Though there were just three runners for the Group Three bet365 Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown, it proved a competitive race with Mostahdaf coming out on top.
The John and Thady Gosden-trained son of Frankel went from strength to strength last term, with his only defeat coming in the St James’s Palace Stakes.
Having handled this step up to a mile and a quarter well on his seasonal return, he looks as though he will go on to compete at a higher level this season.
Jim Crowley’s mount, sent off the 1-2 favourite, always looked to have the measure of Juan Elcano and having passed him two furlongs out, easily held off the staying-on Foxes Tale to score by two and a half lengths.
“He ran well throughout last season,” said Thady Gosden. “The St James’s Palace Stakes didn’t quite go according to plan, but we stepped him up to a mile and quarter here for the first time and he stayed it quite well.
“He relaxes very well, but the mile and a quarter suits him well for the moment.”
A return to Sandown for the Brigadier Gerard Stakes or the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot will now be on the agenda for Mostahdaf.
Gosden added: “He won over nine furlongs last year. It is a stiff mile and quarter here and the ground is riding a little bit dead at the moment, but he stayed well and it was a competitive enough race.
“There were three horses, but they are three solid horses and he did well.
“It can always be a bit trappy with three runners but they went a fairly solid clip the whole way and he put up a good fight when he had to.
“We are hopeful he will come on for that run. The Prince of Wales’s or a Brigadier Gerard will come under consideration, I would imagine.”
The Gosden team made it a double with possible Oaks contender Emily Upjohn, who remained unbeaten after sauntering to a nine-and-a-half-length victory in the Nordoff Robbins Charlie Watts Memorial Fillies’ Novice Stakes.
Sent off the 5-4 favourite, Frankie Dettori’s mount galloped her 11 rivals into submission and will now take in the Musidora Stakes at York ahead of a possible Oaks tilt, for which she is 8-1 from 25s with Paddy Power.
“It was straightforward,” said Dettori. “I rode her the other morning and I thought, ‘wow!’
“Not many horses take my breath away and you like to see them do it in the afternoon. We carried a penalty, but if she is going to be an Oaks filly, she had to show us she can win with a penalty.
“I expected her to win, but not like that. All the signs she gave me the other morning, she managed to produce in the afternoon. It is a great relief, because with horses you live with dreams and sometimes it doesn’t happen, but she confirmed what we knew, that she was talented.”
Thady Gosden added: “She has done it very well under a 7lb penalty. The track was riding slow enough and it was her first run of the season. It is a stiff old hill and she has done it very well. She will come on for the run and hopefully she will go for a trial – the Musidora would be the obvious choice, but she is well balanced.”
The Britannia Handicap is the plan for Wanees, who came from off the pace under the same jockey to land the bet365 Esher Cup and complete a double for Crowley.
The 100-30 chance settled well as he tracked the pace, and while long-time leader City Runner looked to have stolen a march two furlongs out, the former champion jockey had every move covered and he got up in the last half-furlong to score by half a length.
Hills said: “They went a good, strong gallop and Jamie (Spencer) probably gave his horse a good ride in front. We wanted to hold him up because he can be a bit keen at home. He is just a big, strong horse who wants to throw his weight about.
“He is bred for a bit further than this today, so we wanted to ride him the right way and learn a bit about his trip.
“It is a lovely race to win and he is a nice horse with a good future, I think. We might look at something like the Britannia next. He need to go up in the weights a little bit to get into that. A stiff mile would suit him.”
Live In The Dream (13-2) ran out an easy winner of the bet365 Handicap.
Under 5lb claimer Sean Kirrane, the Adam West-trained Prince Of Lir gelding made all in the five-furlong contest and never looked in any danger as he powered to a three-and-three-quarter-length success over Auditor.
Though he won on his debut at Wolverhampton last August, he had gone five races without winning since then, but had shown plenty in defeat at Thirsk earlier this month.
“He got things so easy on his first run, he didn’t actually learn as much as we wanted to,” said West. “He has kind of had to learn on the job, but I’ve always thought he was better than his half-brother (Live In The Moment).
“The faster the ground, the better for him. I was concerned by a stiff five (furlongs) but if I thought if we came here and he fell 50 yards short of the line, we know we’d have a better chance at Epsom, Goodwood and York, where his main aims are this year.
“The Dash is the plan and if we can get both he and Live In The Moment there, it will be fantastic.”
Red Vineyard (18-1) claimed the closing Bet Boost At bet365 Handicap for William Muir and Chris Grassick.
Tom Marquand’s mount, who was hiked into Group Three company on his second start last October, had three-quarters of a length to spare over Al Qareem at the end of the 10-furlong event.
Muir said: “We are always a bit brave. We will always have a go at these races (in Group races), but we shouldn’t have done, because he lost his strength. But I did that with Pyledriver and we didn’t hurt him.
“Tom is overly impressed by him. He said he did everything asked of him and a mile and a quarter was right on the button for him. He said, once he is 100 per cent fit and hard, he might get further.”
He added: “I haven’t got any immediate targets because I want to give him time between races.
“We could consider a London Gold Cup at Newbury or there is the big handicap, a mile and a quarter, at Royal Ascot. It is exciting. That’s what we want.”