Tactical performance sets up Royal Ascot return

Tactical set up a return to Royal Ascot as he provided the Queen with a poignant winner in the bet365 European Free Handicap at Newmarket.

Successful at the Royal meeting last season, the Andrew Balding-trained Toronado colt had questions to answer as his form had tailed off.

When Oisin Murphy had his original path blocked by Adam Kirby on Royal Scimitar he looked like being an unlucky loser, as Naval Crown attempted to make all. But William Buick’s mount drifted off the rail, allowing Tactical just enough room to get up and win by a neck.

John Warren, the Queen’s bloodstock adviser, said: “Andrew and I had been discussing with the Queen about his trip and we needed to find out if he was a Jersey horse, a St James’s Palace one or Commonwealth Cup horse.

“Today was a learning mission to see if we’d come back to six (furlongs), but he’s proved seven is no problem so I think all roads lead to Ascot for perhaps the Jersey. He’ll probably have an entry in the St James’s.

“It’s been our imponderable over the winter why his form tailed off, there were mitigating circumstances in the Morny and perhaps he lost his way after that.

“He’d been working very well at home and Andrew was very happy with him. He’s trained on nicely.”

Murphy said: “Normally when you get stopped here it’s the end of your race, but watching the replay it didn’t perhaps seem as abrupt as it felt.

“Newmarket’s uphill finish means it’s the slowest part of the race which meant I was able to catch William.

“As he relaxes so well I wouldn’t rule out a mile, but at this time of year there are better options over seven.”

Hollie Doyle produces Desert Dreamer (left) to win the opener
Hollie Doyle produces Desert Dreamer (left) to win the opener (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The day started with another big-priced winning debutant as Stuart Williams’ Desert Dreamer left some better-fancied runners in her wake to win the bet365 British EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes.

Following on from 150-1 and 28-1 juvenile winners already this week, the daughter of Oasis Dream was sent off at 25-1.

She still had plenty to do coming out of the dip, but Hollie Doyle did not even need to pick up her whip to win by three-quarters of a length from another 25-1 chance, Bellarena Lady.

“We hadn’t had a juvenile winner on the Rowley Mile in 136 tries I believe, but I was pleased with her,” said Williams.

“She’s been very straightforward since the day we got her and I did fancy her, but when I got here I found out there were half a dozen that were fancied so I’d have been happy with mid-div!

“I hope she’s an Ascot filly, we’ll take her somewhere else first, the National Stakes at Sandown or the Marygate at York, and then hopefully we can think of Ascot after that.

Amanda Perrett’s Count Otto continued his good recent all-weather form back on the turf in the bet365 Handicap Stakes.

Count Otto (centre) brought his all-weather form to the turf
Count Otto (centre) brought his all-weather form to the turf (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Third in the apprentice race at Lingfield on Good Friday, he managed to hold off the late lunge of Chil Chil by a neck.

“He’s a wonderful little horse, he had an injury after Epsom last summer when something galloped into the back of him and that gave him a holiday,” said Perrett.

“He’s come back well since then and it’s great to see him do it on the turf.”

She added: “He’s run in the consolation Stewards’ Cup twice before and that might be his aim again or it would be even better if he got in the big one.”

William Haggas enjoyed a treble on the day
William Haggas enjoyed a treble on the day (Nigel French/PA)

Having won the Earl Of Sefton with My Oberon and the Nell Gwyn with Sacred, William Haggas completed a treble in the closing 10-furlong handicap with Mohaafeth (6-4 favourite).

“I don’t think the handicapper could have given him much more than 85, but I think he’s a nice horse,” said Haggas.

“We wanted to see if he’d be effective at this trip, which he clearly is. How far he’ll go, I don’t know.

“There are two routes. The obvious race is the London Gold Cup at Newbury or he could go for a Derby trial. He’s in the Dante, but the Dee Stakes could be interesting for him.

“I’ll talk to Shadwell and see what they want to do, but it’s very hard when you have a horse rated in the 90s, like he will be, to run them in a stakes race.”