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Lazuli rules in Palace House thriller

Lazuli just held off the late lunge of Came From The Dark to win the Betfair Palace House Stakes at Newmarket.

Charlie Appleby’s four-year-old was conceding 3lb to the rest of the field, courtesy of a Group Three win at Newbury in September.

In that respect the performance can be upgraded and he was having his first run for 100 days having finished third behind Charlie Hills’ Equilateral in Dubai.

There was no let up in the pace throughout, with Glamorous Anna showing her predictable dash to halfway where she left Emaraaty Ana in front.

Lazuli just got home for William Buick and Charlie Appleby
Lazuli just got home for William Buick and Charlie Appleby (John Walton/PA)

William Buick moved up ominously well on Lazuli looking likely to put the race to bed, but Emaraaty Ana refused to wilt and made him pull out all the stops.

In behind those two was Hollie Doyle on Ed Walker’s Came From The Dark – who has well and truly put to bed the notion he must have soft ground – but the door was closed.

When eventually there was sufficient room Came From The Dark flew home, but the line came just in time for the 3-1 favourite who held on by a head with the same back to Emaraaty Ana.

The winner was given a 12-1 quote for the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot by Coral.

Appleby said: “He ran a good race in Dubai to finish third behind Equilateral and he was going to run on Super Saturday, but I had to scratch him on the morning of the race because of a bruised foot.

“We maintained the training in Dubai after that little setback and he came off the plane fit and well.

“We toyed with this race, but with the penalty we weren’t completely sold on the idea and thought about going to Haydock (for the Temple Stakes).

“Once we made the entry for this, I was half confident to take them on as he loves this ground.

“He’s a real professional little sprinter.”

Jockey William Buick is interviewed on Lazuli
Jockey William Buick is interviewed on Lazuli (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Buick fully expects Lazuli to be tackling bigger prizes in due course.

He said: “I don’t think this is his level – I think he’s better. He’s lightly raced and is getting the hang of it.

“He was always going to come forward from the run today and he’s an out-and-out speedball. Hopefully he’ll take a step up in grade, wherever that may come.

“I didn’t think particularly handled the track very well – he didn’t really come down the dip.

“We’ll wait and see how he acquits himself on a flat, level track and fast ground – those are his ideal conditions.

“There’s options for him. There’s the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot down the line. That might be a bit punchy, but we’ll see.

“He’s not quite the finished article yet, so I wouldn’t want to be putting a level on him.”

Sir Ron Priestley switches back for Jockey Club challenge

Mark Johnston is fascinated to see how Sir Ron Priestley fares when dropped back down in trip for the Betfair Exchange Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday.

The lightly-raced five-year-old has tackled a mile and a three-quarters in his last three races, including when runner-up in the 2019 St Leger at Doncaster.

He was out for 571 days after that fine effort, but made a triumphant return to action in the Further Flight Stakes at Nottingham three and a half weeks ago.

Sir Ron Priestley is seen as a contender for staying honours this year, but Johnston believes the Australia entire is not devoid of speed.

“As Sir Ron Priestley’s last two runs have been over a mile and six, we were thinking of stepping him up to two miles plus, but he’s not short of speed and looks to have at least run up to form at Nottingham,” he said.

“It will be very interesting to see him back over a mile and a half.”

The Middleham handler also saddles Thunderous, who makes a quick reappearance after running below par in the Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown last week.

Johnston added: “Thunderous was very disappointing the other day at Sandown, but there was no obvious reason for it so we might not shy away from bringing him back quickly.”

Pyledriver was third in last year’s St Leger and William Muir, who now trains in partnership with Chris Grassick, is looking forward to getting the stable star back on track.

“Everything has been brilliant right the way through. These are the days you look forward to,” said Muir.

“The ground has never worried me for this horse. He’s such a light mover, he only just touches the ground. The ground doesn’t really concern me.

“If you look through his form, he won on firm ground at Salisbury first time out at two, then he won a Listed race on very soft ground at Haydock.

“He’s come on stronger physically. I’ve not wound him up for this as his only race of the season – this is a starting point.”

Pyledriver returns to action
Pyledriver returns to action (David Davies/PA)

Though failing to feature in last year’s Derby, a return to Epsom and Group One company is on the agenda for Pyledriver, with Muir earmarking the Coronation Cup on June 4 as his next port of call after Newmarket.

He added: “Without a shadow of a doubt he will go back to Epsom for the Coronation Cup, as long as he is OK.

“When he came down the straight after getting hampered early on, he handled it OK. The track there doesn’t worry me in the slightest.”

The William Haggas-trained pair of Al Zaraqaan and Pablo Escobarr complete the small but select line-up, with the former reverting to turf following a hat-trick of wins on the all-weather.

Charlie Appleby expects Lazuli to prove a tough nut to crack in the Betfair Palace House Stakes.

The winner of a Group Three at Newbury on his final start of 2020, the gelded son of Dubawi ran once at Meydan over the winter – finishing third behind Equilateral in the Dubai Dash.

“I’m delighted with him and five furlongs is his trip,” said Appleby.

“He only had the one start at Meydan. He met with a minor setback after that, which meant he missed his second start there.

“His preparation for Saturday has been great, he looks great and he’s fresh and well.

“I think he’s the one they’ve got to beat.”

Judicial has been a fine servant to connections
Judicial has been a fine servant to connections (Dan Abraham/PA)

Judicial is reported to be in good form as he makes a fourth successive appearance in the Group Three contest.

Julie Camacho’s consistent sprinter has finished second twice and seventh so far and has been giving encouraging signs he will run another big race on Saturday.

Camacho’s husband and assistant, Steve Brown, said of the nine-year-old: “He’s in good form and he’s training well. We’ve seen nothing to suggest he’s slowing down. He’s had a smooth prep and we’re looking forward to it.

“He’s got some positive history in this race and it’s always a nice place to start him. There are obviously some very useful horses in there, but nothing that stands out as being a lot better than him.

“It will be nice to see him out on the track again and we hope he retains his enthusiasm for racing.”

Robert Cowell’s trio of Arecibo, Aljady and Dubai Station also feature in a nine-strong field.

Lazuli takes Trophy triumph with game effort

Lazuli registered the biggest victory of his career with a battling success in the Dubai International Airport World Trophy Stakes at Newbury.

The Charlie Appleby-trained Dubawi gelding made a triumphant return to five furlongs when claiming top honours in the Group Three prize.

Having sat just behind the pace for much of the race, the 5-2 shot moved into a lead he would not surrender inside the final furlong, pulling out plenty to defeat last-time-out Leicester scorer Tiz Marvellous by a length.

Buick said: “He was in good form today. He looked very promising at Sandown earlier in the year, then he disappointed there next time for no real apparent reason.

“He ran well in Deauville last time over six, which probably just stretches him slightly. Back to five today, conditions were ideal for him as it was good, fast ground.

“I think the day at Sandown he did boss the field, but clocked a good time and he gave me a great feel. He showed today he can fight for it as well against older sprinters.”

Assessing future plans, the Classic-winning rider believes Lazuli could be the ideal type to take to Dubai over the winter.

He said: “I think he would have to be on the team sheet for Dubai. He has done it well as it is tough for three year-old sprinters against older horses. He will be better next year.”

Andrew Balding saddled what he believes is the biggest-priced winner of his career in Oo De Lally, who defied his 125-1 odds to land the opening division of the Heatherworld Stud EBF Novice Stakes by three-quarters of a length.

Balding said: “I would have thought that is the biggest-priced runner I’ve trained as I can’t think of anything bigger.

“I quite liked him before Ascot, but he didn’t show a lot when he ran at Ascot. I thought he might be one for a bit further in time, but he knew his job today, travelled strong and got the job done.

“Somebody would have backed him as our horses tend to step up for their first runs. Someone in a betting shop somewhere in the country will be happy.”

Ibiza Rocks put his previous experience to good use to complete a double for Buick when taking the second division of the seven-furlong prize by a neck.

Buick said of the Charlie Hills-trained 11-1 chance: “He ran well first time out at Kempton. He put that previous experience to good use and he has done it well.

“He got a very soft lead and they were going a slow enough pace, but it was a competitive novice like they often are at Newbury.”

Ilaraab (15-2) registered a fourth victory in succession to form the second leg of an across the card five-timer for trainer William Haggas when prevailing by a neck in the Dubai Duty Free Handicap.

Maureen Haggas, trainer’s wife, said: “He is improving and he has done that nicely. He has travelled well all the way. He is just one of those really easy straightforward horses. Martin (Dwyer) said if you asked something, he did it.

“It depends which way they want to go, but I think he will definitely be better with a bit of dig in the ground. If he is still in good form and the ground is right, there is no reason to stop with him.”

Following the race, Ilaraab was cut to 8-1 for the bet365 Cambridgeshire at Newmarket next Saturday, while William Hill went 14-1 for the same race.

William Muir is likely to receive plenty of thanks following the victory of Epic Endeavour, who formed the opening leg of a double for David Egan when prevailing by a neck in the Heatherwold Stud Handicap.

Muir said of the 10-1 shot “This has been a nice horse all the way through and I took my time with him last year. I thought this horse would go very close and at the price he was very nice. I told everyone who rang me, which was a couple of my big owners.

“David Egan said you could step him up to a mile if you want to. He was in here today and at Newmarket, but we decided to come here as Mike Kelly, who owns Heatherwold Stud, is a good mate of mine and I said I’d like to take some of his money!”

The Roger Varian-trained Union (15-2) formed the concluding leg of Egan’s brace with a hard-fought neck success in the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Handicap.