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Illustrating is Lowther-bound

Illustrating will reach for the stars in the Lowther Stakes at York after a commanding performance to take out the British Stallion Studs Alice Keppel EBF Fillies’ Conditions Stakes for Karl Burke and owners Clipper Logistics at Goodwood.

The Showcasing filly is targeting that Group Two on the Knavesmire after outclassing her foes under Danny Tudhope.

The well-supported 2-1 favourite seized the initiative approaching the distance and readily pulled two and three-quarter lengths clear of Anadora and Canonized.

Burke was quick to compare her with Quiet Reflection, who after finishing fourth in the Lowther landed the Cornwallis Stakes at Ascot.

He said: “She’s the only filly I’ve had with the same turn of foot as Quiet Reflection and showed it today. She needs cover, and there was a worrying moment when she got a bit of a bump early on, but she settled sufficiently well for Daniel to get the job done.”

Stressing that cover is essential for his filly, Burke added: “She relaxes straight away when she gets cover, and if she does that she’ll have a better chance of getting six furlongs at York.

“Her first race at Catterick was just down the road and she bolted up, but in the Royal Ascot race (Queen Mary) she was a bit gassy and did too much too soon chasing the American fillies.”

Achelois gave Andrew Balding another Goodwood winner
Achelois gave Andrew Balding another Goodwood winner (John Walton/PA)

Andrew Balding followed up his win in the Sussex Stakes with Alcohol Free when Achelois landed the British EBF Premier Fillies’ Handicap.

Rob Hornby send the Zoffany filly about her business well over a furlong out, and the combination had too much for Timeless Soul as the pair drew clear.

The 3-1 winner is owned by the Thurloe For Royal Marsden Cancer Charity syndicate, run by James and Nicky Stafford, who said: “Andrew said it would be a good move to step her up in trip to a mile and a quarter, and he was right.”

Nagano was vindicated after a luckless run at Ascot last time out as he claimed victory in the Unibet “15 To Go” Handicap.

The three-year-old travelled from the rear of the field to take on 100-30 favourite Siskany, who was reeled in at the half-furlong marker and eventually beaten by three-quarters of a length.

Trained by Roger Varian, the gelding was last seen in the King George V Stakes at the Royal meeting where he finished two and a quarter lengths behind the winner despite being badly hampered, with Siskany a couple of places in front of him.

This time there was no such hinderance as the bay took a wide line around the 13-runner field and powered home under David Egan.

“The last furlong was tough, but he was in front on soft ground,” Varian said.

“He got there quite comfortably and we always felt he had enough in the tank to hold on and it was nice to see him do so.

“If you look at all of his races, he’s looked in trouble at the start and then come home like a train.

“At Royal Ascot, from that good draw, we were keen not to give away the draw and maybe got him rushed early and took his finish away.

“Today we rode him more patiently and he showed what he can do.”

Magical Wish was a last-gasp winner of the seven-furlong World Pool Handicap, eventually victorious at 12-1 for Pat Dobbs and Richard Hannon.

The gelding weaved his way through much of the field to take up the lead in the closing strides of the race, pausing briefly to lunge to the left and snap his jaws at the third-placed Be Prepared.

Nagano makes no mistake at Goodwood

Nagano was vindicated after a luckless run at Ascot last time out as he claimed victory in the Unibet “15 To Go” Handicap at Gooodwood.

The three-year-old travelled from the rear of the field to take on 100-30 favourite Siskany, who was reeled in at the half-furlong marker and eventually beaten by three-quarters of a length.

Trained by Roger Varian, the gelding was last seen in the King George V Stakes at the Royal meeting where he finished two and a quarter lengths behind the winner despite being badly hampered, with Siskany a couple of places in front of him.

This time there was no such hinderance as the bay took a wide line around the 13-runner field and powered home under David Egan.

“The last furlong was tough, but he was in front on soft ground,” Varian said.

“He got there quite comfortably and we always felt he had enough in the tank to hold on and it was nice to see him do so.

“If you look at all of his races, he’s looked in trouble at the start and then come home like a train.

“At Royal Ascot, from that good draw, we were keen not to give away the draw and maybe got him rushed early and took his finish away.

“Today we rode him more patiently and he showed what he can do.”

Roger Varian eyes Gordon Stakes for Third Realm

A trip to Goodwood for the Gordon Stakes is next on the agenda for Roger Varian’s Cazoo Derby fifth Third Realm.

The Sea The Stars colt got the better of subsequent Epsom hero Adayar when landing the Lingfield Derby Trial in May, but could finish only fifth when renewing rivalry in the premier Classic.

The Epsom form has been well advertised by the third home Hurricane Lane, who has subsequently landed both the Irish Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris – and Varian is hoping his charge can get back on the winning trail on the Sussex Downs.

“Third Realm is on schedule to run at Goodwood in the Gordon Stakes,” said Varian.

“The Derby form looks very good. I thought it was a good race at the time, and it will be interesting to see how the winner (Adayar) fares next weekend in the King George (at Ascot).

“Two furlongs from home, it didn’t look like Third Realm was going to be near them (at Epsom), but he stayed on well and did well to get as close as he did – having not really handled things very well.

“I think he’s got a bright future.”

Zeyaadah (left) got back on track at Newcastle
Zeyaadah (left) got back on track at Newcastle (Tim Goode/PA)

Varian has also made plans for two of his most exciting fillies, in Zeyaadah and Eshaada.

Zeyaadah disappointed in the Oaks at Epsom, but has since bounced back with a Group Three success at Newcastle, while Eshaada was last seen filling the runner-up spot in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The Newmarket trainer added: “Zeyaadah is in good form and training nicely. She could go to Goodwood for the Nassau Stakes.

“Eshaada is likely to wait for York – we might look at the Yorkshire Oaks with her.”

Angel hoping to turn on the power in Kilboy return

Roger Varian expects Angel Power to improve for the run when she makes her belated reappearance in the Kilboy Estate Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday.

The Lope De Vega filly won four of her seven starts last season – rounding off her campaign with successive Pattern-race victories in the Group Three Pride Stakes at Newmarket and a Group Two in Italy.

The grey has not been seen in competitive action since the latter of those triumphs in November and must concede weight to each of her seven rivals in the Group Two feature.

Varian said: “She took a while to come to herself this year, but she seems in good form.

“She’s had a couple of small, niggly issues – nothing major, but it prevented us getting her on the track a little bit earlier.

“She looks very well. It’s her first run for a long time and the run might bring her forward, but she’s trained well enough to go to Ireland and put in a nice performance.

“She’s got a penalty to shoulder and the ground might be a little bit quicker than ideal, but hopefully it’s safe and she ought to run a nice race.”

Provided Angel Power comes through her comeback run unscathed, Varian is hoping to test her mettle at Group One level in next month’s Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville.

“I think the Prix Jean Romanet would be her August target and we’re very keen to get a run into her before then,” the trainer added.

“We’d have loved to have stayed closer to home, but without us being able to get to Ascot a few weeks ago, this race came at the right time in the calendar.

“A stiff nine furlongs should be OK. She’s probably best at 10 furlongs, but it might just put her right for a crack at the Romanet.”

Angel Power’s biggest threat appears to be the Johnny Murtagh-trained Create Belief, who steps up in class following a dominant display in the Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot.

Murtagh said: “The handicapper put her up and she’s rated 110 now – no more handicaps for her.

“Everything’s gone good and she’s ready to go again.”

Aidan O’Brien’s Breeders’ Cup Mile hero Order Of Australia is the star attraction in the other Group Two on the card, the Romanised Minstrel Stakes.

The four-year-old has his sights lowered significant after finishing eighth on his first start of 2021 in last month’s Queen Anne Stakes.

Jockey Ryan Moore told Betfair: “His standout run is obviously his Breeders’ Cup Mile success and a reproduction of that run, even with his 3lb penalty, would make him hard to beat in this Group Two.

“But he will have to come on a fair bit for his Queen Anne run on his reappearance, though to be fair that was a stiff task first time up and this is a clear step down in grade on a course he has won at before.”

Ken Condon, who saddled Romanised to win the last two renewals, is represented by three-year-old filly Thunder Beauty, who is fitted with a visor for the first time.

He said: “It’s great that Romanised’s owner Robert Ng is sponsoring the race for three years – that’s lovely.

“We’re fitting Thunder Beauty with a visor. She ran well to finish second in Carlisle last month, but Danny (Tudhope) who rode her that day said she had a little bit more to give.

“She ran at Fairyhouse last time and was trapped wide on what is quite an undulating track, so I think we’re entitled to forgive her that. It was a poor run on the day, but there were certainly mitigating circumstances.

“We’re better judging her on her previous run and her overall form at the Curragh has been good, so we’re looking forward to Sunday.”

The Ado McGuinness-trained Current Option and Jessica Harrington’s pair of Njord and Ace Aussie also feature.

Bayside Boy bounds to striking debut victory

Bayside Boy created a big impression when winning on debut in the first division of the bet365 EBF Novice Stakes at Newbury.

Trained by Roger Varian – who was registering his first juvenile success of the season – the son of New Bay displayed a taking turn of foot.

All looked to be going to plan for John and Thady Gosden’s odds-on favourite Find as he cruised into the lead – but David Egan’s mount was made to look decidedly one-paced inside the final furlong.

Jack Mitchell did not even resort to the use of his stick as Bayside Boy (9-1) sprinted three and a quarter lengths clear.

Richard Ryan, racing manager for joint-owners Teme Valley, said: “That was very pleasing in many respects, but particularly because that is Roger’s first two-year-old winner of the season.

“He’s got an awful lot of nice two-year-olds at home and this lad has been doing some nice work with them so I don’t think he’s going to be Roger’s last, put it that way.

“The sire was popular at the time and this mare (Alava) has been very successful, with Forest Ranger (half-brother) her best.

“He’s put them to bed over seven furlongs on a flat track there and I think he’ll sharpen up. While I think he will get a mile later in the season, races like the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster will enter our minds now.”

Jack Mitchell completing a double on  Sugauli
Jack Mitchell completing a double on Sugauli (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Mitchell later doubled up on Tom Clover’s Sugauli (17-2) in the Ire Incentive, It Pays To Buy Irish Handicap.

“To be fair Ray Dawson rode him last time and said he wanted a mile,” said Mitchell.

“He’s a horse who thinks he’s quicker than he is, generous is probably how you’d describe him.

“He’s a hot character, he wears the red hood but he’s won that well today.”

John and Thady Gosden, who were on the mark with Chesham runner-up Reach For The Moon in the second division of Bayside Bay’s race, also scored with Golden Bugle (9-4 favourite) in the bet365 Fillies’ Handicap.

The filly by Golden Horn was running in the famous Anthony Oppenheimer colours and is regally bred, being out of a half-sister to 2000 Guineas winner Footstepsinthesand.

It took her three attempts to break her maiden but she is clearly getting the hang of things, providing Frankie Dettori with a double.

“That was the plan. Anthony bred the father, the mother, he bred that filly and I think we’ve got to look in the direction of black type now,” said John Gosden.

Roger Charlton’s string are in much better form now than in the first half of the season and Saligo Bay (100-30) provided him with a sixth winner from his last 17 runners in the bet365 Handicap.

For much of the long straight it appeared as if Billy Garrity had slipped the field on Skycutter, but Franny Norton timed his challenge to perfection.

“I’ve always been a great admirer of Franny, but he hasn’t ridden much for me,” said Charlton.

“When we had 8st 5lb and didn’t have a jockey and he was available he seemed the obvious choice.

“Hopefully this one will keep progressing until the end of the season, head to the sales and then win the Triumph Hurdle! Who knows, the owners may want to keep him.

“I’m much happier with the form of the yard now, the best time of the year for your horses to run well is the second half of the year, not the first half.”

Believe In Love bounces back for Stanerra Stakes success

Roger Varian’s Believe In Love returned to her best for a decisive victory in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Stanerra Stakes at Leopardstown.

The British challenger, penalised for last year’s Saint-Cloud success at this same Group Three level, had to concede 3lb and upwards all round and was sent off a 9-2 shot in a field of six.

She also needed to bounce back to form after losing her action and eventually finishing a distant last of seven in the Bronte Cup at York on her only previous start this season.

But Believe In Love, delivered from off the pace by Ronan Whelan, proved well up to the task as she hit the front in the final two furlongs and out-speeded her rivals to win by a length and a half from Federica Sophia.

Favourite High Heels set out to make the running, closely attended by a second British challenger in Sherbet Lemon – but they both faded out of contention.

Whelan, who was riding Believe In Love for the first time, said: “She did that well. Roger told me to draw a line through the last day, and not to even look into it.

“He said her homework had been very good, he was very happy with her and that’s why she was here.

“She travelled smoothly and picked up like a nice filly when I gave her the office. She’s probably only doing enough in front.”

Believe In Love relished a very testing surface at Saint-Cloud last October but had also struck on significantly quicker ground – as she did again here.

The winning jockey added: “She seems versatile ground-wise.

“(Roger) also said to me that last year she only came into her own at this time of year, so she should have a nice end of season to look forward to.”

Believe In Love holds several big-race entries over the coming months – including the Lillie Langtry Stakes at Goodwood, for which Betfair cut her to 9-1 from 12-1 following her latest success.

Zeeband impresses with Northumberland Vase victory for Roger Varian

Zeeband powered clear of his rivals in the William Hill Pick Your Places Northumberland Vase at Newcastle.

Third on his comeback run over a mile and three-quarters at Newmarket last month, Roger Varian’s charge was a 4-1 shot as he stepped up to two miles for the first time in the £75,000 consolation race for the Northumberland Plate.

Always travelling well in a first-time visor, Zeeband moved onto the heels of the leaders under a motionless Andrea Atzeni on the far side of the track before readily extending two and a half lengths clear of Margaret Dumont.

“He’d won over a mile and six (furlongs) and his comeback run at Newmarket was quite nice,” said Atzeni.

“He’s obviously improved since then, he worked with a set of visors on last week and Roger was quite confident this morning.

“The draw is obviously a big help here, but the way he won you’d think he could have won from any draw.”

Ejtilaab followed up success on Derby day at Epsom with a dominant display in the williamhill.com Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap.

Three weeks on from a narrow verdict on the Downs, the Ian Williams-trained sprinter was the 9-2 favourite to add to his tally at Gosforth Park under David Egan.

Having bagged the near side rail early, Ejtilaab looked to have his rivals covered from a long way out and was two and a half lengths clear of nearest pursuer Mondammej at the line.

The winner is entered in both the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket and the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood next month, and Williams said: “He’ll go for one or the other – it’s nice to have options like that.

“It was a cracking performance. The drop to six furlongs has really helped him improve on his previous form over seven.”

Catch Cunningham came out on top in a thrilling climax to the opening William Hill Play Responsibly/EBF Novice Stakes.

Catch Cunningham (second left) won the opener on Northumberland Plate day
Catch Cunningham (second left) won the opener on Northumberland Plate day (Tim Goode/PA)

Sixth on his debut at York before finishing third at Haydock a fortnight ago, the Kodiac colt was a 9-1 shot to make it third time lucky in the hands of Tom Eaves.

There was not much to choose between Kevin Ryan’s juvenile and Secret Strength passing the post, but the judge had confirmed Catch Cunningham had won the day by a short head.

Ryan said: “It didn’t work out the way we’d planned. We’d intended taking a lead, but he jumped well and nobody else wanted it, so we had to revert to plan B.

“It (making the running) is hard to do here, but he’s game and genuine.

“He’ll be a better horse in a better race being dropped in.”

Spectators during William Hill Northumberland Plate Day at Newcastle
Spectators during William Hill Northumberland Plate Day at Newcastle (Tim Goode/PA)

James Fanshawe and David Probert teamed up to claim top honours in the William Hill Build Your Odds Handicap, with the impressive Second Slip (11-4) skipping almost five lengths clear of 9-4 favourite Hasty Sailor.

Having earlier landed the Group Three Chipchase Stakes with Chil Chil, trainer Andrew Balding completed a double on the card with Oo De Lally edging out Sunset Breeze by a short head in the William Hill Extra Place Races Handicap.

Winning jockey David Probert said: “Andrew’s horses are in great form and we knew this horse handled the track.

“Will Carver gave him a great ride at Goodwood the last day to finish second, so he was probably in the form of his life really going into today.

“Things never really went my way. We got stopped a bit coming out of the gates and then late on we got a bit of bump off the second, so it was a tough performance and he probably deserves to win a race like this.”

Departure claims Cathedral honours on seasonal debut

Line Of Departure made a sparkling return to action in the British Stallion Studs EBF Cathedral Stakes at Salisbury.

Roger Varian’s charge won three times as a juvenile last season, including a valuable sales race success at Doncaster in September.

The Mehmas colt disappointed on his final start of 2020 in the Mill Reef Stakes, but bounced back to his best on his seasonal reappearance in what looked a strong renewal of this Listed contest.

Khaadem, who finished fourth in both the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot and the July Cup at Newmarket last summer, was the favourite at 11-8, with 7-2 chance Mums Tipple rated his biggest threat.

However, 8-1 shot Line Of Departure travelled strongly throughout in the hands of David Egan and showed a smart change of gear against the far rail to pull two and a quarter lengths clear of Khaadem with relative ease.

“We’re thrilled. He’s a nice colt to look forward to for the summer ahead,” said Varian.

“I’d like to thank connections for being patient. We would liked to have run him in a Commonwealth Cup trial, but we had heavy ground that weekend when there were suitable races at Haydock and Newbury and he’s a fast ground horse, so we had to change our focus a little bit.

“It’s great that he’s come and won as he did today – I thought he was very impressive.”

When asked whether the July Cup at Newmarket could be a realistic target, the trainer added: “We won’t make any plans today, but I think he’s a colt that on summer conditions we ought to be quite ambitious with.

“He’s a half-brother to Golden Horde, who was a very good sprinter, and now he’s a winner at Listed level we’ll have to consider ambitious options, I should think.

“He’d be deserving of his chance in some nice races after today’s performance.”

Alflaila finished with a flourish to make a winning debut in the Byerley Stud Peter & Virginia Walwyn Memorial Novice Stakes.

Owen Burrows won with newcomer Alflaila
Owen Burrows won with newcomer Alflaila (Simon Cooper/PA)

The Owen Burrows-trained juvenile was a 4-1 shot for his racecourse introduction in the hands of Jim Crowley.

Richard Hannon’s System looked sure to prevail after battling his way to the lead, but Alflaila found top gear late on and got up to score by half a length.

Burrows said: “He’s worked nicely at home, to be fair, so I’d have been disappointed if he hadn’t ran a race of promise.

“It was a good performance as I think it was Ralph Beckett’s horse (Cardinal Rouge) who came across us coming out of the stalls, they didn’t go very quick and I thought the front two had got away from us. He’s done well to pick them up.

“It was very pleasing, but we won’t make any plans just yet.”

Beyond Equal registered his third win at Salisbury with a comfortable success in the Yew Tree Inn Handicap.

Running over five furlongs for the first time in almost two years, the 9-4 favourite proved two lengths too strong for Lomu in the hands of Rob Hornby.

Winning trainer Stuart Kittow said: “That was very good – he deserved that.

“He’s very consistent and the race worked out well for him because they went a nice, fast pace. They go that bit quicker over five furlongs and it’s suited him well.

“We’ll stick to five furlongs now, I’d have thought.”

Varian retains faith in Third Realm

Roger Varian is confident Third Realm still has a “big future” ahead of him after finishing fifth in the Cazoo Derby.

The Sea The Stars colt beat Charlie Appleby’s Epsom hero Adayar when claiming top honours in the Lingfield Derby Trial last month.

That form was turned on its head on the day that mattered most, but Third Realm was not disgraced in finishing fifth – and his trainer believes there is plenty to look forward to.

“I think if everything had gone smoothly for Third Realm at Epsom, the closest he would have been is third or fourth. The winner won very well and looked a class above,” said Varian.

“I thought Third Realm ran with great credit. For a horse we thought would go round Epsom like a motorbike, he didn’t really handle things – he got a bump in the first furlong and just looked a little bit out of his comfort zone.

“He was a bit keen over the top of the hill and got a bit unbalanced round Tattenham Corner. For most of the way you couldn’t see him finishing in the frame, but he stayed on very well inside the final furlong and a half and nearly got fourth.

“I thought it was the run of a horse with a big future, but at no stage of the race watching did he look quite comfortable to me.”

Third Realm retains an entry in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot on Friday week.

Asked whether that Group Two contest is a possible target, the trainer added: “I would have thought that would be too soon, but we’ll see how he is this week – we don’t have to decide now.”

Save a Forest performed best of the trainer's runners in the Oaks
Save a Forest performed best of the trainer’s runners in the Oaks (John Walton/PA)

Varian saddled three runners in the Cazoo Oaks last Friday, with outsider Save A Forest faring best of them in fourth.

“It was no surprise to us that Save A Forest ran well. She’s improved with every start and she would have been suited by conditions,” said the Newmarket handler.

“I think she was a shade unlucky not to be closer. With all the field going over to the far rail, and her being on the rail but towards the rear, it meant up the straight she didn’t have a clear run. She ran great.”

Zeyaadah and Teona both ran below expectations, with Varian of the opinion both floundered in the rain-softened ground.

He added: “Zeyaadah ran like a non-stayer on that ground. She moved into it nicely in the straight and didn’t get home. I think it’s a misconception that she wants soft ground – I think she wants much better ground.

“Teona definitely wants better ground. Her mother Ambivalent liked it fast, and I should think she will be most comfortable on a faster surface.

“We’ll give her a bit of time – she’s a big filly. I’ve not lost faith in her. I’ve always touted her to be a nice filly and I’m sure she will be, but we won’t rush her back to the track.

“We’ll take a view on her in a couple of weeks’ time and see how she’s come out of the race.”

Talbeyah’s Salisbury victory delights Burrows

Owen Burrows was delighted to see Talbeyah rediscover the winning trail at Salisbury.

The Lope De Vega filly looked a high-class prospect when getting off the mark in impressive style at Chepstow in April, earning herself a place in Listed company in last month’s Height of Fashion Stakes at Goodwood.

The Owen Burrows-trained three-year-old ultimately came up short on the Sussex Downs, but was not disgraced in finishing fourth – and had her sights lowered for Salisbury’s MansionBet Bet 10 Get 20 Margadale Fillies’ Handicap.

Talbeyah was one of two runners for the Shadwell team, with Richard Hannon’s Anghaam narrowly preferred in the market as the 13-8 favourite.

However, ridden by the owners’ retained rider Jim Crowley, it was the Burrows runner who saw out the 10-furlong contest best to score a shade cosily by a half a length.

Burrows said: “She ran well enough at Goodwood in the Listed race. It was tough conditions on the day, and Jim just felt physically she wasn’t quite able to show her best.

“They gave us a mark of 88 for today, and we’ll work our way back up through the handicap system and hope to see if we can get some black type later in the year.

“I’d like to think she’ll be able to go back into Stakes company before the end of the season. She’ll strengthen and mature now through the summer – and I thought today, certainly on that faster ground, she looks like she’ll get further.

“As we know, she goes on soft ground as well. So she’s a nice, versatile filly and one who will hopefully keep progressing.”

Groom was a clear-cut winner at Salisbury
Groom was a clear-cut winner at Salisbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Hannon had earlier caused a minor upset in the opening Best Odds Guaranteed At MansionBet EBF Restricted Novice Stakes, with 16-1 shot Groom making it third time lucky.

The Aclaim colt had finished fifth and third on his first two career starts, but raised his game significantly to see off 6-4 favourite Cashew by almost four lengths.

Papacito made a winning debut for Roger Varian in the MansionBet Watch And Bet Novice Stakes.

Seemingly well fancied as the 2-1 market leader, the three-year-old picked up well to get up and beat West Side Glory by a length.

Papacito made a big impression on debut
Papacito made a big impression on debut (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We were hoping for a good run – he’d worked nicely at home,” said Varian.

“I thought it was a good performance, because there were a lot of traffic problems and he had to switch and change and stop and start again and nearly clipped heels. He pricked his ears after crossing the line, so I should think it was the performance of a horse with ability.

“The owner has been very patient with him. He had a few problems last year and the early spring of this year. I’m always grateful for an owner’s patience and I’m very pleased the horse has got off to a winning start.

“He’s just won a novice, so we won’t get carried away. We’ll go back into novice company under a penalty, I should think. Then we’ll get a mark and see where we go.”

Hurricane Lane leads Appleby hopes of second Derby triumph

Charlie Appleby is spearheading the challenge to outdo big-race favourite Bolshoi Ballet as he sends three contenders in pursuit of Cazoo Derby glory.

While Aidan O’Brien relies on his sole heavyweight representative from six possibles for the Classic at the start of the week, Appleby’s Godolphin team numbers Hurricane Lane, One Ruler and Adayar at Epsom on Saturday.

They are among a clutch of worthy opponents to Ballydoyle’s Bolshoi Ballet – including Jim Bolger’s Irish 2,000 Guineas hero Mac Swiney, as well as the remainder of the Newmarket challenge, William Haggas’ Mohaafeth, Ed Dunlop’s John Leeper and Third Realm from Roger Varian’s yard.

Appleby’s unbeaten Dante Stakes winner Hurricane Lane is the choice of number one jockey William Buick, as the partnership bid for a second win in the blue riband after Masar in 2018. One Ruler, who was sixth in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket last month, will be ridden by James Doyle, with Adam Kirby on Adayar.

Appleby said: “One Ruler has solid Group One two-year-old form and is a Group Three winner at two as well in winning the Autumn Stakes, which is a great race to have coming into a three-year-old career.

“Hurricane Lane, on the other hand, had one run on bottomless ground at the back end of last year at Newmarket. He then came out and did what he did at Newbury before going to York. He comes here as an unexposed horse. He wouldn’t have the natural pace of One Ruler.

“As we saw in the Dante, his best work was in the last couple of hundred yards. Everything bodes well to step him up to a mile and a half – it might bring about further improvement.”

One Ruler is, of course, also trying the Derby trip for the first time.

Appleby added: “One Ruler is a different horse when he comes to the track – he just lights up more.

“James said, although it was quick in the Guineas, he rode like a horse that would appreciate stepping up in trip.

One Ruler is among Charlie Appleby's three Derby contenders
One Ruler is among Charlie Appleby’s three Derby contenders (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“The trip is a big question mark, (but) if he is going to get a mile and a half, he has got a good chance of getting it around Epsom.”

Bolger has always been confident Mac Swiney can run right up to his best form on good ground – but Friday’s unexpected rain has eased conditions considerably in any case.

A literal reading of Mac Swiney’s career record could indicate an aptitude for very testing conditions.

He got the better of stablemate and Newmarket Guineas winner Poetic Flare in a driving finish on soft to heavy ground at the Curragh last month, but must overturn Derrinstown Derby Trial form with Bolshoi Ballet.

He will be outdoing even his brilliant sire New Approach’s Classic achievements if he adds Epsom success to his Curragh victory – because he had to settle for second in both the English and Irish Guineas before winning the 2008 Derby for Bolger.

The Coolcullen trainer reports his colt ready to run up to his best, following his hard-fought victory two weeks ago, irrespective of the ground.

“You know how well he was a couple of weeks ago, and he came out of that race very well – and he’s been fine since,” he said.

“All his best form has not been on heavy ground.

“I wouldn’t like any firm in it (this weekend) – but then I don’t like firm for any of my horses.”

Bolger is unconcerned too by either the move up in trip or the unusual situation of a one-horse Ballydoyle team.

Mac Swiney was below his best on his last meeting with Bolshoi Ballet when beaten almost seven lengths on good ground.

“Not being right when he was beaten (behind Bolshoi Ballet) at Leopardstown, that’s all been very well-documented,” said Bolger.

“(The extra distance) is not a concern.

“I’m training my own horse, and I’m not concerned with how many any (other) trainer runs in the race.”

Victory for John Leeper would be a fairytale outcome for a horse regally-bred out of Dunlop and owner Cristina Patino’s 2010 Oaks heroine Snow Fairy, named after the trainer’s father and to be ridden by Frankie Dettori.

Dunlop said: “It is probably one of the more interesting stories of the race.

“Having a horse named after my father is very exciting, and it creates a little bit of pressure for everyone – but at the moment the horse has no idea there is any pressure on him, so hopefully we can enjoy it.

“Of course it is quite emotional as well, and it would be a great day if he could go on and win the Derby.”

He is hoping that inexperience will not catch out John Leeper after just three career starts, and two wins this term – including most recently in a slowly-run Listed race at Newmarket.

“There was a bit of a concern with Newmarket, because it was such a farcical race that he just latched a bit earlier than we would have liked to – and it was something we had never really seen,” Dunlop said.

“I think he did well to win at Newmarket. William (Buick) was very good. He kicked on and got on with it.

“That was all part of his learning curve. He hasn’t done much wrong so far – but there is still a long way to go, as they say.

“We always liked him last year. He had a tiny hiccup after Doncaster last year, which meant we weren’t able to run him again. He was a very big, immature horse – so he was never going to do much as a two-year-old.

“We like him, and he was bred to be liked. Many of the well-bred horses don’t turn out to be much cop, but hopefully this horse will. You hoped he could get to this stage.

“We would have been disappointed if he hadn’t won his maiden, and he has now won his Listed race, but he has now got to step up markedly to be competitive in the Derby.

“The trip should be up his street, because his mum won the Oaks – I’d be surprised if there was any problem with the trip.

Mohaafeth has been a revelation this spring, with three increasingly emphatic victories.

The rain will not have helped his cause, and it is possible his participation may depend on no further deterioration. But Haggas is not fazed at least that the Shadwell Estate-owned colt has a draw towards the inside.

“There’s not a lot I can do about the draw (stall four) – it is what it is,” he said.

“That’s for the jockey to work out.

“When we bought him as a yearling, he was our ‘Derby’ horse in big inverted commas. When he went to Lingfield in March (for a novice, first time out, after two defeats last year) I didn’t think he was our Derby horse.

Mohaafeth was a easy winner at Newmarket
Mohaafeth was an easy winner at Newmarket (John Walton/PA)

“But I thought he could be an Ascot horse, and it was really that effort in the Newmarket Stakes that appealed to everyone and brought him into focus.

“He’s got a chance of staying the trip. I’ve always felt it’s not a question of seeing it out, but more if they are going to improve.

“Whether he’s going to end up being better at a mile and a half than 10 furlongs, I’m not so sure, but there’s no better race to find out. We’re very keen to give it a go.

“He could be flattered or he could be improving quite quickly. There’s no greater race than the Derby – whether he’s up to it we’ll find out, but he was visually very impressive at Newmarket.

“The handicapper’s view was that it was impressive, and he stuffed him up 19lb. So we’ll see, but he needs to be 120 to win the Derby.”

Third Realm put in a notably professional performance to beat Adayar on only his third start in the Lingfield Derby Trial.

Varian said: “He’s not a big horse – he’s a small-to-medium colt. He’s very well balanced, he’s got gate speed and I’m quite confident he’s going to get the trip.

“We always liked him. He had a setback in May or June last year – otherwise he could have easily run at the back-end of the summer.

“We had to wait, and he only had the one start in November, but he did very well through the winter – he thrived in January, February and March.

“We had him earmarked for a Derby trial, and we’re obviously delighted with how he’s progressed over the last two months.”

Third Realm has the evident disadvantage of being drawn in stall two – but so too was Varian’s sole previous Derby runner, 2012 runner-up Kingston Hill.

“He’s versatile (tactically),” the trainer added, of Third Realm.

“He’s got gate speed, he can relax in behind horses and has shown a turn of foot. He’s pretty straightforward, and I think he’s the type of horse Andrea (Atzeni) could put anywhere – which is comforting, going into a race like this.

“The Derby is always a test of horses, because it comes early in the season, but I think he’s shown his worth – he deserves to be in the line-up.”

Gear Up must improve from his performance in the Dante Stakes
Gear Up must improve from his performance in the Dante Stakes (David Davies/PA)

Charlie Johnston, assistant trainer of Gear Up, retains faith too – despite an underwhelming return when only fifth in the Dante.

“It was not a bad run, but it was not a particularly good run – it was just OK,” he said.

“I thought he was in a reasonably good pitch, and I would have not swapped him three furlongs out. I thought of those chasing the leaders he looked the most likely at that point.

“The eventual first and second had another gear than him from two out, and he plugged on at one pace at the finish. He is sure to be better over an extra two furlongs.”

Andrew Balding’s Chester Vase winner Youth Spirit is bidding to go one better than the yard’s Khalifa Sat did when a 50-1 runner-up, in the same colours, 12 months ago.

The Kingsclere trainer said: “We always liked the horse, and it was a relief that he stayed the mile and a half at Chester well – because that was the one big question mark.

“He is one of the few in the field we know will get the trip, and that has got to be to his advantage in a very deep race that will take some winning.

“It would be lovely if we could go one better than last year – but the owner, trainer and jockey would be very satisfied with a podium finish.”

Cabaletta targeting Haydock heights in Pinnacle

Cabaletta bids to get back on the winning trail in the Betway Pinnacle Stakes at Haydock

Roger Varian’s filly won in Listed company at Newbury last summer, before going on to fill the runner-up spot in both the Group Two Lillie Langtry Stakes and the Group Three March Stakes at Goodwood.

She again had to make do with minor honours when third behind the impressive Queen Power in the Middleton Stakes at York on her seasonal reappearance – and connections are hoping the application of blinkers for the first time will have the desired effect on Saturday.

Chris Richardson, managing director for owner-breeders Cheveley Park Stud, said: “We were a little bit disappointed in the way she performed at York. She just looked to be not really concentrating, so we’re trying something different to try to help her focus.

“I hope the blinkers don’t make her run too free, but she certainly looked to be dossing in the Middleton.

“I think the step (back) up to a mile and a half is what she needs, and hopefully we can see her get back on track.

“Based on what we’ve seen at home, we’re hoping to see an improvement.”

With Alpinista a significant non-runner, Cabaletta is set to face five rivals at Group Three level on Merseyside – Oriental Mystique (David Simcock), La Lune (Henry Candy), Salsada (Jedd O’Keeffe), Wait For The Lord (David Elsworth) and National Treasure (Ben Haslam).

A field of quality sprinters will do battle in the Listed Betway Achilles Stakes, including last year’s winner El Astronaute.

John Quinn’s evergreen sprinter defends the crown he won when the 2020 edition was run at Doncaster, having also made a successful return to action at Chester three weeks ago.

“He’s come out of Chester very well and he’s in good nick,” said Quinn.

“He doesn’t mind a bit of ease in he ground – he goes on any ground. We’re very happy with him.”

Connections of Motagally are pleased to see the five-year-old make his comeback, following a 227-day absence.

It will be a belated seasonal reappearance for the Charlie Hills-trained gelding, who was last seen finishing third at Kempton in October.

“He’s been held up this year, but he’s a decent horse at his best, so it would be good just to get him back out again,” said Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Shadwell Estate Company.

Andrew Balding’s King’s Lynn renews rivalry with El Astronaute – after filling the runner-up spot at Chester – while Edward Bethell runs stable star Moss Gill, whose most recent run was down the field in the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan.

Oaks trio giving Varian plenty of cause for optiism

Roger Varian is relishing the prospect of firing a three-pronged assault on the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom next week.

The Newmarket handler is responsible for the two shortest-priced British-trained runners for the fillies’ Classic in Zeyaadah and Teona, while Save A Forest is viewed as a lively outsider.

All three were beaten in their trials, but Zeyaadah in particular was a little unlucky when charging home from an uncompromising position to fill the runner-up spot behind Dubai Fountain in the Cheshire Oaks.

“I was delighted with her (at Chester) – I thought it was a very good run,” said Varian.

“The visual impression was very good. She was a shade unlucky. Take nothing away from the winner, but I think you could make a case for Zeyaadah winning that day if she could have got running a little bit earlier in the straight.

“I know Jim (Crowley) got a mighty feel from her – he was buzzing about her when he got off.”

Teona was a big mover in the Oaks market earlier in the year amid reports of sparkling workouts on the Newmarket gallops.

The nine-length winner of a Newcastle maiden in November, the daughter of Sea The Stars was much too keen to do herself justice when third on her return to action in the Musidora Stakes at York.

Varian added: “We take the positives out of the Musidora run. These are trials at the end of the day and if you’re going to get things wrong it’s better to do it in the trial than on the big day.

“She’s a big, strong, energetic filly who had a lot of fizz on the day at York. She got a little upset in the starting gate and over-raced a little bit off that very steady gallop.

“She made a nice move in the straight and then probably got tired in the last 100 yards. I thought there were a lot of positives to take from the race and she’s trained very well since.

“Of course the Oaks presents a different sort of challenge, (but) I think she’s extremely talented and I hope that on the day she won’t make the sort of juvenile mistakes she made at York.”

Save A Forest is a much bigger price to claim Oaks glory at 40-1.

Save a Forest at Lingfield
Save a Forest at Lingfield (John Walton/PA)

However, Varian feels his dual winner merits her place in the line-up after finishing a close second in the Lingfield Oaks Trial.

“She’s great. She’s a filly who has taken a giant step forward after start of her career and I would anticipate another good step forward from Lingfield,” said the trainer.

“Her run at Lingfield was very good. I thought she was going to win most of the way up the straight and I think she just hit one of the ridges wrong about a furlong from home, which just threw her off stride and perhaps stopped her winning.

“She’s an interesting filly. She’s very laid back at home and doesn’t give us any clues in her home work, but I love animals who with each run take a step forward and the exciting thing with her is you don’t know when she’s going to reach her ceiling.

“However she runs in the Oaks, I’d be almost guaranteeing it will be a good deal better than her run at Lingfield because that’s the pattern of her progress.

Roger Varian is in a strong position ahead of the Oaks
Roger Varian is in a strong position ahead of the Oaks (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I’m very happy with her condition and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see her run a nice race.”

Varian was unsurprisingly non-committal when asked which filly he felt gave him the best chance of victory, saying: “I couldn’t split them – it would unfair to do so.

“They’re all very different, but the three of them were having a pick of grass in the paddock on Wednesday afternoon and when a rare bit of sunshine broke out they looked outstanding in their coats and in their condition.

“I felt if you just had one of them going into the race you’d be quite happy with your card, so to have three who I think are all deserving of their place in the line-up is exciting.”

Varian looking forward to ‘cool dude’ Third Realm playing his part in intriguing Derby

Roger Varian is confident Third Realm possesses all the tools required to make his presence felt in a “fascinating” renewal of the Cazoo Derby at Epsom on Saturday week.

The multiple Group One-winning trainer has surprisingly saddled just one previous runner in the premier Classic, with subsequent St Leger hero Kingston Hill filling the runner-up spot behind Australia in 2014.

In Third Realm Varian believes he has finally unearthed another legitimate contender, with the Sea The Stars colt having earned himself a shot at Derby glory with victory in the Lingfield Derby Trial earlier in the month.

“I did think he’d go and run a nice race (at Lingfield), but he’d only had two starts – and when you jump from a novice straight into a Derby trial, often they come up short because it’s a big ask on a horse and they’re hard races to win,” said the Newmarket handler.

“Having trained horses long enough and been disappointed often, I don’t think you ever go into those races too confident, but I really liked how he trained between Nottingham and Lingfield and I was obviously delighted with how it panned out and the ability he showed.”

While Third Realm passed the post with just over a length in hand over Adayar at Lingfield, Varian feels the winning margin underestimates his superiority to his rivals on the day.

He added: “He came down the hill very well. I think what I was really impressed with was the ease with which he took himself into contention – the visual impression he gave me at the bottom of the hill was that he just looked the best horse in the race.

“When he got to the front he probably got a bit lonely and he had to dig deep in the end, but it was only his third start and I thought if David (Egan) had waited longer and produced him with a furlong to run, he might have won even more impressively.

“I think he’s got an outstanding attitude for a race like the Derby. He seems to conserve energy – he’s not a flashy worker at home and just does what you ask him to.

“He wasn’t distressed after Lingfield in any way and his recovery was very quick. He’s got a very relaxed way of racing and I think that’s vital in these big races.

“We’re still to learn whether he’s got the engine to bring home the Derby, but I think he’s got the mind for it.

“A lot of the boxes you want ticked going into the race he ticks. We’ve been very happy with his training since Lingfield – Andrea (Atzeni) actually rode him on Wednesday morning in his last serious bit of work and was very impressed with the horse.

“We’re very much looking forward to the day. He’s a relaxed character and a bit of a cool dude, so I would be hopeful he’ll handle whatever Epsom throws at him.”

Third Realm is a best-priced 14-1 in a Derby market headed by Aidan O’Brien’s pair of Bolshoi Ballet and High Definition.

Roger Varian has high hopes for Third Realm
Roger Varian has high hopes for Third Realm (Joh Walton/PA)

Others in the mix include Irish 2,000 Guineas hero Mac Swiney, the promising John Leeper and Dante winner Hurricane Lane.

Varian said: “I think it’s a fascinating Derby and a very good Derby. Time will tell, of course, but if you look at the horses coming from Ireland and the horses in Newmarket you could make a case for different reasons, it looks intriguing.

“We’re delighted to be involved in it. I think it’s a Derby that if I wasn’t involved, I’d be super excited to watch, because there are lots of different types of horses in the mix.

“I truly believe the Derby is one of the most iconic races our industry across the globe has on offer. It will always be the pinnacle of the test of a horse, the ability of a horse, the jockey’s ambition and the trainer’s ambition.”

Royal run a possibility for Haydock hero Raadobarg

Royal Ascot may beckon for “class act” Raadobarg after he completed his hat-trick impressively in the Join Casumo Today Silver Bowl Handicap at Haydock.

Roger Varian’s colt produced a very smart turn of foot under Jack Mitchell to settle matters in very testing conditions, staying on well in the final furlong to win by a length and a quarter from Seasett.

It was a performance which puts the Britannia Stakes on the agenda next month, and Mitchell’s appraisal of the 11-2 winner’s talents underlined those possibilities.

The winning jockey said: “He’s a progressive horse, and he loves those underfoot conditions obviously – I think that’s a bit of a key.

“But he’s got a great mind – you can do whatever you want with him. He’s just improving.

“Obviously it was a big step up in class today, but he’s shown he can participate at that level.”

Raadobarg, in the increasingly familiar Amo Racing Limited colours of Kia Joorabchian, was taking his career record to three wins in four starts.

Asked about the prospect of heading to the Britannia, Mitchell added: “His homework from (his previous victory at) Thirsk has got better and better. He’s a class act in his own right.

“He’s obviously a candidate for that sort of race. He’s got a great mental state to go forward for those big handicaps.

“I wouldn’t be looking to run him on anything with firm in it – he just seems to relish it a bit easier underfoot.”

The owner’s representative Emily Scott voiced a similar proviso, as she confirmed plans.

She said: “Roger (Varian) was hoping he would run well to get in the Britannia, where he should get every yard of the stiff mile.

“He’s relished the conditions – and if the wet summer continues, we hope we can have more success.”

Roger Varian secured a landmark winner
Roger Varian secured a landmark winner (John Walton/PA)

For Varian it was a 1,000th career success and he said: “That is our 1,000th winner in total including international winners.

“It is a great landmark to reach. I owe all of the owners, past and present, a thanks for their support and all the team at home working so hard.”

Oisin Murphy made a flying start to the card, with a double on the board after the first two races.

He completed it on 4-1 favourite Molls Memory, who was held up last early before picking her way through to just deny admirable front-runner Ffion – getting up to win by a neck in the Casumo Horse Racing And Sports Betting Handicap for trainer Ed Walker.

Murphy said: “She relaxed well.

“In the straight it was a little bit tricky, because one group stayed very much far side and the other edged towards the middle, and I just wanted to get a clear, uninterrupted run.

“She found plenty for pressure, and hit the line well. She relishes this ground.

“The trainer had a great York (Dante meeting), and his horses are flying.”

The dual champion jockey was also delighted to be racing in front of a Saturday crowd again, adding: “I am pleased to see the crowds back in – it’s been a long time without atmosphere.”

Classic Lord was a well-backed and determined winner of the opening Casumo Proud To Support British Racing Handicap under Murphy, for trainer Andrew Balding.

The 3-1 shot arrived from off the pace to challenge down the far rail and get the better of long-time leader Mystical Dawn by three-quarters of a length.

The most recent previous winner of the corresponding race was subsequent St Leger runner-up Sir Ron Priestley, in 2019.

Classic Lord has a long way to go before approaching those heights, but Murphy was impressed by his attitude in the very testing conditions.

Classic Lord and Oisin Murphy (right) won the opening Casumo Proud To Support British Racing Handicap at Haydock
Classic Lord and Oisin Murphy (right) won the opening Casumo Proud To Support British Racing Handicap at Haydock (Tim Goode/PA)

“We liked this horse last year,” he said.

“He won at Pontefract and Goodwood, and I thought he was a bit better than (his current rating of) 78.

“He’s obviously improved from his run at Chester. He goes through soft ground, and I hope he’ll have a good year.

“He’s a likeable horse – an easy ride, and he stays well. It’s a war of attrition on that ground.”

John Quinn is another trainer with Royal Ascot on his mind after his filly Frankenstella returned to winning form in the Download The Casumo App Today Handicap.

Quinn nominated the marathon test of the Ascot Stakes next, on day one of the showpiece meeting, following 7-1 shot Frankenstella’s length victory from Rajinksy.

Jockey Jason Hart was rewarded for his patience as Frankenstella eventually stayed on best over two miles, and the North Yorkshire handler said: “She was in the process of running a big race at York (last time), and she went between two and just got stopped.

“She’s a big animal, and couldn’t get going again. But she came out of the race well, and we thought this trip, track and a bit of ease in the ground would suit her.

“All being well maybe, it will be the two-and-a-half-mile handicap at Royal Ascot – that’s the next plan.”