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Leopardstown mission for Sherbet Lemon

Sherbet Lemon will bid to bounce back from Classic disappointment in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Stanerra Stakes at Leopardstown.

Archie Watson’s filly earned herself a crack at last month’s Cazoo Oaks at Epsom with victory in the Lingfield trial, but could then finish only ninth behind the brilliant winner Snowfall.

Sherbet Lemon steps up in trip but down in class for Thursday evening’s Group Three feature in Ireland – and hopes are high that she can make the trip from Britain worthwhile under record-breaking rider Hollie Doyle.

The daughter of Lemon Drop Kid is owned by Apple Tree Stud, which is managed by former leading National Hunt jockey Robert ‘Choc’ Thornton.

He said: “You’ve got to be hopeful.

“She bombed out in the Oaks a little bit – but I’d put that down to immaturity, I think.

“This is an easier assignment. Archie is happy with her, which is the main thing, and we’ve got Hollie on board.

“Fingers crossed she should go and run a big race and go very close, I hope.”

The three-year-old, one of two British challengers along with Roger Varian’s Believe In Love, will be sporting cheekpieces for the first time.

Thornton added: “Archie wanted to put the cheekpieces on. I don’t think there’s any issues attitude-wise, but they might just sharpen her up a little bit.

“People don’t like putting cheekpieces on mares, but I’ve got no issues with it – it’s better to go and win a race with a sheep on their head than finish second without!”

Aidan O’Brien’s pair High Heels and Glinting and the Dermot Weld-trained Federica Sophia also feature in an eight-strong field.

Sherbet Lemon out to do Apple Tree proud in Oaks

Sherbet Lemon will be Apple Tree Stud’s first Classic contender when she lines up for the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom.

A 28-1 winner of this month’s Listed Novibet Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes at Lingfield, Sherbet Lemon vastly outran those odds to win by three-quarters of a length under Paul Mulrennan.

That performance bolstered connections’ confidence in targeting the Oaks on June 4, a contest for which the grey is a general 33-1 chance.

Former leading National Hunt jockey Robert ‘Choc’ Thornton manages the Apple Tree racing and stud operation for owner Paul Dunkley, and reports Sherbet Lemon in fine form for her Classic tilt.

“She’s very well, and we’re really looking forward to next Friday,” he said.

“She’s done some work – she did a gallop on Friday and she’s absolutely fine.

“It’s just a case of keeping her ticking over for the big day.”

Hollie Doyle, stable jockey to trainer Archie Watson, rode Sherbet Lemon to her maiden success at Newcastle in February and is lined up to take the ride again after missing the filly’s last two runs because of commitments for her retained owner Imad Alsagar.

May has been unusually damp, but Thornton is not concerned by the prospect of testing conditions following the filly’s performances on Newcastle’s all-weather track, good ground at Wetherby and soft at Lingfield.

“She stays and she seems quite versatile,” he said.

“She won on the all-weather at Newcastle, and it was quick ground at Wetherby when she was fourth.

“She got no run at all, and I was actually very pleased with the way she ran that day – because she stayed on really well, and we know there were traffic problems.

Sherbet Lemon and Paul Mulrennan on their way to winning the Novibet Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes at Lingfield
Sherbet Lemon and Paul Mulrennan on their way to winning the Novibet Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes at Lingfield (John Walton/PA)

“Then at the Oaks trial, the Listed race at Lingfield, she was fantastic.

“She travelled on soft ground, and Lingfield is undulating and possibly as close as you can get to Epsom away from Epsom.”

Thornton’s only worry is the possibility that the Oaks may be run at an unsuitably fast pace from the off, with his filly more suited to a late burst of speed.

“We’d hope we have a good each-way chance – if she could finish fourth or fifth then she’d have run very well,” he said.

“My only slight concern is the possibility that we haven’t got the tactical speed early – in Group Ones they go a good gallop.

“We wouldn’t want her in top gear all the way, so we may have to sit and suffer at some stage early on just to find her rhythm and find her gear, and then she should be staying on at the end.”

Apple Tree is based close to Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire, and Sherbet Lemon’s Lingfield win was its first at Listed level.

Sherbet Lemon booked her Classic ticket with her Lingfield success
Sherbet Lemon booked her Classic ticket with her Lingfield success (John Walton/PA)

For that success she is rewarded with the all-important ‘black type’, a marker of class that will prove valuable when she eventually joins the stud’s band of broodmares.

“I thought to myself the other day that she’s done her job already,” said Thornton, who announced his retirement in 2015 following a highly-successful riding career.

“If they all won a maiden and then a Listed race and black type, your job’s done.

“Anything she does now is a bonus, so hopefully we can sit back and enjoy it.”

Sherbet Lemon will not be rushed to the breeding sheds, however.

Thornton said: “There are plenty of options for her to go at throughout the rest of the season – win, lose or draw.

“If she’s not up to that Group One class, there’s a good programme and there are French races as well.

“You’d have to give her a go as a four-year-old. I’m looking a long way ahead, but she’s still quite raw – and I think there’s a bit more to come.”

Sweet success for Sherbet Lemon in Oaks Trial

Rank outsider Sherbet Lemon claimed top honours in the Novibet Oaks Trial at Lingfield.

A winner at prohibitive odds on her racecourse debut at Newcastle in February, Archie Watson’s filly was last seen finishing fourth behind the well-bred Oaks contender Noon Star in novice company at Wetherby last month.

Stepping up to Listed class, the American-bred filly was a widely unconsidered 28-1 shot in the hands of Paul Mulrennan, but raced close to the pace throughout and battled her way to the front in the home straight.

There were still plenty in with a chance of victory entering the final furlong, but it was Sherbet Lemon who saw out the near mile-and-a-half trip well to prevail by three-quarters of a length from Save A Forest, with Ocean Road best of the rest in third.

Coral reacted to the surprise result by cutting Sherbet Lemon to 25-1 from 50-1 for the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom on June 4.

The winner is owned by Apple Tree Stud, which is managed by former leading National Hunt jockey Robert ‘Choc’ Thornton.

He said: “She wasn’t far behind John Gosden’s horse (Loving Dream) at Wetherby last time. She was favourite for the race today (finished fifth) and there were extenuating circumstances for our filly, as she was stood in the stalls for 10 minutes and got shuffled back.

“We thought she’d run well today, but she’s surprised us that she’s won.”

Sherbet Lemon is bound for Epsom
Sherbet Lemon is bound for Epsom (John Walton/PA)

Asked whether Epsom would be next on the agenda, Thornton added: “I think we sort of have to, don’t we?

“I’m not sure how many chances (you get) to do that type of thing – it’s a dream to have runners in those type of races.

“She’s handled all types of ground and handled the undulations today, so we may as well have a go.

“She’ll stay galloping, so you never know, she could run into a place.”

Apple Tree Stud were completing a double on the card following the earlier success of the Alan King-trained Inchicore (5-2) in the 20 Sports Welcome Offer At Novibet Handicap.

Thornton said: “That filly looks like she’s destined for black type as well, so it’s been a great day for the breeding operation.”