Came From The Dark ruled out of Champions Day engagement

Smart sprinter Came From The Dark has been ruled out of the Qipco British Champions Sprint.

A Group Three at Sandown in July when taking the Coral Charge, the Ed Walker-trained gelding was a general 20-1 shot for Ascot next month.

However, Walker reports the five-year-old to be finished for the season after undergoing surgery on an injury.

He said: “He got injured in the Palace House, it was a strange injury. We did all sorts of diagnostics, he was lame after that race and we couldn’t find a thing.

“We eventually found a very small ligament injury in his hock, the vets did a tremendous job of getting him right – so much so he went to Sandown and won a Group Three there.

“Unfortunately it reoccurred after that race, so I’ve had to draw stumps with him. He’s had surgery and is out for the year.

“It’s frustrating because he was really getting it together this year and hopefully he’ll be around next year for a shot at some of those big five-furlong races.”

Stablemate Primo Bacio could drop in class for her next outing, with Walker eager to get her back on the winning trail.

The filly was beaten just two and a half lengths by triple Group One winner Alcohol Free on her first start of the campaign, when remarkably she was sent off a 100-1 shot in the Fred Darling at Newbury.

Primo Bacio then claimed a Listed race in eyecatching fashion at York, with subsequent Falmouth Stakes winner Snow Lantern back in third, but that form was reversed at Newmarket when she finished fifth.

The Awtaad filly has since been seventh in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville and disappointed when beating home just one rival in last month’s City of York Stakes, with Walker believing Primo Bacio was feeling the effects of a busy period.

He said: “I don’t know what happened at York, I think I messed up and over-faced her and under estimated how hard a race she had in the Falmouth and then the Rothschild.

“Those three tough races and then backing her up against the boys at York. She’s a very exuberant filly at home and showed all the signs of being fine, but we found nothing to explain her very lacklustre and unlike-her run at York.

“We’re just freshening her up now, but do I want to pitch her back into a Group One on the back of that? Probably not, really.

“I think the worst thing you can do with these horses is chase the tail – she’s only a Listed winner.

“She’s going to stick in training and I think she will be a very good filly next year. I don’t think there’s necessarily any need to be chasing a dream that she can potentially fulfil next year.

“I’d like to get her back winning – maybe find a Group Three somewhere for her to win.”

Primo Bacio bidding to justify decision to supplement

Ed Walker is excited about the chances of star filly Primo Bacio in the Sky Bet City of York Stakes.

An impressive winner in Listed company on the Knavesmire in May, the daughter of Awtaad has since beaten a length and a half into fifth place in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket and a two-length seventh in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville.

Owner David Ward supplemented Primo Bacio for Saturday’s seven-furlong Group Two at a cost of £15,000 on Monday and Walker is hopeful that bold decision will be justified.

“Fair play to David for stumping up the money,” said the Newmarket handler.

“I certainly felt after Deauville that while the ground was soft and she didn’t get a clear run, I just wasn’t adamant she truly saw out the mile there.

“I’m very excited about bringing her back to seven furlongs. The obvious seven-furlong race for her was the Sceptre Stakes at Doncaster next month, but we just said the ground might turn soft again, so while not strike while the iron is hot?

“It’s a very competitive race, as you would expect for a Group Two, and she’s taking on older horses and colts, so it’s a big step up in terms of opposition.

“That said, I think she’s well up to it.”

Primo Bacio’s biggest threat appears to be the Charlie Appleby-trained Space Blues.

Space Blues takes on Primo Bacio
Space Blues takes on Primo Bacio (Edward Whitaker/PA)

Last year’s Prix Maurice de Gheest hero won in Saudi Arabia and ran in Dubai earlier in the year and can be expected to improve from his comeback fourth in Goodwood’s Lennox Stakes – his first appearance in four months.

Appleby told “We were pleased with Space Blues at Goodwood on ground that was plenty soft enough for his first start in a while.

“He has got form on slow ground, but it was on the quick side of good when he won in Saudi Arabia and he handled that well.

“He has definitely come forward for the Lennox Stakes and should be very competitive.”

The action gets under way with the Group Three Sky Bet And Symphony Group Strensall Stakes, in which Saeed bin Suroor’s Real World is expected to play a starring role.

Impressive in winning the Royal Hunt Cup and a Listed event at Newbury on his last two starts, the Dark Angel colt belatedly bids to complete his hat-trick after missing the Rose Of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock a fortnight ago.

Bin Suroor said: “The ground went against him at Haydock so we took him out, but it will be much more like what he likes at York.

“He’s doing well, he’s in good form and I’m looking forward to seeing him run. This race looks suitable for him

“It’s nice that Marco (Ghiani) has made it back in time to ride him (after a nasty fall last week). He’s been into the stable in the morning just to check on him and he’s in good form again too.”

My Oberon winning at Newmarket
My Oberon winning at Newmarket (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

William Haggas lowers the sights of My Oberon after three successive outings at Group One level, most recently finishing fourth in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at the Royal meeting.

“It’s a competitive race and he’s got a penalty, but he’s really well and he’s freshened up and he goes especially well fresh, so we’re hoping for the best,” said Haggas.

The Somerville Lodge handler also saddles a leading contender for the £125,000 Sky Met Melrose Handicap in Dhushan, who came up narrowly short in his bid for a third successive win at Ascot last month.

He added: “Dhushan has been training well and he ran well at Ascot last time. He’s a useful horse and should go well.”

Aidan O’Brien’s top-weight King Of The Castle and the prolific Summer’s Knight from Sir Mark Prescott’s yard also feature.

Dream team facing Ebor wait

Ante-post favourite Live Your Dream is still not guaranteed a run in the Sky Bet Ebor following the confirmation stage for the big handicap at York on Saturday.

The Saeed bin Suroor-trained gelding has progressed all season, most recently landing a heritage handicap at Newmarket’s July meeting.

The Willie Mullins-trained Saldier is another not certain to make the cut, although there are no such worries for the Karl Thornton-trained Shanroe who currently sits outside the top 22 runners but is guaranteed a place in the line-up after winning a qualifying race at the Curragh in June.

Jim Goldie’s evergreen Euchen Glen remains on course at the top of the weights, while other leading fancies include the Johnny Murtagh-trained Sonnyboyliston and Hamish from the William Haggas yard. Tony Mullins’ Gold Cup runner-up Princess Zoe also stands her ground.

Away from the Ebor, high-class filly Primo Bacio has been supplemented for the Sky Bet City of York Stakes.

Trained by Ed Walker, the three-year-old was unfortunate not to be closer than she was in the Falmouth Stakes and was last seen finishing seventh behind Mother Earth in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville.

William Knight’s consistent Sir Busker is among the potential opposition, as is Charlie Appleby’s Glorious Journey and Space Blues, but Haggas has taken out impressive weekend winner Sacred.

Sceptre Stakes on the radar for Primo Bacio

Primo Bacio is set to be dropped in distance and class on her next appearance after finishing down the field in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville on Tuesday.

A hugely impressive Listed winner at York in the spring, Ed Walker’s filly sidestepped Royal Ascot to wait for the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket and was beaten just a length and a half into fifth place after a troubled run.

Hopes were high she could gain compensation on her second shot at Group One glory in France, but she again encountered traffic problems after racing freely and passed the post in seventh place behind 1000 Guineas heroine Mother Earth – beaten just two lengths.

“It was another frustrating run, but she’s come out of it fine,” said Walker.

“She just doesn’t seem to get the rub of the green in her races, which is very annoying. She needs a bit more luck.”

Walker raised the possibility of Primo Bacio being supplemented for the City of York Stakes on August 21, but is currently in favour of waiting for the Sceptre Stakes at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting next month.

He added: “There’s a possibility we could supplement for the City of York, (but) I think it’s unlikely.

“We might wait for the Sceptre Stakes, which is seven-furlong Group Three for fillies – that is probably the most likely option.

“I’d be fascinated to bring her back to seven furlongs as she’s got bags of speed.

“I’d like to get her back winning before having another go at a Group One, personally. We’ve had a couple of cracks now and she’s not been beaten far, but she’s not been placed in either of them.

“She’s only a Listed winner at this stage, so if we could win a Group Three or a Group Two then we can go back to a Group One afterwards – that’s what I’d like to do.”

Primo Bacio primed for Rothschild bid

Ed Walker is anticipating a bold show from “massively exciting” Primo Bacio as she bids to further enhance the outstanding form of this year’s Falmouth Stakes in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville.

Alcohol Free and Lady Bowthorpe – the two fillies who finished directly, and less than a length, in front of Primo Bacio at Newmarket – both augmented their Group One CVs with victory at Goodwood last week.

In addition, Aidan O’Brien’s Mother Earth – who reopposes on Tuesday and finished just a length ahead of Primo Bacio when they last met – was also the heroine of the 1000 Guineas in May and runner-up in the French equivalent.

They all therefore support Lambourn trainer Walker’s assessment of the “hottest renewal of the Falmouth in history” – and he has no doubt his filly is worthy of her place in a 14-strong edition of the feature race on Deauville’s classy card.

He said: “I’m very hopeful. She’s only had three runs this year, and the only time she had an uninterrupted passage she absolutely trotted up.

“She is massively exciting, and she’s in great form.”

Primo Bacio will face a strong home contingent – including Francis Henri-Graffard’s prolific winner Padovana, Jean-Claude Rouget’s French Guineas heroine Coeursamba and Pascal Bary’s Tahlie, who is seeking a fifth successive victory.

German mare Axana is in the reckoning as well, while the British and Irish challenge also comprises Parent’s Prayer for Archie Watson, Jessica Harrington’s No Speak Alexander and Sheila Lavery’s Belle Image – third and fourth respectively in the Irish Guineas.

Primo Bacio will be having just the fourth start of her three-year-old season, having outrun huge odds to be a close fourth to Alcohol Free on her return at Newbury in April and then won emphatically in Listed company at York.

Walker added: “We haven’t had to do a lot with her since the Falmouth to keep her happy and well.

“This year, we seem to have found the hottest renewal of the Falmouth in history.

“It’s unbelievable really – the Sussex winner, the Nassau winner – and we were only beaten a length and a half, with an interrupted passage (in running).

“We’ve got to turn the form round with Mother Earth – which I wouldn’t bet against her doing.

“We’re just hoping we have a smooth trip, and if she does I think she’ll be bang there.”

Primo Bacio, who will again be ridden by Andrea Atzeni in France, was a late absentee in the Coronation Stakes after a deluge at Royal Ascot turned the ground heavy.

Good to soft is forecast at Deauville, and Walker does not expect that to pose a problem.

Mother Earth will again be among Primo Bacio's opponents at Deauville
Mother Earth will again be among Primo Bacio’s opponents at Deauville (David Davies/PA)

Asked if very testing conditions might be against Primo Bacio, he said: “I don’t know, to be honest.

“She’s such a good-moving filly, with a deadly turn of foot. (But) it was on the slow side at York when she won very well. She’s by Awtaad, who loved the mud and is producing some really good horses with soft-ground form.

“If you forget her pedigree and just look at her physically, you’d say she’s a proper fast-ground filly – but you never really know until you try.”

In any case, he is in no doubt he made the right call to take Primo Bacio out of her intended Group One debut in June.

He said: “At Ascot, it was only going to be the third run of her season – and that stiff mile and really bottomless ground, I just didn’t feel a slog would suit her.

“So I had no regrets missing Ascot, even if she does prove to go with a bit of cut in the ground, because I just think at that time of her season it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do.

“But we’re here now, and she’ll run regardless – (and) I think as long as it is just good to soft ground she’ll be absolutely fine.”

Primo Bacio handed Deauville mission by Ed Walker

Primo Bacio will attempt to break her Group One duck in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville on August 3.

Ed Walker’s filly endured a luckless run in the Falmouth Stakes, eventually finishing a length and a half behind Snow Lantern in fifth.

With some notable rivals due to be in action at Goodwood, Walker is hoping Primo Bacio will be a leading player.

“She goes for the Prix Rothschild at Deauville,” he said.

“She had no luck in the Falmouth. There were two things really, she was a little bit unlucky and she was also very fresh having not run for two months because she missed Ascot.

“She is a very fresh and exuberant filly, she was over-racing. Hopefully that will have brought her back down.

“Andrea (Atzeni) is going to go and ride her. With Alcohol Free and Snow Lantern both going to Goodwood, hopefully she’ll have a good chance.”

Primo Bacio ‘flying’ as Falmouth looms

Primo Bacio’s performance in the Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket on Friday could be one to make up for her Royal Ascot absence.

The Ed Walker-trained three-year-old was an impressive winner of the Listed Oaks Farm Stables Fillies’ Stakes when last seen at York in mid-May.

A run in the Coronation Stakes at the Royal meeting was next on the agenda, but the wet weather put paid to that idea as Walker withdrew the filly when the ground became heavy.

Walker’s top-class sprinter Starman was also an Ascot non-runner for the same reason and joins Primo Bacio in rerouting to Newmarket, with the colt set to contest the showpiece July Cup on Saturday.

“Funnily enough I feel more confident about her, though this is a hard race and she’s taking on the older horses as well,” he said.

“Maybe confident is the wrong word, I’d say I feel more confident she’s going to run a good race.

“At Ascot I just wasn’t sure about the ground or the round course.

“Me knowing the filly, I just didn’t think it was right, she’s a really good filly with a good turn of foot – running a stiff mile in bottomless ground just didn’t feel right.

“It might be a blessing in disguise that we are where we are, she’s really fresh and looking fantastic.”

Primo Bacio has been described as something of a hard puller after her six career starts, but Walker feels she is settling and that some of her perceived over enthusiasm is actually just her naturally high head carriage.

“I think she’s getting better and better in that regard, she’s by a mare called Suvenna and her nickname in the yard is Sassy Sue because she is sassy, she’s got that edge,” he said.

“She’s got a high head carriage which makes her look as though she’s pulling harder than she actually is, but she does that just walking around the paddock – that’s just her.”

Walker’s confidence in the Awtaad filly has been further boosted by the form of Godolphin’s Creative Flair, who finished behind her at York and then went on to take the Listed Abingdon Stakes at Newbury on her next run.

“The Godolphin filly won a Listed race next time,” Walker said.

“And it’s just the way she went through the race and made them look ordinary.

“It’s really exciting to see where she’s going to end up, this filly.

“She’s flying, she’s in really good nick.”

Starman spearheads ‘strong’ Ascot squad for Ed Walker

Ed Walker feels he is taking his strongest ever team to Royal Ascot next week – headlined by Diamond Jubilee hope Starman and live Coronation Stakes contender Primo Bacio.

Walker only has one winner at the showpiece meeting to his name – Agrotera in the 2018 Sandringham Stakes – but with leading chances in two of the features races of the week, which are both part of the British Champions Series, as well as a handful of chances in the handicaps, Walker is counting down the hours until it all kicks off on Tuesday.

“Every year you build towards Royal Ascot as soon as you start working them. Most years they whittle down through injury or not being good enough – for example last year we had one runner, Swindler, who had to be jogged to post and then wouldn’t go in the stalls,” said Walker.

Ed Walker (right) receives his trophy after winning the Sandringham Stakes with Agrotera in 2018
Ed Walker (right) receives his trophy after winning the Sandringham Stakes with Agrotera in 2018 (Nigel French/PA)

“That’s kind of normally how Ascot rolls for me, so it’s great this year to be going with what looks a strong team, but I’m under absolutely no illusions it’s the hardest place on earth to win races having tried and failed so many times and only been successful once.

“So many boxes need to be ticked to win any race, but it’s exaggerated at Ascot.

“I kind of went off it when I started training as I got so disappointed in being beaten the whole time! I had a couple of favourites early in my career – Riggins, Axiom, Nicholascopernicus – and they all got stuffed, so I thought it was easier to go and win at Windsor on the Monday of Ascot week instead.

“Agrotera certainly rejuvenated my enthusiasm for the meeting. Even though it was only a handicap, I probably didn’t appreciate until after how big a deal it was – the eyes of the racing world are upon it.”

In Starman, Walker has the new kid on the sprinting block having won four of his five races with his only defeat coming on Champions Day last year on very testing ground.

“Starman is a massively exciting horse who has done nothing wrong. He’s very straightforward. He’s massive, really imposing and a magnificent horse to be around, he’s got that presence and is the real head-turner in the string. He’s obviously very good as well,” said Walker.

“He did his last piece of work this morning, which went very well, we’re really happy with him and everything so far has gone well since York.

“It was just a routine work at Kingsdown over six furlongs. It’s quite a stiff gallop and I remember when I moved here (ex-jockey) George Baker, who is now a huge part of our team, told me not to expect good horses pulling clear of lead horses like at Newmarket because it’s totally different. They don’t work as flamboyantly as they do on the Al Bahathri or the Limekilns.”

Starman began his season with a win in the Duke of York Stakes
Starman began his season with a win in the Duke of York Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Walker explained why, as a four-year-old, Starman has only run five times.

“He’s so big I kind of missed the boat with him on grass at two, the ground had gone when he was starting work and David Ward (owner) is not a big fan of all-weather racing. He’s a purist in that respect and didn’t fancy taking him to an all-weather track for his debut, so we left him alone,” he said.

“He was working away last spring and looked really good, quite exciting, but then Covid struck. Then he was just ticking along waiting for resumption.

“David and Sue (Ward) were keen to see him debut, so I had to wait another month before I could run him before owners were allowed racing and the only suitable race was at Lingfield, so I had to twist his arm to run on the all-weather which paid off.

“Tom Marquand would have ridden Starman, but I’ve just heard today he’ll almost certainly be on Nahaarr, so Oisin (Murphy) will keep the ride going forward, which is great as he knows him. At least we know now. We couldn’t be happier with everything really.

“When Oisin got off at York, the first thing he said was ‘how much ability has he got?’ and what a bus of a ride he is.”

Primo Bacio finished fourth in the Fred Darling at Newbury at 100-1 before bolting up at York and is now a leading fancy for the Coronation Stakes.

“She’s really blossomed this year into a good filly. She had her excuses last year. Apart from not handling the all-weather that well, and she doesn’t work quite as well on it, I still can’t fathom how she managed to get beaten at Chelmsford,” said Walker.

“She was very unlucky at Newbury. It may have been a blessing in disguise or it may have cost us a Guineas, who knows. It would have been hard not to run in the Guineas having won a trial. She would have been backing up quite quickly, though. We had a conversation about supplementing but quickly canned it and the break freshened her up and put her spot on for York.

“This will be a different test to York. She was 14-1 to beat a conditions winner and a maiden winner and she’s now 11-2 to beat a Guineas winner, so it’s a slightly different test. Andrea (Atzeni) will keep the ride.”

Away from the Group Ones, Walker also has some lively chances in the handicaps.

He said: “Parachute is going for the King George V Handicap, I hope he gets in – historically he should do. I think he’s a well-handicapped horse. You need to be in that race to feature, but I think he is. We’ll probably enter in the Queen’s Vase as well as a back-up, which sounds ludicrous given that is a Group Three.

“Stormy Antarctic could run in the Wolferton. He’s such a legend of a horse. You’d fancy him if the ground was soft.

“It will be safe ground at the start of the meting. He owes us nothing and it was great to see him finally win on home soil again at Goodwood. He’s looking and moving better than ever.

“Whether we go, I don’t know. There’s a Group Two in Italy at the end of the month but the travelling and everything, I just don’t know.”

Stormy Antarctic has been a grand servant to Walker down the years
Stormy Antarctic has been a grand servant to Walker down the years (Tim Goode/PA)

Of his other possibles, Walker added: “Matthew Flinders (Royal Hunt Cup) hasn’t run at Ascot before but I think it will suit him.

“York seems to be a disaster for him, he’s run there three times but I think he boils over walking across the Knavesmire, so we’ll take every precaution to get him to post as quietly as we can.

“I think a fast-run, straight mile will be ideal. He’s in danger of being a little disappointing because in my mind I always thought of him as Group horse. I hope it’s his last run in a handicap.

“Dreamloper (Kensington Palace Stakes) loves the track and trip and will love fast ground. She’s a little quirky and just needs to relax. She ran in a hood last time and Tom (Marquand) felt that just blunted her in the finish, so we’ll take that off. She got 5lb for finishing second which is infuriating, but I still believe she’s well handicapped.

“Popmaster (Palace of Holyrood House Handicap) has form with Rohaan and Diligent Harry. Arguably his best form is on the all-weather, twice we’ve run him on turf he’s been beaten much to my surprise, so he’ll run in a visor. I don’t think he’s ungenuine but maybe lacks concentration.

“We hope a stiff five furlongs will suit. I think this race will really suit him as he likes to come through horses.”

Primo Bacio booked for Royal Ascot after impressive Knavesmire success

Primo Bacio booked her Royal Ascot ticket as she continued her improvement in landing the Listed Oaks Farm Stables Fillies’ Stakes at York.

The Ed Walker-trained three-year-old was stepping up in trip to a mile having previously been campaigned over six and seven furlongs, with her seasonal debut resulting in a luckless fourth-placed finish in the Fred Darling Stakes at Newbury in April.

The extra distance of a race better known as the Michael Seely Memorial seemed to be entirely to the filly’s liking, as she showed an impressive turn of foot to accelerate past the majority of the field with a furlong left to travel, eventually crossing the line three lengths ahead of Creative Flair to prevail at 14-1.

Walker said: “She just had to relax to get the trip – that was going to be the key with her.

“She was a bit keen an a bit fresh at Newbury and got stopped dead in her tracks. Who knows how close she’d have got? She got properly stopped at a key point of a race.

“It was discussed afterwards whether we should supplement her for the Guineas, but it was never really an option in my mind.

“She improved so much through the winter and was working the house down, hence we ran a 79-rated filly in a Group Three.

“She’s got a great turn of foot and picked up very well today.

“The Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot will be next.”

Ridden by Andrea Atzeni, Primo Bacio is owned by David Ward, the same owner that joined Walker in enjoying the Group Two success of Starman in the Duke of York Stakes on the Knavesmire on Tuesday.

The latter is bound for the Diamond Jubilee at the Royal meeting.

“There aren’t many of them, but it’s been a good week,” Walker added.

“It’s very exciting going to Royal Ascot with the two of them. It’s great for the Wards, who are big supporters of ours.”

Richard Hannon’s Snow Lantern, the 10-11 favourite, took a keen hold throughout and could only finish third as she struggled to find the late pace to pursue the leading duo.

Hannon said: “She was disappointing. She was very keen. We’ll get her home and see how she is.”