Great Max stakes Chesham claim with triumphant Newbury bow

Great Max appears to have earned himself a last-minute ticket to Royal Ascot after making a winning debut for Michael Bell in the Betfair Racing…Only Bettor Podcast Novice Stakes at Newbury.

A 260,000 guineas yearling purchase for owners Amo Racing Limited, the Wootton Bassett colt was a 4-1 shot for his racecourse introduction over six and a half furlongs in Berkshire.

Having been ridden prominently throughout, Jack Mitchell’s mount displayed a smart change of gear to get up and beat the wayward Harrow by three-quarters of a length – setting up an intended tilt at the Chesham Stakes on Saturday week.

Winning trainer Michael Bell said: “He’s been working well at home and we were hopeful that he could do something like that.

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“Provided he takes the race all right and eats up and trains well next week, he’ll run in the Chesham.

“There haven’t been many suitable maidens to run him in, but we’d had this plan in mind for a while.

“Phase one has gone according to plan, so if all goes well for the next week, we’ll head for Ascot.”

Sylvester Kirk admitted relief was his overriding emotion after Seattle Rock (5-2) made the most of having her sights lowered in division one of the Betfair British EBF Fillies’ Novice Stakes.

The daughter of Fastnet Rock was placed in the Chesham at Ascot, the Sweet Solera at Newmarket and the Prestige Stakes at Goodwood as a juvenile last season.

Having also been set two demanding tests this spring – finishing down the field in the Nell Gwyn and the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket – Seattle Rock had far less on her plate at Newbury and duly opened her account with a two-length verdict under Ryan Moore.

“Relief is key,” said Kirk.

“You always worry when you’re taking a filly that’s been highly tried with decent form and a reasonable mark back into a maiden or a novice, so it’s nice the way she’s done it.

“It’s especially good that she’s done it over a mile because her form is obviously better over shorter.”

Seattle Rock stretches clear at Newbury
Seattle Rock stretches clear at Newbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He added: “It will be interesting to see how the handicapper assesses the form. Ryan was reasonably complimentary about her, so we’ll sit down with Jeff (Smith, owner) and work out a plan from here on.

“She has nice black type already and it’s nice to get the maiden tag off her.”

Division two was a much closer run affair, with the William Haggas-trained Evident Beauty and Tom Marquand getting the better of fellow 5-2 joint-favourite Subtle Beauty by a neck.

Bell targets Royal Ascot repeat with The Lir Jet

Michael Bell will choose between the Commonwealth Cup and Jersey Stakes as The Lir Jet bids to win at Royal Ascot for the second successive year.

The three-year-old was not at his best when last seen finishing 10th of 10 in the Group Two Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock last month.

That run followed his third on seasonal comeback at Newbury in April, in the Greenham Stakes.

Bell could find no obvious reason for the colt’s below-par Haydock performance, and has reached the conclusion that the heavy ground interfered with his stride when jockey Oisin Murphy made a challenge at the furlong pole.

“Haydock was an absolute mystery – because we scoped him, blood-tested him and had him checked over by the vet afterwards, and we couldn’t find anything wrong,” said the Newmarket trainer.

“For me, he just lost his action in that very deep ground.

“He travelled well – and as soon as Oisin asked him to quicken, his back end seemed to go. Since the race, he’s been great and training really well.”

The Lir Jet’s highest-profile victory to date was at the Royal meeting last summer, when he won the Group Two Norfolk Stakes by a neck.

Bell is weighing up this year’s options, over six furlongs in the Commonwealth Cup and seven in the Jersey.

“He’s certainly got form over seven furlongs in the Greenham, which was a very solid run,” he said.

“He ran very well over a mile in the Breeders’ Cup, so I think he could get a mile around a bend again. His trip is between six and seven furlongs, but I don’t want to be completely tied to it.

“There’s been many horses who have repeat good form at the track. It’s a strange surface, especially the straight track – there’s a membrane under the grass, and certain horses seem to really take to it.

“You get many horses that back up year in year out, so I’m hoping he can be one of them.”

The Lir Jet ready for lift-off in Juvenile Turf

Connections of The Lir Jet are confident he will not be inconvenienced by a step up to a mile in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Michael Bell’s charge narrowly outpointed Wesley Ward’s Juvenile Turf Sprint favourite Golden Pal in the five-furlong Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, before being touched off by Richard Hannon’s Ventura Tormenta in the Prix Robert Papin at Chantilly over six furlongs.

The Lir Jet finished second again on his next start in the Phoenix Stakes, before placing fifth in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket.

The Qatar Racing-owned colt will be going two furlongs further than he has been before at Keeneland, but is reported to have arrived in Kentucky at the top of his game.

David Redvers, racing manager for owners Qatar Racing, said: “Both the trainer and jockey (Oisin Murphy) believe the trip won’t be an issue for him.

“He’s in very good form. He did a nice piece of work before he went out and they say he’s travelled out extremely well and is taking everything in his stride, which is half the battle.”

The Lir Jet is a general 33-1 shot for his Breeders’ Cup assignment, with Aidan O’Brien’s Battleground the 9-2 favourite.

The strong European challenge is completed by Ralph Beckett’s pair of New Mandate and Devilwala together with the Jessica Harrington-trained Cadillac, plus the French duo of Sealiway and Go Athletico.

The Lir Jet set for Newmarket lift-off in Middle Park

Saturday’s Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket is next on the agenda for The Lir Jet after connections opted to sidestep an engagement at Doncaster.

A narrow winner of the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, Michael Bell’s star juvenile has since finished second in both the Prix Robert Papin at Chantilly and the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh.

The Qatar Racing-owned colt was due to revert to five furlongs for the Group Two Flying Childers Stakes on Town Moor, but was declared a non-runner on the morning of the race and he will now bid for Group One honours on the Rowley Mile.

Bell said: “We just felt five furlongs on drying ground wouldn’t necessarily be his thing. We had the Middle Park as an alternative and, all being well, we’ll head to Newmarket.

“I’m sure it will be a very good race, but the horse is in very good form and good order, so we’re looking forward to it.

“Hopefully Newmarket will produce a nice, safe surface for everybody, which I’m sure they will.”