Khaadem posted a course-record time as he returned to winning form as part of a treble for William Buick and owners Shadwell Estate in the Listed Cazoo Scarbrough Stakes at Doncaster.
Buick, warming up in style on day one of the Cazoo St Leger Festival for his ride on Godolphin’s big-race favourite Hurricane Lane in this weekend’s Classic showpiece, was twice the beneficiary of the injury which befell Jim Crowley at the start of the card.
While Crowley’s MRI scans were returning clear in the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, following his fall from Jadhlaan in the opening Take The Reins Nursery Handicap Stakes, one that sadly proved fatal for the Shadwell-owned two-year-old, first Robert Havlin and then Buick won on the rides he had to miss.
Crowley will also sit out his scheduled Thursday mounts, but is then expected to return.
Buick, who had won the first race of the meeting on Godolphin’s Modern Games, switched his blue allegiance to post an emphatic victory on Khaadem and then quickly double up on Anmaat for the same owners.
Khaadem’s trainer Charlie Hills was delighted at the 2019 Stewards’ Cup hero’s first success in 11 subsequent attempts – on his favoured quick ground, wearing blinkers for just the second time and dropped to five furlongs for the first time in his career.
“He looked good, didn’t he – first time at this trip, it’s great,” said Hills.
“To control the race as he did against proper fast five-furlong horses takes some doing.
“A race like that might just give him confidence now. He’s been a long time without winning, so that will do him the world of good.”
The Lambourn trainer admits there will be some head-scratching before he works out where Khaadem may run next – with a transatlantic trip to Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup an improbable prospect because the five-year-old had dropped almost a stone in the ratings before this triumph.
“It would be nice to think somewhere like Breeders’ Cup,” he said.
“But he’s come down a bit in the weights, obviously 104 today, and to get in a race like that you need to be in the 115s.”
Khaadem’s superiority, as the 5-4 favourite by a length and three-quarters from Live In The Moment, nonetheless left no one in any doubt that when conditions are in his favour he has a touch of class.
“He loves the fast ground,” added Hills.
“We’ve been scratching our heads with him. We tried him over seven furlongs, and we just put the blinkers on him because he’s been getting a little bit frustrating.
“When he worked in them he was like a different horse, he just took off on the gallops.”
Buick’s trickiest task was to channel that exuberance, before Khaadem took control.
Hills said: “Obviously (we were) dropping to five (furlongs), but the plan was just to try to ride him the same way we did last time, try to get a little lead.
“He’s a horse that doesn’t want disappointing, so I said to William just try to let him feel like he’s boss and nurse him in.
“But William says he’s a proper fast horse now. So we’ll have to have a look and see what there is next.
“In his first race this year, we took him to Meydan for the Group One there, and he ended up favourite for it – so he’s been up there with the best.
“It hasn’t quite worked out. But last year he had some stomach ulcers, so we were nice and easy with him really.
“It’s been two years that he hasn’t won, so it’s great to get his head in front.”
By contrast, Owen Burrows’ Anmaat was winning for the third time in five starts this season.
After the three-year-old had consigned runner-up Faisal’s unbeaten career profile to history in the I Love Julie Parkes Handicap, at 11-4 and by a length and three-quarters, Burrows must hope he can handle another ratings rise from a current 94.
The Lambourn trainer said: “He won nicely at Bath last time.
“I didn’t think that was probably much of a race, so I was a little concerned at the 8lb hike for it.
“But he’s handled that well, and he’s still improving.”
The closing Visit Doncaster Handicap went to Geoff Harker’s course specialist Wentworth Falls, ridden by Connor Beasley.
The evergreen nine-year-old was winning for the third time on Town Moor, on this occasion by half a length from favourite Al Simmo.