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Derby contender John Leeper heading to Newmarket

John Leeper will seek to enhance his reputation in the Fairway Stakes at Newmarket Stakes on Saturday, after the impeccably-bred colt was not declared for the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes.

Trainer Ed Dunlop is looking to run the son of Frankel and Snow Fairy – who won 16 Group Ones between them – at his local track as ground conditions are expected to be more suitable than at York on Thursday.

John Leeper, named after Dunlop’s late father, got off the mark in highly promising fashion at Newcastle last month following an encouraging run on his only run as a two-year-old at Doncaster in September.

“He runs on Saturday at Newmarket, all being well,” said Dunlop.

“We thought it was the right thing to go to Newmarket. All this rain we’d had recently meant the ground was slightly better here.

“It gave him a little bit more time after his win and therefore we’re going to run there. We’ll see what happens and take it from there.”

Snow Fairy returns victorious in the Oaks
Snow Fairy returns victorious in the Oaks (Sean Dempsey/PA)

John Leeper holds an entry in the Cazoo Derby at Epsom on June 5, for which he is generally available at 20-1, having shortened considerably in the market on the premier Classic since his Newcastle win under Hollie Doyle.

He is also engaged in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh.

Progressive Parachute can look forward to big-race targets

Parachute’s emphatic Newmarket victory has put Ed Walker in a quandary as he assesses Royal Ascot options for his Derby entry.

Walker admits ‘Plan A’ for the son of Sea The Stars involved a trip to Lingfield for this weekend’s Derby Trial – a race the Lambourn trainer won last year with English King, who was then fifth at Epsom.

But those ambitions were abandoned when Parachute could manage only a disappointing – albeit close – third on his first run of the season in a 10-furlong Redcar handicap.

Parachute and Tom Marquand were always well on top at Newmarket
Parachute and Tom Marquand were always well on top at Newmarket (David Davies/Jockey Club)

He therefore headed instead for another handicap at Newmarket on Sunday, up to a mile and a half, and duly dominated just a three-runner field to win emphatically from a Godolphin odds-on favourite.

Parachute’s career trajectory is therefore very much upwards again, leaving Walker to ponder three Ascot possibilities – at Group Two and handicap level – while he reluctantly concedes the Derby is probably no longer viable.

“He was a horse we had very high hopes for coming into the year,” said Walker.

“He did nothing wrong last year, was very green on debut and then ran a big race behind (unbeaten Godolphin Derby contender) Hurricane Lane in the mud at Newmarket and won well at Lingfield.

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“The plan was to go to Redcar and win well, and pitch him in a trial.

“If he didn’t win well, then we haven’t blown his handicap mark by throwing him straight in a trial.

“He obviously didn’t win well at Redcar, and we went down the handicap route – then he has gone and won well!”

Ed Walker's English King was a major contender for the 2020 Derby after his win at Lingfield
Ed Walker’s English King was a major contender for the 2020 Derby after his win at Lingfield (Mark Cranham/PA)

Parachute has therefore presented Walker with a conundrum.

“If he’d done that at Redcar, we probably might be a bit more ambitious,” he added.

“The clock is ticking and time to get to a trial is running out – I suppose he could run in the Cocked Hat at Goodwood (on May 22), that could be an option.

“But that’s back a furlong in trip, on quite an easy track, so that might not be ideal – or we could see what mark he gets next week and maybe freshen him up for the King George V (Handicap at Ascot) if it looks like he’ll get in.”

A clear path has yet to be decided, though – and discussions are pending with owners Highclere Racing.

“It’s tricky really – but I think a lot will depend on how he trains in the next week or so, and what mark he gets, then we can make some plans from there,” said Walker.

“He’s a really exciting horse.  We dreamt of putting him in a trial – what I really wanted to do was win at Redcar and put him in at Lingfield this weekend.

“But Plan A went out of the window.”

The call of a Group campaign remains nonetheless.

“There’s still a temptation to go down the stakes route,” added Walker.

“He’d have to go straight from here to the Derby, there’s not time to get a run in between, so I think we have to put a line through that.

“There are probably three possible races for him at Ascot – the King George V, the (Queen’s) Vase – assuming he’ll stay a mile six, which he looks like he probably will – or the King Edward VII if he were to go and win a Cocked Hat for example.

“But I need to chat to the owners and work out which route we want to go down.

“Those handicaps at Ascot, even if you are very well-handicapped, they’re still very, very hard to win. You need a lot of luck.

“So half of me is tempted to wrap him up for a big handicap and the other half thinks ‘well, you can wait from now until Ascot and then not get a gap when you need it in a big-field handicap and walk away very frustrated’ – having blown six or seven weeks of the summer.”

Sprint stars have Walker dreaming of Royal Ascot glory

Ed Walker has twin Royal Ascot targets firmly in focus for his two smart sprinters Came From The Dark and Starman.

Came From The Dark is an intended runner in the King’s Stand Stakes next month – irrespective of whether the mighty Battaash is fit again in time to defend his title – and Walker hopes to have Starman in action at the top level too, four days later in the Diamond Jubilee.

The Lambourn trainer just needs to fine-tune their respective routes to Ascot first, of course – which in Came From The Dark’s case is likely to be a Haydock assignment this month, or a rest, while Starman is all set to return at York next week.

Came From The Dark found things just going against him at a crucial time in last weekend’s Palace House Stakes, in which he had to settle for a neck second behind Lazuli after meeting trouble in running.

“I think he was desperately unlucky,” said Walker.

“I was obviously thrilled with the way he ran, but I can’t help but feel we should have won.”

It was nonetheless a performance full of promise from the grey, who in three runs so far at the start of his five-year-old campaign is beginning to fulfil his potential.

“He’s done nothing but improve all year since being gelded,” added Walker.

“It looks like he could reach the heights we hoped he might – which was why we never gelded him (initially).

“Last year was a disaster. He had proper feet issues, but we’ve just got him right this year – and obviously the gelding has helped, and the wind op has probably helped a bit.

Brilliant champion Battaash may be waiting for Came From The Dark at Ascot
Brilliant champion Battaash may be waiting for Came From The Dark at Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)
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“Between staff, vet, farrier, everyone has played their part to get him to his best.

“He really has improved – and now that his feet are so much better as well, he’s more versatile as regards to ground.

“I think that’s going to be his real strength, he’s versatile – and whatever the ground comes up at Ascot, Haydock or wherever, he should be fine.”

Starman is more ground dependent – which is one of the reasons he is unlikely to take up his entry at Haydock this weekend and instead wait another four days to return in the Group Two Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes.

Haydock may fit the bill for Came From The Dark, however, in either the Temple Stakes on May 22 or a Listed alternative there a week later.

“I put him in the Temple, which has just closed,” said Walker.

“That’s a three-week turnaround – he’s run three times in four weeks, so he’s had a busy month to start the year.

“Whether we take in the Temple or wait an extra week and go to the Achilles again at Haydock, or go straight to Ascot, my mind will be made up by how he is.”

The signs so far are encouraging, with his big date in Berkshire already looming large.

“He seems to have come out of the race very well – with the King’s Stand being the real target,” said Walker.

“I think even if Battaash goes, we’d go. He (Battaash) is obviously going to have a slightly rushed prep if he does get there, and I don’t think it would be any shame finishing second to him – he’s been phenomenal, that horse.”

Starman was unbeaten in his first three career starts – including a Listed race at York – and Walker has high hopes again for his six-furlong specialist, starting back at the Knavesmire.

“The plan has always been York,” he said.

Starman (leading) is set to return to York next week - with Ascot then next on his agenda
Starman (leading) is set to return to York next week – with Ascot then next on his agenda (Mark Cranham/PA)

“The weather is a worry – I entered him at Haydock, and that will probably be even wetter.

“So I think the plan is very much still to start him off at York and see where we go.

“He’s massively exciting, and it’s great to see a few of his work companions doing so well on the track – so that bodes well for him.”

Walker is aware he is setting the four-year-old a searching task, but is keen to give him necessary extra practice.

He said: “The Duke of York is obviously going to be a very tough starting point, and he’s still a relatively inexperienced sprinter – and I think experience counts for a lot with them, which is why they tend to get better with age.

“They get stronger, but (also) they get more battle-hardened.

“So Duke of York, then straight to Ascot, is a big ask – but he’s exceptionally talented. We’re massively excited about seeing him out – but he does really want top of the ground, so it could be a bit tricky.”

Jockey Tom Marquand reported that Starman was unable to handle the very soft ground at Ascot last year
Jockey Tom Marquand reported that Starman was unable to handle the very soft ground at Ascot last year (Bill Selwyn/PA)

Starman’s vulnerability in testing conditions was apparent when he met with the only defeat of his career so far, albeit in the highest class when well-beaten in the British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot in October.

Walker said: “Tom (Marquand) just said he never went a yard, and his wheels were just spinning – (but) it was very soft there on Champions Day.

“It was the slow side of good at York when he beat Dakota Gold, and that was a proper performance.

“So he’s not an absolute must to have fast ground, but he definitely doesn’t want it very soft. We’d be happy enough with good or good to soft.”

Master Of The Seas aiming for potential Guineas rematch in St James’s Palace

The St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot remains the likely next objective for Master Of The Seas following his narrow defeat in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

The Craven Stakes winner came within a short head of providing trainer Charlie Appleby with his first victory in the Rowley Mile Classic – losing out to Jim Bolger’s Poetic Flare in a thrilling finish on Saturday.

Appleby, who saddled two winners and five seconds across the two-day Guineas Festival, reports his horses to have recovered well from their weekend exertions.

He said: “They’ve all come out of their races well. The whole team look good – they all had an easy canter this (Tuesday) morning, and everybody is very happy with them.

“It was a great weekend for racing, and we were delighted with the way all ours ran. We had a touch of seconditis – but as I always say to the team, I’d rather finish second than second-last.

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“We know the horses are in the right races and they’re in good condition – and if we keep knocking on the door those doors will open.”

Master Of The Seas fared best of three runners in the Qipco-sponsored Guineas for Appleby, with Naval Crown finishing fourth and One Ruler sixth.

Naval Crown appears set to join Master Of The Seas at the Royal meeting, with the seven-furlong Jersey Stakes viewed as a suitable target, while a tilt at the Derby will be considered for One Ruler.

“Master Of The Seas has had three runs this years now, so he deserves to have a little break,” Appleby added.

“Hopefully we’ll turn up at Ascot with some fresh legs. We’ll look forward to potentially having a rematch with the winner in the St James’s Palace.

“Naval Crown has got a couple of options, and I would say most likely we will look towards the Jersey with him. He’s got plenty of boot, but to be fair, two of his best runs have been over the mile – beating Master Of The Seas at Meydan, and in the Guineas.

“He’s got two solid mile performances behind him now, but it does look the most logical option for him to head to the Jersey.”

One Ruler could be Derby-bound
One Ruler could be Derby-bound (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The make-up of the trainer’s Derby squad is likely to be much clearer in the coming days, with Wirko and Yibir heading to Chester, Adayar bound for the Lingfield Derby Trial and Hurricane Lane possibly lining up for the Dante at York.

Appleby said: “Everyone is testing their (Derby) credentials over the next week, with the races at Chester followed by Lingfield at the weekend and then on to York next week.

“One Ruler is in the mix, for sure. The way he’s bounced out of the Guineas, I’m very pleased with him.

“It’s always hard to say where your horse is going to go immediately after the race, until you start to see how they’ve come out of it.

“The signs with all of them have been very good, so conversations will be had during the course of the week, firming up some plans for these horses.”

Oaks enters equation for Saffron Beach

Saffron Beach has the Cazoo Oaks among possible next destinations following her fine effort in defeat in the 1000 Guineas.

Jane Chapple-Hyam’s filly beat all bar Aidan O’Brien’s Mother Earth in the Newmarket Classic on Sunday, and was staying on again crossing the line.

Connections are consequently giving thought to another Classic bid next month – with the Coronation Stakes, Irish Guineas and Pretty Polly Stakes also in the mix.

Saffron Beach (third from right) beat all bar Mother Earth
Saffron Beach (third from right) beat all bar Mother Earth (David Davies/Jockey Club)

“She’s fine and licked her bowl clean,” said Chapple-Hyam.

“I suppose we felt every emotion – delighted with how she ran, but gutted to come so close to winning a Classic.

“The owners are now making a decision whether they want to run her in the Oaks or not.

“When they were pulling up as they go up the hill, she was full of it. She certainly stayed every yard of the mile. You could nearly say she was first off the bridle because she wanted further.”

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Saffron Beach has shown in her short career to date that she is adaptable to conditions as well as distance.

“She’s a filly who is versatile on all goings,” added her trainer.

“She won the Oh So Sharp on soft, and handled fast ground on Sunday. That opens up going abroad with her, because you’re not worried whether it’s going to rain or not, which is a big plus.

“She’s so uncomplicated, so genuine – and it looks exciting times for her stallion, New Bay. Her pedigree says a mile, to be fair, but New Bay won a French Derby and was third in an Arc.

“We’re not in the Prix Diane – with Covid and Brexit, there’s enough headaches.

“So she’s in the Oaks, the Coronation and also the Pretty Polly at the Curragh over 10 furlongs – so we’ve got all distances covered. She’s also in the Irish Guineas, so it’s up to the owners where they want to go – and I’ll get her ready for it.”

Saffron Beach fared a good deal better than stablemate Albadri, who should have been Chapple-Hyam’s first representative in a Classic but reared over on leaving the paddock before Saturday’s 2000 Guineas and was withdrawn.

Bellosa was very impressive on her debut
Bellosa was very impressive on her debut (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“She ended up being my first runner in a Classic because of Albadri,” said Chapple-Hyam.

“It was so strange – he’s been to Saudi and back and never done anything like that, he just would not leave the paddock. He was fine anyway – we’ve had him checked over twice.”

The once-raced Bellosa is another possibility for the Coronation Stakes, but she will return to Newmarket for the Betway King Charles II Stakes first.

The three-year-old daughter of Awtaad bolted up by seven lengths in a maiden at the Craven meeting, landing some hefty bets in the process.

“I think the obvious race is the Listed one at Newmarket on May 15, the King Charles II,” said Chapple-Hyam.

“That would be against the colts – but the way she performed in her maiden and looking at the times and everything, you wouldn’t be afraid of taking on the colts.

“Also they’ve got to give her a few pounds as well – which is a bonus. She did it very impressively first time out.

“As for her trip in the future, it’s still up for debate I suppose. I like seven furlongs, and the owner likes a mile, so we’ll just take each as it comes because she’s still raw at the moment – she’ll tell us her capabilities in competition.”

Fev Rover camp eye choice of Group One targets

Fev Rover has either the Irish 1,000 Guineas or the Prix Saint-Alary on her agenda after her big run at Newmarket.

Richard Fahey’s filly outran odds of 22-1 to be beaten only a length and a quarter into third by Mother Earth in Sunday’s 1000 Guineas.

Taking a keen hold from the stalls, Fev Rover disputed the lead for the first five furlongs before crossing the line a neck behind runner-up Saffron Beach.

Nick Bradley’s racing partnership owns the horse, and he was in attendance alongside a clutch of fellow shareholders.

“Fev Rover ran a great race,” he said.

“We decided we wanted to be handy, because there didn’t look to be much pace in the race.

“She was a little keen early doors, but we had her where we wanted her.

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“She looked like she was going to drop away, but then she picked up out of the dip and ran really well.”

The daughter of Gutaifan had previously enjoyed both Group and Listed successes, having gained black type form in Sandown’s Star Stakes last season before taking the Prix du Calvados at Deauville.

Bradley has another tilt at Group One glory pencilled in this month, with both the Irish Classic at the Curragh and ParisLongchamp’s Prix Saint-Alary under consideration.

“I haven’t spoken to Richard (Fahey) this morning,” he said.

“But we’ll probably go for the Irish Guineas or the Alary next.”

Should the latter race be targeted, Bradley’s filly is likely to cross paths with another who did his silks proud at Newmarket on Sunday.

Mystery Angel gave rookie trainer George Boughey his highest-profile winner to date when taking the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes under Ben Curtis.

The length-and-three-quarters victory signified a change in fortunes for the daughter of Kodi Bear, who has been narrowly beaten three times in Listed contests.

Her efforts in the Silver Tankard Stakes at Pontefract, the Montrose Stakes at Newmarket and the Prix Rose de Mai all fell just short of the mark, with her subsequent run in the Prix Francois Mathet at Saint-Cloud ending in a fifth-placed finish.

“She’s been really unlucky,” said Bradley.

“From when Frankie (Dettori) rode her at Newmarket onwards, she probably should have won all those races.

Mystery Angel ridden by Ben Curtis wins the Betfair Pretty Polly Stakes during 1000 Guineas Day, part of the QIPCO Guineas Festival at Newmarket Racecourse
Mystery Angel and Ben Curtis won the Betfair Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Things didn’t quite go our way in each circumstance for different reasons, but yesterday she showed everybody how good she was.

“We knew she was that good, but the last one kind of knocked our confidence a little bit.

“She’s obviously a very good filly, and Ben (Curtis) gave her a great ride – the tactics were to take to the front and make it a stamina test.”

Next week’s Musidora Stakes at York is a possibility, but Bradley is more inclined to target the Prix Saint-Alary and a possible clash with Fev Rover.

“She (Mystery Angel) ran a great race and she will probably go for the Alary next,” he said.

“We’ll look at the Musidora, but it’ll probably be the Group One Alary in France.”

Chapple-Hyam thrilled by Guineas runner-up Saffron Beach

Jane Chapple-Hyam saluted the “genius” of Aidan O’Brien as she reflected on the fine run of Saffron Beach to take second in the Qipco 1000 Guineas.

Winner of the Oh So Sharp Stakes last year, Chapple-Hyam’s New Bay filly reappeared on the Rowley Mile in the Nell Gwyn last month when she was second behind Sacred.

Hopes were high for a big performance in the Newmarket Classic, and she duly turned the form around with Sacred – but just found Mother Earth a length too good.

Chapple-Hyam said: “What can I say, Aidan O’Brien is just a genius. He is hard to take on – and I can’t wait for him to retire!

“It would have been the quickest ground she has been on. But she can handle it because she is versatile, as you saw in the Oh So Sharp on good to soft, and she has done it here on the quicker ground.

“We are just all thrilled, and I’m sure the owners are highly delighted because they have got a second in the 1000 Guineas. This time last year, she wasn’t even in training.

“She has seen the mile out 100 per cent. I knew she would get the mile and I know she will get a mile and a quarter as well. They (owners) will tell me where to send her, and I will just get her fit. There is a good one in her.

“We just have to place her properly now and we will see what the team wants to do.”

Richard Fahey was also proud of the third home, Fev Rover, running a storming race to be just a neck behind Saffron Beach and a nose in front of Santa Barbara.

The North Yorkshire trainer said: “We were delighted with her – it wasn’t a truly-run race really.

“Paul (Hanagan) felt the ground was a bit quick for her – she just rolled about a bit – but you’d have to be happy with that.

“She probably will go further in time, and a bit of juice in the ground doesn’t bother her at all.

“She’s in the Irish Guineas, and that was going to be the plan – that or Royal Ascot.

“We will step her up in trip at some stage. We’ll just see how she takes the race.”

Evergreen Dettori ‘getting the knack’ of Classic success

Frankie Dettori could not contain his excitement after Mother Earth provided the popular Italian with his 20th British Classic success with victory in the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.

It is 27 years since Dettori broke his Classic duck in the UK aboard Balanchine in the Oaks – the first of his five wins in the race.

Dettori, who celebrated his 50th birthday in December, has also won the Derby twice, the 2000 Guineas three times, six St Legers and now added a fourth 1000 Guineas victory to his glittering CV, following a dominant display by Mother Earth over the Rowley Mile.

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Dettori, whose shrieks of delight continued from the track to the winner’s enclosure and into the weighing room, said: “I’m super excited.

“It’s a 20th Classic for me at 50 years old. I’m only 10 behind Lester (Piggott) – I’ve got plenty of time!

“Lester was 56 (when winning his 30th Classic), so I’ve got six years left, and Kevin (Manning, 54) won yesterday (2000 Guineas) – come on the oldies!”

“It’s great to do it at Newmarket. I’m extremely happy.

“I’m getting the knack of this now – it took me 30 years to realise what to do!”

While Mother Earth brought strong form to the table, having been placed in the Fillies’ Mile and at the Breeders’ Cup at the end of her juvenile campaign, she was the second string of two runners for Aidan O’Brien behind the much-talked-about Santa Barbara.

Frankie Dettori celebrates on Mother Earth after winning the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket
Frankie Dettori celebrates on Mother Earth after winning the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket (Mike Egerton/PA)

The latter was the 5-2 joint-favourite off the back of a solitary run amid reports of “exceptional” work on the Ballydoyle gallops – but she had to make do with an honourable fourth as Mother Earth and Dettori stole the show.

“I didn’t have the pressure to ride the favourite and I had a very willing partner in a filly that I knew was going to give me everything,” Dettori added.

“Aidan gave me a lot of confidence this morning. He told me to forget about Santa Barbara and ride your own race.

“I followed her as she was the favourite, but when I got to the top of the hill I thought ‘I can’t wait for her all my life, I have to go’. It proved the right move.

“He told me to make sure I got cover, which I did. I kicked at the top of the hill, as Aidan said she’d stay very well, and I won – it’s as simple as that!”

Mother Earth strikes for O’Brien and Dettori in 1000 Guineas

Mother Earth gave trainer Aidan O’Brien a third successive victory in the Qipco 1000 Guineas as she claimed the fillies’ Classic in the hands of Frankie Dettori.

All eyes had been on O’Brien’s other runner, Santa Barbara – but it was the bigger-priced filly who grabbed the glory at Newmarket, taking the Ballydoyle trainer’s tally in the race to seven, with five of those victories in the last six years.

Sent off at 10-1, Mother Earth was given a vintage ride from Dettori, who was registering his fourth win in the race.

The 50-year-old had her in mid-pack, behind Ryan Moore on Santa Barbara in the early stages, as Statement and Fev Rover made the running.

When Dettori asked Mother Earth to make his move, the daughter of Zoffany responded with a decisive turn of foot that took her into the lead.

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They maintained the gallop and went on to score by a length from Saffron Beach, with Fev Rover a neck away in third and Santa Barbara (5-2 joint-favourite) just a nose further back in fourth.

Alcohol Free, the other joint-favourite, was just behind Santa Barbara in fifth.

O’Brien said: “Mother Earth is a very good filly, always was.

“It was unfair to Santa Barbara to come (after one run), but we had to come. With a view to coming back for the Oaks, she had to run.

Celebration time for Frankie
Celebration time for Frankie (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Ryan said he would have liked to have waited longer, but he saw Frankie coming on his outside and he had to go.

“Santa Barbara was just green in the dip, but after having one easy run, it was a great run.

“We kind of felt coming here that she was going to learn as much as she would having three runs, but there was a risk doing it that she was going to get beaten.

“She’s classy and would have learnt a lot for it. She has plenty of time now to get over it before the next day, hopefully.

“We never took her off the bridle at home – today was her first time. Hopefully she’ll come out of it OK and it will do her good.

Aidan O'Brien with Frankie Dettori
Aidan O’Brien with Frankie Dettori (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Frankie’s filly is a very consistent filly. She had a great run in America on her last run last year and she’s very professional and did everything really well, so we’re delighted.

“Santa Barbara was always going to go to the Oaks and Mother Earth was always going to come back to the Irish Guineas. That was the plan.”

He added: “It’s great to have Frankie, what can you say – he’s an unbelievable rider.”

Lady Bowthorpe edges Dahlia tussle

Lady Bowthorpe came out on top in a thrilling three-way finish to the Betfair Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket.

The William Jarvis-trained five-year-old edged out Queen Power and Lavender’s Blue to claim the Group Two prize.

Freyja set a steady pace in the early stages – with Lady Bowthorpe, who got warm in the preliminaries, towards the rear under a patient ride from Kieran Shoemark.

He brought the daughter of Nathaniel to challenge on the far side of the course, and the 6-1 shot got the verdict by a head from 2-1 favourite Queen Power in a exciting conclusion to the nine-furlong contest.

Lavender’s Blue, who held every chance, was just behind in third.

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Jarvis said: “She was fantastic when she won her Group Three at Ascot last summer, and maybe things didn’t go quite right when she ran at Sandown next time with a penalty.

“She then ran in the Sun Chariot, which was maybe a step too far for her on very heavy ground.

“Literally in the last week she has really come to hand, and I was desperate to run her today. We were concerned about the ground, and I walked the course a couple of times. I felt it was safe racing ground and let her take her chance.

“She’s a very special filly, and I think she will hopefully continue to improve as the year goes on.

“She does take a bit of managing, but these tricky women sometimes give you the most pleasure!”

On future plans, he added: “She’s in the Duke of Cambridge at Royal Ascot. I didn’t put her in the Queen Anne, because if we can keep her to her own sex it’s to her favour.

“We’ll have a talk about the Lockinge. I think we’ll probably give it a swerve – but if Palace Pier was to miss out, we might let her take her chance.

“It’s a big thrill to win today. We don’t have a lot of horses in our stable – so when you’ve got a good one, you’ve got to make the most of them.

“Any winner is great, but I was born and bred in Newmarket and have lived here all my life, so it’s great.”

Lady Bowthorpe and Kieran Shoemark win the Betfair Dahlia Stakes
Lady Bowthorpe and Kieran Shoemark win the Betfair Dahlia Stakes (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Shoemark, riding his first two Group Two winner, said: “She’s a very talented filly, and I’m sure she’ll come on for today.

“She’s got away with the ground today, but will be a better filly on easier ground.

“She was a little bit delicate mentally as a three-year-old, but she’s maturing with each run – I believe there’s a Group One in her.

“This is my first Group Two winner, and I couldn’t have ridden it for a nicer guy than William Jarvis, who is so passionate about his racing. It’s just as good for him as it is for me to have a winner on a big stage.”

Mystery Angel has the answers in Pretty Polly

Mystery Angel made her race fitness count as she took the Listed spoils in the Betfair Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket.

The daughter of Kodi Bear, having her fourth race of the year, defeated several highly-regarded rivals to enhance her own reputation.

Owned by the Nick Bradley Racing syndicate – who afforded her the loudest cheer of the weekend – she also put her rookie trainer George Boughey in the spotlight, giving the Newmarket-based handler the biggest success of his career to date.

Ridden by Ben Curtis, who was completing a double after winning the previous race with Zabeel Champion, Mystery Angel was always in the front rank.

Forever Grateful led in the early stages until Mystery Angel (13-2) set sail for home some way out.

Sea Karats was the only threat, but she was always playing second fiddle and went down by a length and three quarters.

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The first two pulled three and a quarter lengths clear of Taslima in third, while A’Shaari, the 6-4 favourite, was the disappointing horse in the race, finishing fifth.

Bradley said: “I’m a bit lost for words, to be honest.

“When she ran here at the backend of last year she did that (won well) and then we kind of got it wrong.

“Today was on better ground and it was great to see her do that in front of all the owners here on such a big day as we’ve always felt she was a top-class filly.

“You’re only allowed six owners here, but there’s 20-odd owners in this horse.

Mystery Angel has some big-race options now
Mystery Angel has some big-race options now (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I bought her at the breeze-ups here for 22,000 guineas and drove the horsebox home with her in it. By the time I got home, I only owned four per cent of her!

“She’ll probably go for the Group One Prix Saint-Alary, or perhaps the Musidora at York. We’ll have a think.

“She isn’t in the Oaks. We thought 10 furlongs would be her maximum trip as she’s by a sprinter, but we might be wrong.”

Boughey said: “It was a shame not to win in France six weeks ago, but she’s a very tough filly who obviously loves it here at Newmarket.

“I actually worked her on the Summer Gallop about a week ago on what was very fast ground and she worked very well.

“She’s an improving filly who handled the soft and heavy ground last year, but her work had suggested she was actually going to be better on faster ground.

Ben Curtis gave Mystery Angel a fine front-running ride
Ben Curtis gave Mystery Angel a fine front-running ride (David Davies/Jockey Club)

“She’s a filly with a pretty upward profile now. She’s in the Prix Saint-Alary, which she could go for, but the Musidora is another option.

“She’s not in the Oaks, but she’s putting a bit of prize-money in the pot now and it might be something we consider (supplementing). There’s a few nice decisions to make.

“She’s not bred to stay a mile, let alone a mile and a quarter. But the way she won there – galloping through the line – I certainly wouldn’t be against trying her over a mile and a half.”

Zabeel Champion keeps up winning momentum

Zabeel Champion completed a quickfire hat-trick with the narrowest of victories on the second day of the Guineas Festival at Newmarket.

Following back-to-back triumphs at Ripon – most recently scoring comfortably last weekend – Mark Johnston’s colt was a 9-4 chance to add to his tally in the Back And Lay On Betfair Exchange Handicap.

The front-running Grand Bazaar and Frankie Dettori looked to have done enough to hold on as he raced inside the last half-furlong, but he was joined by both Zabeel Champion and 7-4 favourite Global Storm on the line.

Following a brief wait, the judged confirmed the Ben Curtis-ridden Zabeel Champion the winner by a nose from Global Storm, with Grand Bazaar just a short head further away in third.

Mark Johnston was delighted with the victory of Zabeel Champion
Mark Johnston was delighted with the victory of Zabeel Champion (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Johnston said: “Jaber (Abdullah, owner) has sometimes not been too happy that we’ve been stepping him up to a mile and a half – and coming out of the dip, I thought he’d be telling me I got it wrong, but luckily he stayed on at the end.

“Today it looked like he could stay even further – it looked like he was beaten a furlong out.

“I suppose we’ll look at a handicap at Royal Ascot, depending on what the handicapper does. He is in the Hardwicke Stakes as well.

“He wasn’t entered at Ripon last Saturday until 11.50am and he wasn’t entered here until about 11.59am.

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“If everything else keeps failing to turn up, then he’ll keep turning up!”

River Alwen (centre) gets up to score at Newmarket
River Alwen (centre) gets up to score at Newmarket (Mike Egerton/PA)

River Alwen finished with a flourish to land top honours in the Better Odds On Betfair Exchange Handicap.

Western Symphony looked the likely winner after kicking for home racing out of the dip, but Jamie Spencer had kept a little up his sleeve aboard 5-1 shot River Alwen, who had finished fourth on his seasonal debut at Newbury a fortnight ago.

Richard Hannon’s charge was doing his best work in the final half-furlong on the Rowley Mile and got up to score by a length.

Spencer said: “He did well. He benefited from Newbury, he needed that run and was a bit fresh.

“He was dropped 2lb for that and this was a winnable race.

“I think 10 furlongs is his trip, but he will get more adaptable to middle-distances as he goes along.

“He should progress and improve again.”

Dig Two got off the mark in pleasing fashion
Dig Two got off the mark in pleasing fashion (Mike Egerton/PA)

Dig Two stepped up on his racecourse debut to open his account in the Betfair British EBF Maiden Stakes.

The Hugo Palmer-trained youngster was close to the pace set by My Dubawi in the closing stages and comfortably put the race to bed once set alight by James Doyle.

Dig Two (17-2), who was sixth at Windsor three weeks ago, bounded clear to score by two and three-quarter lengths from Secret Strength, the 11-8 favourite.

Doyle said: “I’m very pleased with him and I’m sure he will take a good step forward again.

“I’m not sure what Hugo’s plan is with him. Beforehand it didn’t look the strongest of events, but the time was good and he showed a willing attitude.”

Parachute looks to heading for Royal Ascot
Parachute looks to heading for Royal Ascot (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Connections of Parachute could look to the Royal meeting following his determined success in the Betfair Weighed In Podcast Handicap.

Ed Walker said of his 3-1 winner: “He is a funny horse as he doesn’t do a stroke at home. I’ve been saying, tongue in cheek, to the owners (Highclere Thoroughbred Racing) that he reminds me of English King who was a lazy workhorse that perks up on the track and this guy seems the same.

“I’d love to go for the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot as I think that would be perfect for him. I don’t know whether we would go again or just freshen him up for Ascot. He is a progressive horse that has very solid form.”

Mohaafeth roars into Derby reckoning at Newmarket

Mohaafeth was slashed in price for the Cazoo Derby after barely coming out of second gear in winning the Betfair Newmarket Stakes.

An impressive winner in handicap company at the Craven meeting, William Haggas had suggested he may stay in that grade with the London Gold Cup at Newbury mooted.

However, he found himself upped to Listed class against three smart rivals back on the Rowley Mile – and was simply in a different class.

Jim Crowley moved his mount into a challenging position going into the dip and he simply breezed clear to win unextended by five lengths.

Coral cut the Frankel colt to 7-1 from 33s for the Epsom Classic.

Haggas said of the 2-1 favourite: “Maybe the second horse (Secret Protector) didn’t run his race, but it’s very exciting and nice to see him win like that.

“He’s improving, that’s the most important thing. He’s bred to be good and is looking better each time he runs.

“We don’t know whether he’ll stay, but the Derby is a very tempting proposition. He’s won a trial, and we won another trial at Sandown with another horse (Alenquer).

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“This horse is quicker – the other one is a grinder. He (Alenquer) will go for the Dante and we’ll see where he is, because he’s not in the Derby and it’s a big supplementary. He’ll go to York and if he shapes up well he’ll go (for the Derby).

“This horse is getting his confidence. Jim said he thought when he pulled him out he went too early, but that’s because the horse took him there.

“A mile and a quarter is definitely fine. We’ve never been sure if he’ll stay a mile and a half, but there is only one (Derby) and why not have a go – what else is there? Jim said ‘have we time to run in the Dante’, but we haven’t.

“I think quick ground is quite important to him.”

Creative Force (left) continued his progression
Creative Force (left) continued his progression (John Walton/PA)

Creative Force will have his sights raised after claiming a third victory from four career starts at Headquarters.

Impressive on his racecourse debut on the Rowley Mile last season, the Dubawi colt disappointed on his only subsequent juvenile appearance in the the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.

However, having been gelded during the off-season, Charlie Appleby’s charge made a winning reappearance at the Craven meeting last month and was the 4-5 favourite to follow up in the Read Ryan Moore On Betting Betfair Handicap.

William Buick’s mount travelled strongly for much of the six-furlong contest and picked up well once meeting the rising ground to keep Perotto at bay by a length.

Appleby said: “He’s progressive and we’ll try to step up into a bit of black type now.

“Unfortunately the Commonwealth Cup (at Royal Ascot) isn’t an option because he’s got no undercarriage!

“He’s very professional and travels well and he’s honest.

“I haven’t got any immediate plans, but as William says, he deserves a crack at a Group race now.”

Bell Rock (left) on his way to victory at Newmarket
Bell Rock (left) on his way to victory at Newmarket (John Walton/PA)

The Andrew Balding-trained Bell Rock (13-2) notched a third course win in the ‘My Oddsboost’ On Betfair Suffolk Stakes.

The keen-going Maydanny ensured the nine-furlong event was a sound test, with Bell Rock picking him off late to prevail by two and a half lengths under 5lb claimer William Carver.

Balding said: “He likes it here, but I don’t think there are too many races for him.

“He’ll be in the Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot, but we’ll keep options open.

“At some stage we’ll have another go at a mile and a quarter, possibly in the Wolferton.”

Chil Chil streaks clear under Silvestre de Sousa
Chil Chil streaks clear under Silvestre de Sousa (John Walton/PA)

Chil Chil (11-4 joint-favourite) provided Balding with a double when bolting up by three and a half lengths in the Betfair Exchange Handicap.

Having finished a neck behind Count Otto at the Craven meeting, she turned that form round in no uncertain terms under Silvestre de Sousa.

Balding said: “She’s a class mare. She just needs to relax and fast ground – she’s got a lot of style.

“The Wokingham was always the aim and I think that’s where we’ll go.

“I’d hope she can pick up some black type at some stage this year.”

Classic success still a sweet feeling for veteran Manning

Veteran jockey Kevin Manning was thrilled to secure his fourth British Classic success as Poetic Flare came out on top in a pulsating renewal of the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

At the age of 54, Manning is the oldest jockey to win the Rowley Mile showpiece since Lester Piggott steered Rodrigo De Triano to success in 1992, aged 56.

It is 13 years since Manning broke his British Classic duck aboard Finsceal Beo in the 1000 Guineas, since when he had added to his tally with New Approach in the 2008 Derby and Dawn Approach in the 2000 Guineas in 2013.

Even at this late stage of his career, Manning insists big-race success tastes as sweet as ever.

“Any time you can win any of these Classics, it’s an amazing moment,” he said.

Kevin Manning with Jim Bolger
Kevin Manning with Jim Bolger (Barry Cronin/PA)

“They’re so hard to win and don’t come along every day of the week.

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“It feels the same as it did at the start (of my career). Classics are Classics and you’re just very hungry for those type of races – that’s what everybody works for and strives for.”

Like Finsceal Beo, New Approach and Dawn Approach, Poetic Flare is trained by Manning’s father-in-law and long-time employer Jim Bolger, 79.

This particular colt – a son of Dawn Approach – made a winning debut in the March of his juvenile year, but did not run again until finishing down the field in the Dewhurst at Newmarket in October.

However, having rounded off his campaign with victory in the Killavullan Stakes – and made a successful reappearance in the 2,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown three weeks ago – Manning insists confidence was high in the camp ahead of his bid for Guineas glory.

He added: “When Jim has a horse with the ability to win one (a Classic), he doesn’t leave it behind.

“This horse won his maiden in March, and then we had Covid and the lockdown and everything that went with it.

“When racing did start back up he was turning into a big horse and was growing and one thing and another, so Jim left him be, and then there wasn’t anything for him.

Finsceal Beo was Kevin Manning's first British Classic winner
Finsceal Beo was Kevin Manning’s first British Classic winner (Chris Radburn/PA)

“He ended up going to the Dewhurst and even that was a very good run – beaten less than nine lengths – on his first run since March. He then won the Killavullan and came out this spring and won his Guineas trial very well.

“I always felt he was a very smart horse and I’d have been disappointed if he wasn’t in the shake-up today.”

Poetic Flare was one of two Guineas candidates from Bolger’s yard along with Vertem Futurity Trophy winner Mac Swiney.

Manning – who insists he has not given any thought to retirement – feels there is little to choose between the pair in terms of talent, but hinted Mac Swiney’s long-term future could lie over further than a mile.

He said: “He (Poetic Flare) is a horse that would catch your eye and is a great stamp of a horse. He’s got everything, to be quite honest – he’s a great walker and a great temperament and he’s a looker.

Mac Swiney could be a Derby contender for Kevin Manning and Jim Bolger
Mac Swiney could be a Derby contender for Kevin Manning and Jim Bolger (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Mac Swiney is at home. Whether he goes for the Irish Guineas or the two of them go, I’m not sure – that’s all down to the boss.

“I actually rode the two of them on the grass in separate bits of work maybe three weeks ago.

“Jim actually asked me the question ‘if the two of them turn up (at Newmarket), which one would you ride?’ And I said ‘I don’t know’.

“The two of them have been working very well. Mac Swiney is very relaxed. He isn’t slow, but he could be more of a Derby horse.”

O’Brien hoping ‘big call’ pays off for Guineas favourite Santa Barbara

Aidan O’Brien is banking on Santa Barbara’s “exceptional” ability to make up for her inexperience in the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.

While the daughter of Camelot made a big impression when winning on her racecourse debut in late September, few could have envisaged she would be a red-hot favourite for the first fillies’ Classic of 2021 off the back of that solitary outing.

The reason for her contracting odds in recent weeks have been the unusually bullish reports coming out of Ballydoyle this spring.

And speaking on a Qipco British Champions Series Zoom call earlier this week, O’Brien was again fulsome in his praise for what Santa Barbara has been showing at home ahead of her bid for glory on the Rowley Mile.

He said: “We always thought a lot of Santa Barbara. We didn’t want to over-race her and she’s just had the one run.

“Obviously it’s a big call for her, but she seems to be in good form.

“She always looked very special last year. Of all the two-year-old fillies, she was always at the top of the pecking order.

“She only had the one run, but on her home work she was always very impressive and very exceptional. She’s a very strong traveller and a big, powerful filly – through her work and through a race.”

O’Brien is well aware of what it takes to win the 1000 Guineas, having saddled four of the last six winners and six overall.

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The trainer clearly feels Santa Barbara possesses the requisite talent, but admits her lack of racecourse experience is not ideal.

“It is only her second run – running down Newmarket on quickish ground. She will be green, so it will be interesting to see how she copes with it,” he said.

“Either way you’d imagine she’ll learn a lot from it – it will do her absolutely no harm.

“If she’d had another run, it might have been an advantage to her, but she’s a quick learner at home and very intelligent.

“No matter what we work her with, she always looks to be dominating them.”

Santa Barbara pulls clear of her toiling rivals at the Curragh
Santa Barbara pulls clear of her toiling rivals at the Curragh (PA)

O’Brien, who also saddles Mother Earth, added: “Whatever it (Santa Barbara’s price) is, it is. She doesn’t know, she only knows she’s getting ready for a race.

“Everyone will be excited to see what happens when she does come off the bridle. This is a Guineas and it’s going to happen at some point.”

The home team is headed by by the Andrew Balding-trained Alcohol Free, who rounded off her juvenile campaign with Group One success in the six-furlong Cheveley Park Stakes and made a winning reappearance over seven furlongs in the Fred Darling at Newbury a fortnight ago.

Jockey Oisin Murphy is hopeful the daughter of crack sprinter No Nay Never can prove her stamina as she tackles a mile for the first time.

He said: “I was really thrilled with her at Newbury. She was just ready to start off and did everything nicely in the race. I made her come back and wait and go through the gears and she did it all well.

“She’s come out of the race well. She hasn’t done any serious work since – it has all been routine, but she has passed every test so far.

“She got six (furlongs) very well and the Cheveley Park is a good Guineas trial. She got seven (furlongs) well in the Fred Darling too. She was in the firing line from two out and though the pace wasn’t very strong, she had to battle.

“We always felt she was a Guineas filly from last year.”

Sacred is in a similar position for trainer William Haggas and owner-breeders Cheveley Park Stud.

The Exceed and Excel filly mixed it at Pattern level over five and six furlongs as a two-year-old – and while she did win over seven furlongs on her return in Newmarket’s Nell Gwyn Stakes, connections admit only time will tell whether a mile is within her compass.

Sacred won the Nell Gwyn on her return to action
Sacred won the Nell Gwyn on her return to action (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Cheveley Park’s managing director, Chris Richardson, said: “She’s in good form. We all desperately need rain, but I’d be quite keen for there not to be too much before Sunday.

“Ryan (Moore) was pretty strong on the fact there was going to be a question about the mile, but there is only one Guineas and if she stays it gives us more options going forward.

“She broke her maiden at Newmarket and won the Nell Gwyn at Newmarket, so we know she acts on the track.

“It’s exciting to see how well she’s done physically from two to three and if she stays, she could run a big race.”