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Naamoos takes dramatic Esher Cup

Naamoos put up a fine weight-carrying performance to land an eventful bet365 Esher Cup for trainer Mark Johnston and jockey Ben Curtis at Sandown.

The 11-2 chance travelled up powerfully and was about to assume control when Ryan Moore’s mount Rifleman veered dramatically left and ejected the jockey, who thankfully emerged unscathed.

The incident left Naamoos in full command, and the son of Wootton Bassett pulled clear up the final hill to score by six lengths from Buxted Too, with Without Revenge four and three-quarters further back.

Johnston was on hand for the success in this historic handicap, but he admitted plans for the winner will have to go on hold while an injury he sustained early in the contest is assessed and treated.

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He explained: “Our horse has a cut on his left-hind that Ben thinks happened a furlong after the start. Touch wood it’s only a skin wound, and he’s walked in sound. The trouble with it is that it’s a V-shaped flap that will receive no blood supply from above. It might be a while before it settles down.”

Johnston hinted that the upwardly-mobile Curtis would get a good share of the rides from Kingsley House this year, though Franny Norton and Joe Fanning are not signalling their retirements are in any way imminent either.

He added: “Ben has no retainers and we said if he gives us priority we will give him the same. But there’s no hint of Franny or Joe giving up. They are a part of the operation but can’t go on forever, and we need to look at youth.”

Sandown Park Races – Friday April 23rd
David Egan and Nelson Gay in winning action (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The Richard Hannon-trained Nelson Gay (9-4 favourite) turned the opening bet365 Handicap into a procession as he raced eight lengths clear of Fantasy Master.

Hughes is mindful his charge will be greeted with a reaction from the assessor and said: “He’s in at Goodwood next week and we may go there before the handicapper grabs him. We worked him with a two-year-old the other day to keep him happy.

“He’s owned by Ron Gander and my in-laws Richard and Jo Hannon.”

Frankel’s sister Chiasma was the centre of attention before the bet365 Fillies’ Novice Stakes, for which she was narrowly preferred in the betting by Nash Nasha.

The only full sibling to the highest-rated horse ever travelled smoothly under Frankie Dettori, and just for a few strides as she ranged up on the shoulder of the eventual winner two and a half furlongs out it looked like she may break away.

Nash Nasha got her head in front under William Buick
Nash Nasha got her head in front under William Buick (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

But tell-tale signs of greenness impaired her progress and meant she got into a battle with both Nash Nasha and the promising Breccia who beat her by half a length and one and a half.

Of 11-8 scorer Nash Nasha, who had raced twice last season, Charlie Appleby’s assistant Alex Merriam said: “She was carrying a 7lb penalty so you had to be pleased with that. She showed a nice attitude.”

Andrew Balding’s Juan De Montalban got the better by a length of a good battle up the hill with Fabilis in the bet365 Handicap.

His rider Oisin Murphy said: “The horse had been working really good and the owners have some lovely horses. I see him as a mile-and-a-quarter, mile-and-a-half horse that should end up in decent handicaps by the end of the year.”