Summerghand finished with a flourish to deny hot favourite Oxted back-to-back victories in the bet365 Abernant Stakes at Newmarket.
The Group Three contest proved a springboard to Group One glory for Roger Teal’s Oxted last season as he successfully moved from the Rowley Mile to the July Course to win the July Cup.
Down the field in the Riyadh Dirt Sprint in Saudi Arabia on his latest appearance, the five-year-old was widely expected to bounce back to back to winning ways on his return turf – but odds-on backers had their fingers burnt by David O’Meara’s stable stalwart Summerghand.
With Ryan Moore taking over in the saddle from the sidelined Cieren Fallon, 8-13 chance Oxted travelled strongly for much of the five-furlong contest before battling his way to the lead inside the closing stages.
However, he was unable to resist the late charge of 7-1 shot Summerghand, who followed up his victory on All-Weather Championships Finals Day at Lingfield less than a fortnight ago by three-quarters of a length under Danny Tudhope.
Tudhope said: “It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s getting better with age, a lot of David’s do, especially sprinters.
“He’s a top-class sprinter and the visors have helped him as well the last two runs.
“The way the race panned out was perfect, he loves having cover and passing horses.
“He likes something to aim at, but in the big handicaps it just never fell right for him. The visors just seem to sharpen him up.”
Bruce Raymond, racing manager to owner Hamed Rashed Bin Ghedayer, said: “He’s been beautifully trained, he can’t do much at home, I’m sure, but he just needs a fast gallop and something to aim at.
“Sometimes it doesn’t go right and with a small field it’s a bit apprehensive, but it looked like we just had one to beat today.
“Bigger fields do suit, but then you need the luck to get a run.
“His form suggests he’s improving, I just think like most horses, as they get older they get over their problems and get stronger.”
I’m disappointed we didn’t win, but we can get him back – every horse gets beat
Oxted could possibly drop back to five furlongs, as Teal considers future options.
Teal said: “Ryan thinks he probably committed a little bit early and got in a little bit of a duel, he said he probably should have held on to him for another 100 yards or so, but like I said to Ryan, it probably wasn’t all that and the trip to Saudi might just have taken the edge off for the moment.
“We’ll freshen him up. I’m disappointed we didn’t win, but we can get him back – every horse gets beat. On ratings he should have been two or three lengths clear. He didn’t hit the hill like he did last year, but we’re not panicking.
“We’ll have a look at Royal Ascot and might even have a look at the King’s Stand. The way he’s travelling there and on Champions Day, at five he’d have won. We might have a look at both races (King’s Stand and Diamond Jubilee). It’s disappointing to get beat, but there you go.”