Cape Byron staked a claim for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot when returning to form after a bad injury to win the Pertemps Network Conditions Stakes at Haydock.
The 2019 Wokingham and Bengough Stakes scorer was able to race just once last year, in the Qipco British Champions Sprint, but bounced back with a smart display.
Eoin Walsh sat close to the pace set by Brando before unleashing Cape Byron (3-1), trained by Roger Varian, to pick off the leader and go on to win by two and a quarter lengths.
The Sheikh Mohammed Obaid-owned Cape Byron is a half-brother to Third Realm, who less than half-an-hour later established himself as a legitimate Derby contender with a trial victory at Lingfield.
Speaking away from the track, Varian said: “It’s a great day for the mare, Reem Three, who has been a wonderful mare for Sheikh Mohammed Obaid.
“I think she had five or six horses rated over 100, but to have two horses win on the same afternoon – one over six furlongs and one over almost a mile and a half – is a good achievement for the mare out in the paddock, not that she’d know much about it!”
On Cape Byron, he added: “He’s a hell of a good horse on his day and we’ll have to consider the six-furlong Group One at Ascot (Diamond Jubilee).
“We ran him today and thought if he didn’t handle the soft ground and got beat, he’d come down a pound or two and he is probably capable of carrying a big weight in the Wokingham.
“I thought if he won today, we could look at the Group One.
“He has a fine record at Ascot. You can put a line through last year as he had a pretty serious injury and only came back for one run when the ground was heavy.
“On his day, he’s very capable and we’d love to get him to Ascot in one piece and in good form.”
Walsh said: “He did it nicely and got away with it on the ground. It’s quite heavy.
“It wouldn’t be his ideal surface. He found it a bit testing the last 100 yards and got a bit tired. Hopefully he’ll come on for that.
“There was no confirmed pace beforehand and I didn’t want to make it. Luckily, Brando went on. I could sit on his girths and there was going to be no excuse from there.”
Walsh was delighted to have been given the opportunity to ride such a smart performer as Cape Byron.
“That’s the wonderful thing about one meeting a day for us – it gives us lesser-known jockeys a chance to shine on the big stage,” he said.
“Roger has been fantastic. That’s my third winner for him in the last week.”
Cape Byron was cut to 10-1 from 20-1 for the Diamond Jubilee with Betfair.
Qaysar registered a third course success when claiming Listed honours in the Pertemps Network Spring Trophy.
Richard Hannon’s six-year-old was always going easily for Joe Fanning and soon put the race to bed to beat Tomfre by a length and quarter.
“He travelled very well and I was never in any danger. He loves the ground and won well,” said Fanning.
“He’s very game and is a grand horse.”
Aleas appreciated the rain-saturated ground to record an impressive display on his seasonal reappearance in the Pertemps Network Handicap.
Winner of his last two starts as a juvenile, the Ralph Beckett-trained three-year-old pulled clear of his three rivals to score by score by nine and a half lengths from Darvel.
“That was very impressive from him. I knew he’d like the ground. I just sat behind them. He travelled up very strongly. They stopped in front after going a fair gallop,” said winning rider Hector Crouch.
“He kept galloping to the line. It was very comfortable for him. He really appreciated that ground today.
“I imagine he’s going to step up in trip in time, he’s probably going to shape like a mile-and-a-quarter horse and maybe further. We’ll have to see what the handicapper does.
“He’s won off 86 so he’s going to go up a fair bit now. He’s at the level where he will get in the competitive handicaps. He’s definitely going to step up in class. He’s improving quickly.”
Boardman (9-1) relished the testing conditions to open his account on British soil in the Pertemps Handicap.
Formerly based in France with Pascal Bary and then with Berkshire handler Joe Tuite, the Tim Easterby-trained five-year-old looked at ease as he romped home for Dane O’Neill by four and three-quarter lengths from Ffion.
O’Neill said: “Tim said the ground would be a big factor for him and if they go on that ground, you’ve a lot in your favour.
“He travelled nicely through the race. Tim said to ride him with a bit of confidence to relax him and let him fill up for the second half of the race.
“He got through that ground nice and easy. He was my third ride today and I’d say it was heavy on the others but felt good to soft on him. That’s how well he handled it.”