Ed Walker will consider options that perhaps include the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and the Prix de l’Abbaye for Mountain Peak, who gained recompense for his runner-up effort in the Epsom Dash, taking the Betfred Heritage Handicap Stakes at Ascot.
Tom Marquand gave the seven-year-old – the first leg of a double on the card for Walker – a confident ride and he duly obliged in a head-bobbing finish to the five-furlong dash, beating Bond Chairman by a nose.
Connections were thinking about retiring the Swiss Spirit gelding after he failed to show his old spark last term, but Walker says he is now looking at a step up in class with his 11-1 winner.
“This year we have been second in a Wokingham and in a Dash, last year we were second in an Ayr Gold Cup and we had a second in a Stewards’ Cup and these sprint handicaps have eluded me and driven me slightly mad.
“This isn’t quite as famous, but it is a big pot and a lovely race to win – he is my first horse to ever win 10 races. It was his 40th race, so a 25 per cent strike rate for a handicap sprinter is not bad. He is also a bleeder, so he has had his problems.”
Walker pointed to Marquand as a big part of the reason for the upturn in form and paid tribute to the rider.
He added: “Something has clicked this year. He was a horse who lost his way. We almost retired him a number of times because it wasn’t happening. The last time he won here, it would have been the last run of his career if he did not perform – and he won.
“Tom just leaves him alone and lets him find his rhythm and it is a fast old rhythm and it seems to burn everyone else off. He’s not bad, is he? Tom is up there with the best in the world. His work ethic, his energy, his ability in the saddle is phenomenal.”
As for future plans, Walker admitted he was thinking on his feet.
“We are getting out of handicap company and it starts getting a bit difficult,” he added. “We will have to go up in class and if I really wanted to take a chance with him, maybe a Breeders’ Cup Sprint or an Abbaye? I don’t know. We’ll have to think hard.”
Mountain Peak has now been part of three Ascot doubles for Walker, who followed up with Random Harvest (6-1).
The lightly-raced four-year-old War Front filly made up for a neck defeat in the Kensington Palace here on her last run, earning success by the same margin in the Village Hotels Fillies’ Handicap under Saffie Osborne.
Neil Callan, who ended an 11-year association with racing in Hong Kong last summer, is back and better than ever.
He gained a 34th winner of the year with a powerful ride aboard Bague D’Or, who fended off the Hayley Turner-ridden Berkshire Breeze to win the Hi-Speed Services Handicap. The Chris Wall-trained winner backed up his Newmarket success from three weeks ago off a 2lb-higher mark to score by a neck.
The just-turned 44-year-old Callan said he is keen to return to the lofty weighing-room status he had before leaving for the Far East.
“I’m still building, but I’m getting there slowly,” he added. “As with any sportsman, you aim for the highest bar, you don’t aim for the next rung.
“Obviously, I want to get back. I was top five before I left, so that is where I want to be. Whether it is or isn’t achievable, I want to give it my best shot.
“I am a very determined person and I feel like I am riding well. I don’t have goals, but I want to keep going up. Shoot for the moon and if you miss, you’ll hit the stars.”
Defence Of Fort, a February colt by Starpangledbanner, showed plenty of class on debut to take the British Stallion Studs EBF Restricted Novice Stakes.
Peter Chapple-Hyam’s debutant, a flashy chestnut with four white socks and owned by Sally Wall, has plenty of size about him and was backed from 33-1 to 12-1 overnight.
Jason Watson’s mount got a nice tow up the stands rail and went on to take the seven-furlong event in some style from Berkshire Phantom.
Watson, who was riding his first winner following a spell on the sidelines with injury, said: “He’s a nice sort and a big horse. We thought he might be a bit immature for this first outing, but going down to start he took me down nicely and came alive when he hit the track.
“He is a nice horse going forward.”
Hollie Doyle kept things simple aboard the Charlie Appleby-trained Wild Crusade to bring up winner number 99 for the season in the Magnum Classic Ice Cream Handicap Stakes.
The Dubawi three-year-old was having his first run since being gelded and Doyle made all the running in the mile-and-a-half affair, burning off her two rivals to score by two and a half lengths.