever.

“This course, distance and ground should all suit her – and this is the logical next step for her.

“It is a stronger race, but she is entitled to go close.”

Harrington is hoping her filly can bounce back, saying: “She seems to be in great form. I think probably at Gowran it was the ups and downs and round the bends, but she was never happy on the track there.

“She’s in very, very good form since – so this looks an ideal chance for her.”

Urban Artist completed a hat-trick for Hughie Morrison last season, before finishing second on her final start of the year in a Listed event at Bath.

Looking ahead to her return to action, Morrison said: “What else do we go for? I don’t want to be giving weight away in a handicap at the moment.

“She surprised us very much so, totally (improvement last year).

“When she first ran at Taunton two years ago in a bumper I thought she was going to be tailed off, she was so slow.

“I wasn’t at all disappointed with her first run on the all-weather last year (fourth in a maiden, on Flat debut). Horses often take a race or two to acclimatise themselves from bumpers to Flat races, and she had only been in about three weeks.

“She’s going to have to improve by another seven, eight, 10lb to compete on Saturday.

“I think it’s quite a big ask first time out at this level. But she’s rated 98, (and) there’s nothing out there as a Listed race over a mile and a half.”