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Canonized takes Rockingham prize to cap busy campaign

Canonized signed off her busy season with a Listed victory in the Coral Beaten-By-A-Length Free Bet Rockingham Stakes at York.

William Haggas’ filly was last seen finishing a neck runner-up in the Group Three Firth Of Clyde Fillies’ Stakes at Ayr in September, when she was running for the second day in succession, and has gone close in a string of black-type contests throughout her 2021 campaign.

This time she was not for beating, battling up the centre of the track under Tom Marquand to prevail by three-quarters of a length at 7-2 from Witch Hunter.

“She’s a consistent filly and she deserves to have a good race next to her name,” said Marquand, who became York’s leading jockey for the season following the success.

“She had to be very tough there, but of course she went to Ayr on the Friday and the Saturday and justified that when she only just got beat in a Group Three.

“It’s very well deserved – and she’s done well to win because it’s quite testing ground, and she’s not a big filly.”

William Haggas' Canonized
William Haggas’ Canonized (PA)

“I was looking forward to riding her because she’s so consistent, and Mr Haggas loves having a winner at York.”

Bay Bridge returned from a lengthy absence to score an impressive victory in the Play Coral Racing-Super-Series For Free Handicap, for Richard Kingscote and Sir Michael Stoute.

The three-year-old was an easy winner of two early-season contests, taking a novice by five lengths and a handicap by four before a 147-day break during the height of the season.

Starting as the 15-8 favourite despite this spell away from the track, the colt showed he had lost none of his ability when triumphing by half a length on the Knavesmire.

“He’s been progressing very well,” said Kingscote.

“He’s had a bit of a break and he had a nice smooth run round there – that was good, and he’s done absolutely nothing wrong.”

Oh Herberts Reign made a winning handicap debut when taking the Watch Racing Free Online At Coral Nursery Handicap for Dane O’Neill and Richard Hannon.

The Acclamation colt was a novice winner earlier in the season but was well beaten when 10th in the Weatherbys Scientific £200,000 2-Y-O Stakes at Doncaster.

This step up to a mile saw him triumph at 16-1, crossing the line two and a quarter lengths ahead of Caio Shark.

Richard Fahey’s Blenheim Boy was then announced the winner of the Coral ebfstallions.com Novice Stakes following a photo finish.

Starting at 25-1 under Tony Hamilton, the Churchill colt ran keenly and was eventually able to hunt down The Cookstown Cafu and get the better of the long-time leader by just a short head on the line.

Fergal O’Brien’s Gumball produced a winning Flat performance when taking the Coral Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap as 9-4 favourite under Hollie Doyle.

The grey gelding is better known for his jumps exploits and was previously trained to Graded level by Philip Hobbs before joining O’Brien.

Partnered by Doyle, the seven-year-old was given a bold, front-running ride and held off a challenge from Buriram to ultimately triumph by a head.

Gumball after his York success
Gumball after his York success (PA)

“It was a great training performance there from Fergal,” said Doyle.

“He settled beautifully, he had it easy enough on the front end – and he went through the gears nicely.

“He had to dig deep that last furlong or so. I thought I might just have got pipped on the line, but he was very tough when he needed to be.

“I love riding these old stayers. He’s such a gentleman of a horse.”

Doyle then sealed a double when Something Enticing took the concluding race of York’s 2012 season, the Coral Proud Sponsors Of British Racing Finale Handicap, aboard 9-1 chance Something Enticing for David Elsworth.

Zechariah dominates Newbury rivals

Zechariah led from pillar to post in the 41st Running Of The Haynes, Hanson & Clark Conditions Stakes at Newbury.

The one-mile contest has an illustrious history, with some greats of the Turf on its roll of honour – including Shergar, Rainbow Quest, King’s Theatre and Nayef.

This year’s renewal looked another warm one on paper, with five of the six runners having already visited the winner’s enclosure and three protecting unbeaten records.

Down the field on his first couple of starts at Yarmouth and Newmarket, the Martyn Meade-trained Zechariah opened his account at the third attempt with a smooth success at Sandown in July – and was a 9-1 shot on his first start since under Tom Marquand.

Sent straight to the lead by Marquand, the son of Nathaniel kicked a couple of lengths clear inside the final two furlongs and never looked in any real danger of being caught from there on in.

Westover was two and a quarter lengths away in second, with 5-4 favourite King Of Conquest a further five and a half lengths back in third.

Freddie Meade, assistant trainer to his father, said: “I was really pleased with that – we’ve always thought a bit of him.

“We probably got him a bit wrong early season, because we thought he could be a Jersey Stakes horse and we maybe squeezed him a little bit early, and then he wasn’t himself at Newmarket.

“Since then he’s done nothing wrong. He was really impressive at Sandown and he was impressive again today.”

Freddie Meade (right) at Doncaster
Freddie Meade (right) at Doncaster (Dan Abraham/PA)

Zechariah holds multiple big-race entries, including the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster on October 23, but is not certain to run again this season.

“We were a bit worried about the ground today because it was soft at Newmarket, but I don’t think that was the reason there, he just wasn’t himself. He coped with it today, and Tom was really impressed,” Meade added.

“He’s in the Doncaster race, but we’ll just see how he comes out of this. He’s a horse that needs to develop over the winter, and I think he’ll then benefit from that next year.

“I think that might be it for the season, but we’ll talk to everybody and work back from next year. We’ll see what that race looks like.

“He’s by Nathaniel, so we’ll be looking at some nice middle-distance races next year.”

Ambassador highlights York treble for Tom Marquand

Tom Marquand took the riding honours at York with a 40-1 treble highlighted by the success of Great Ambassador in the Biowavego Garrowby Stakes.

The four-year-old took the step up to Listed company in his stride as he gave both Marquand and trainer Ed Walker back-to-back victories in the six-furlong event.

They struck with subsequent July Cup hero Starman 12 months ago and Great Ambassador repeated the trick in good style.

Third in the Stewards’ Cup and winner of a Newmarket handicap on his last two starts, the Exceed And Excel gelding took full advantage of this opportunity in a higher grade against three rivals.

Great Ambassador tracked the leader Gulliver in the early stages before Fivethousandtoone took it up. Leading in the final furlong, Great Ambassador (11-10 favourite) kicked away to hold main market rival Tabdeed by a length and a half.

“I was most impressed by the way he jumped into the race a furlong and half out and put it to bed. He didn’t do an awful lot in front but he seems to be thriving at the moment and Ed has got him in great order,” said Marquand.

“Hopefully he can carry on with his improved form and go on from today.”

It was a double for Walker and Marquand after the victory of Kindness (13-2) in the opening IRE Incentive, It Pays To Buy Irish EBF Novice Stakes.

The No Nay Never filly, wearing the Starman colours of owner David Ward, made it third time lucky when beating Buckshaw Village by half a length.

“It was great for the owners to have a home-bred winner at York,” said Marquand.

“It was a tough day yesterday with Starman beaten in a Group One. I was over the moon with the run but you’ve got that element of heartbreak as well. It’s the nature of the game and they’re super people to ride for.

“They both turned up today and had smiles on their face, happy to be there. It makes the job so easy. It’s always a pleasure riding a winner.”

Marquand went on to complete his treble on the William Haggas-trained Aramaic in the Hanson Springs Handicap.

The three-year-old colt, making his handicap debut on his fourth start, looks to have a bright future after he swept to an emphatic success over seasoned campaigner Pivoine by three and a quarter lengths.

“He’s a lovely horse. I rode him first time and then on his reappearance after a long time off at Kempton. He’s progressed really nicely,” Marquand added.

“He won at Musselburgh and today was a big step up and an extra furlong as well, but he’s shaping into a really nice horse. It’s great to ride for Sheikh Isa who is heavily involved in my sponsors, Bahrain’s Rashid Equestrian and Horseracing Club, so it’s nice to have a winner for them.”

Spice too hot for Pontefract rivals

Plenty of water has passed under the bridge since Dash Of Spice triumphed at Royal Ascot in 2018 but he finally returned to winning ways in the Mary Clark “Favourite Day Of The Year” Handicap at Pontefract.

Trained by David Elsworth in those days, he only raced once more that season when the beaten 3-1 favourite in the John Smith’s Cup won by Euchen Glen.

He picked up an injury there which kept him off the track for two full seasons and when he returned to action last year he looked a light of his former self.

Picked up for a relatively paltry £29,000 at the sales by the Ontoawinner syndicate and partners and sent to Adrian Keatley, he has had four runs for new connections, with a second at Pontefract in June his best effort.

Off a mark of 87, down from a high of 104, he was able to dictate under Tom Marquand and won by three lengths from Possible Man.

“It worked out perfect for him today. They left him alone in front and he’s got a lot of class this horse,” said Keatley.

“Hopefully there’s another one or two similar races like that in him this season and then we’ll put him away and hope for another good season next year with him.

“Tom has been lucky for us. It’s nothing against the other jocks, you can only ride what’s under you, but Tom used to ride him for his previous trainer Mr Elsworth and was very complimentary about him after.

“I’ve nothing immediately in mind for him, there might be something at the big Ayr meeting. I’ll speak with the owners but I wouldn’t be keen on over-racing him this season.”

David O’Meara’s Forced Entry had shown precious little in two starts to date but looked a different proposition in the Trevor Woods Memorial British EBF Novice Stakes.

Well beaten at both Carlisle and Lingfield, he looked much more professional on this occasion and was a cosy winner.

Forced Entry (grey) sees off all challengers
Forced Entry (grey) sees off all challengers (Tim Goode/PA)

Jason Watson, stepping in for Danny Tudhope who was riding in America on Saturday evening, always had the 7-1 chance in the box seat just on the outside of Where’s Diana and he quickened up to win by half a length.

Odds-on favourite Bloomington Bride got going too late and was just behind in third.

“I think he enjoyed the track, it’s quite a quirky place going up and down and I think he learned a lot in his last race at Lingfield,” said Watson.

“He’s got ability, I think he’s just been a bit too green to show it and he stayed on gamely today. But to be fair it probably was a bit of a surprise – a welcome one.”

Kevin Stott has enjoyed a good weekend as fresh from a double at Ripon, which included the Great St Wilfrid on Justanotherbottle, he teamed up with Sir Michael Stoute’s Duty Of Care for another winner.

A half-brother to Breeders’ Cup winner Expert Eye, he disappointed at Chelmsford last time out and got back on the winning trail.

The 2-1 joint-favourite did not have much in hand over fellow Newmarket raider, William Haggas’ Ready To Venture, but came out on top in a photo.

Stott said: “He’s a lovely, big horse and he’s done that really well. I’d say he wants further. He’ll get a mile and a half no problem.”

The Fergal O’Brien-trained Teqany (7-2) was second in the Elite Hurdle to Sceau Royal in November but since then has run exclusively on the Flat.

A winner at Chepstow last time out, his first success on the Flat, he made all once more for Dougie Costello.

O’Brien’s partner and assistant Sally Randell said: “He’s such a legend, we’ve had him three years and he’s never been out of the first four.

“He just loves winning, so while it was hard work last time, I did say to Dougie that he might have an easier ride this time because since Chepstow he’s been wild!

“His hurdle mark is so high that we thought going on the Flat was the obvious thing. Hopefully the handicapper doesn’t go mad.”

O’Meara doubled up when Alpha Cru (7-5 favourite) made most of the running under David Nolan in the Happy Retirement Mick Henshaw Novice Stakes.

“She’s done it nicely. We only got her a couple of months ago and she won a novice here and clearly improved for that. We’ll see what the handicapper does,” said O’Meara.

Sacred slices through Hungerford field

Sacred came with a pulsating charge from the rear of the field to take the BetVictor Hungerford Stakes at Newbury.

Running for the first time since finishing seventh in the 1000 Guineas, the filly stormed home to complete an amazing hour for the William Haggas stable.

The Newmarket trainer took Group races in Deauville with Cloudy Dawn and Dubai Honour before Sacred (6-1) completed a remarkable hat-trick.

Nando Parrado, fired up by first-time blinkers, was soon running freely in front with D’Bai, Dreamloper and Al Suhail close up.

Tom Marquand settled Sacred at the back and was able to weave his way through the pack and get to the lead in the final furlong.

Galloping on strongly, the Cheveley Park-owned three-year-old crossed the line a length clear of Laneqash, with Njord a length and a half away in third.

Haggas’ wife, Maureen, said: “When Ryan (Moore) won the Nell Gwyn on her he said it was liking riding a motor bike.

“We’ve timed her with the latest equipment at home and some of her figures are unbelievable.

“She’s in the City of York, but that is very quick and could undo all the good that’s happened for her break.

“Then there’s the Foret, but she would only go if it stayed dry.”

She added: “She grew two inches through the winter and I hope that after her light season the owners might keep her in training at four.”

Marquand was equally impressed, saying: “It feels there’s been a lot in between her last run in the Guineas and they said she was top class.

“To jump into the race like that was very impressive. She is a very good horse.”

Lilac Road foils Technique in Salisbury feature

Lilac Road lunged late to deny one-time Classic hope Technique victory in a thrilling renewal of the British Stallion Studs EBF Upavon Fillies’ Stakes at Salisbury.

Down the field in the Oaks at Epsom in early June, the Martyn Meade-trained Technique had since finished a close second in the Group Three Hoppings Stakes at Newcastle and an honourable fourth in the Group One Nassau Stakes at Goodwood just a fortnight ago.

Dropping down to Listed class in the hands of champion jockey Oisin Murphy, the daughter of Mastercraftsman was the 2-1 favourite to get back on the winning trail, but again had to make do with minor honours.

The market leader travelled strongly for much of the 10-furlong journey and looked likely to prevail after moving to the lead.

But Tom Marquand conjured a late rattle out of the William Haggas-trained Lilac Road (11-2) – making her first appearance since finishing sixth in the Hoppings Stakes – and the judge confirmed she had passed the post a head in front.

Haggas said: “I’m delighted with that. We decided to change tactics and it’s worked out well.

“We’ve been riding her differently at home. She’d been making the running a long time now and we thought she gave up quite quickly at Newcastle last time. We gave her a short break and she’s come back really well.

“That was really pleasing today – a career-best. Tom is riding brilliantly at the moment and gave that filly a lovely ride today.”

Considering future plans for Lilac Road, the Newmarket handler added: “I would think we’ll probably step back up to a Group race. I was just thinking actually where to go, but we’ll find somewhere.

“I think she likes quick-ish ground, so we’ll see.”

Jamie Osborne saddled a 100-1 winner at Salisbury
Jamie Osborne saddled a 100-1 winner at Salisbury (Simon Cooper/PA)

Proceedings got under way with division one of the Byerley Stud British EBF Novice Stakes, which saw 100-1 shot Boafo Boy make a winning debut under Shane Kelly.

Despite his huge odds, the victory came as no great surprise to trainer Jamie Osborne.

He said: “There was a time when I probably paid more attention to the markets than I do at the moment. I suppose if I had been paying attention to the market I would have been tempted to have a few quid on him at that price, just because it was so wrong.

“Oisin Murphy has ridden the horse work a few times and liked him. Oisin was actually quite keen to ride him today, but he had to ride Andrew Balding’s horse (War In Heaven, finished third). If Oisin had been riding, he would have been a 10-1 chance.

“The way I do the two-year-olds, they’re trained to improve for their first run. Our first time out strike-rate is poor and our second time out strike-rate isn’t too bad.

“He’s a nice horse and just because he’s won it doesn’t mean he isn’t going to improve.”

The Marcus Tregoning-trained Ribhi made a big impression in division two of the six-furlong contest.

Making his racecourse introduction in the hands of Jim Crowley, the 20-1 winner quickened up smartly to leave 10-11 favourite Buoyant trailing in his wake.

“He’d been working well. The only reservation I had was how green he’d be,” said Tregoning.

“He’s quite a big, immature horse, but he’s always shown plenty.

“He hasn’t got any big-race entries. You’d be sort of thinking you’d go for another novice or something, we’ll see.”

Starman proves class act in July Cup

Starman powered to victory for Ed Walker and Tom Marquand in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket.

Always held in the highest regard by his trainer – who took the brave decision not to run in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot when the heavens opened – the Duke of York Stakes winner went off 9-2 here and looked like he had a bit to do over a furlong out.

But once meeting the highest ground, Marquand’s mount found overdrive to beat favourite Dragon Symbol and defending champion Oxted by a length and a quarter and a short head in this famous Group One sprint.

Art Power, who had blazed a trail on the far side, was just behind in fourth place.

Walker, saddling his first Group One winner, said: “It’s great. It’s taken its time, but better late than never as they say.

“I always believed so much in this horse. I put a lot of pressure on myself and it’s great that belief has been vindicated.

“His only blip was on bad ground at Ascot last season and we’ve been proved to have made the right call in missing the Royal meeting.

“I hoped he’d win a Group One and we dreamed that he’ll be a sprinter of a generation.

“A horse that was going through the grades as quickly as he was, you have to dream.”

While normally unwavering in his faith of his stable star, Walker admitted to having some pre-race doubts ahead of his latest assignment.

“He was so professional at York and today I was really negative before the race. He was messing around (in the pre-parade ring) and if you’d spoken to me then I’d have been pretty doom and gloom,” the trainer added.

“You always dream with a horse like this. They’re all champions when they walk into the yard, but this horse has never let us down.”

The Lambourn handler has another smart sprinter on his hands in recent Group Three winner Came From The Dark, but he does not anticipate the pair locking horns.

Jockey Tom Marquand celebrates winning the July Cup on Starman
Jockey Tom Marquand celebrates winning the July Cup on Starman (David Davies/Jockey Club)

A potential next port of call for Starman could be the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock on September 4.

Walker said: “Came From The Dark has to avoid this guy. In my mind, they’re not in the same league.

“He’s a very good horse, Came From The Dark, but this guy has that brilliance. Came From The Dark has got guts and battles it out.

“I think Came From The Dark is more of a five-furlong horse – whereas with this guy, it looks like six is the absolute minimum.

“We’ll look at the Sprint Cup and the Prix Maurice de Gheest.”

It was a special result, too, for Marquand, who was quick to praise Walker and the winner – and also William Haggas.

The rider said: “He was pretty exceptional and has confirmed what Ed has been saying all week. I’m not going to lie – even I was thinking ‘am I over-rating him a little bit?’. That confidence was justified today, and you have to put him in the top tier of sprinting in Europe after that.

“It was an incredible performance. The last few days everyone has been coming in saying it is one of the best July Cups we have seen for a good while. For a horse that has had six runs, I thought he showed relative signs of inexperience still.

“Ed’s comments a week ago were bold, and it is fantastic Starman has justified them today. You have to have seen something pretty exceptional at home to make you think like that. No doubt nerves were kicking in the last 24 hours, and that is why Ed might have found a few negatives – and he did get a bit warm and had other things on his mind.

“But he is a top-class racehorse – that turn of foot he showed up the hill was nothing short of top class.”

Marquand added he felt lucky to have the chance to ride the horse, and that Haggas played his part.

He explained: “Any Group One is special, as they are hard to win, especially on a day like today. I’m very fortunate I ride for the William Haggas stable a lot now. There was a conversation of where I go today. Primarily William is my biggest supporter, and he had horses all over the country – and good horses at that.

“It makes life pretty tricky when it comes to things like that, because loyalty is pretty hard to find in the game, and I’ve got that from William. Today I think it just came to the fore what a great trainer and person he is in that he let me come here and ride Starman, because he had some pretty important horses elsewhere.

“Days like this are hard to come by, and it is fantastic he knew the significance of it.”

Dragon Symbol (right) was second again
Dragon Symbol (right) was second again (David Davies/PA)

Oisin Murphy, who had steered Starman to victory at York, was this time on board Dragon Symbol.

First past the post in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot before being demoted to the runner-up spot after he was found to have interfered with American challenger Campanelle, Archie Watson’s charge again had to make do with minor honours.

Murphy said: “I’m thrilled for Ed Walker. I was given the choice and I picked the wrong one, but I’m thrilled for their team – and they’re having a fantastic season.

“I hope Dragon Symbol will get his day – we could well look to France next potentially for the Prix Maurice de Gheest.”

Ametist flies late at Newmarket to put down Bunbury Cup marker

Ametist produced a storming late run to take his career record to four wins from five starts in the Join The Great Racing Welfare Cycle Handicap at Newmarket – putting himself at the head of the market for the Bunbury Cup.

Ridden by the bang in-form Tom Marquand, fresh from a treble at Salisbury on Wednesday, the William Haggas-trained four-year-old appeared to have a mountain to climb with two furlongs to run.

Marquand was rowing away, with only two rivals behind him, and there did not appear to be much response.

Fox Champion and Kimifive were in front, with Dulas and No Nonsense in the firing line too.

But on meeting the rising ground, Ametist (15-8 favourite) began to fly home and in the end won a little cosily from No Nonsense by three-quarters of a length.

Paddy Power responded by shortening him two points to be their 8-1 outright favourite for the Bunbury Cup, over course and distance next month.

Haggas said: “It was a shame he didn’t get in at Ascot. He was in everything, the Royal Hunt Cup and the Buckingham Palace – but he never got in. He did well there.

“He could go for the Bunbury Cup. Is he quick enough for seven? He might need a bit further.

“He was better today than he was last time at Newmarket, when we were a bit disappointed, and he gave me a fright. He has big powerful stride on him.

“He is not a bad horse and he is getting better. I don’t know how good he could be. He is well bred, and we have looked after him.”

Another potentially smart winner on the card was George Baker’s Passionova (7-1), who gave all her rivals in the Nooresh Juglall Memorial Fillies’ Novice Stakes 7lb and a beating.

Not seen since winning at Lingfield in February, when she had Baker dreaming of a tilt at the Sandringham at Royal Ascot, she has been out of action following a slight setback.

She will be stepped up in class for a Group Three at Glorious Goodwood next.

“She ran here with a penalty in a novice, but her options are very limited,” said Baker.

“She won well on her second run. She had a chip removed from a fetlock, which could have been an issue for her

“We knew she would come on for it – but to carry nine stone seven pounds against some pretty regally-bred types gives us hope going forward. I thought we would win a long way out – and we can now dream a little.

“We will look at something at Goodwood for her, because that is our local track, and that Group Three (Whispering Angel Oak Tree Stakes) would be the obvious race.”

Title-chasing Marquand bags Salisbury treble

Tom Marquand took the riding honours at Salisbury as the title-chasing jockey celebrated a treble.

Marquand currently sits in third place in the championship, behind title holder Oisin Murphy and William Buick.

His first winner came via Michael Bell’s above-average juvenile Dairerin (13-8 joint-favourite) in the Sergei Prokofiev Standing At Whitsbury Manor Auction Stakes

And he then teamed up with his boss William Haggas to win the feature Showcasing Standing At Whitsbury Manor Handicap on Johan and the Adaay Standing At Whitsbury Manor British EBF Maiden Stakes with Kolisi (7-2).

Tom Marquand riding Dairerin to an easy success
Tom Marquand riding Dairerin to an easy success (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Of Dairerin, who finished fourth in the Woodcote Stakes last time out, and on whom he made all the running, Marquand said: “It was a nice performance. Realistically I think the sticky ground played to his strengths and it helped being able to get on the speed.

“It was a pretty nice performance because what I liked was that the more I got into him the more he found which is always nice.”

Johan has been a solid performer for a number of seasons now and having dropped down to a mark of 100 he returned to winning ways, seeing off Variyann by half a length.

“He’s a lovely horse, but he just needs that bit of give in the ground to be really be seen at his best,” said Marquand.

“He had that today and being up with the pace really helped – it made him tough to beat.”

When asked if Johann was up to winning in Listed company, which he has been tried in before, the championship-chasing jockey replied: “I suppose on the right ground on the right day the form that he can run up to at his best isn’t a mile off, but he would probably have to find a bit more.”

A son of Derby winner Harzand, Kolisi seems to have made an impression on Marquand, getting off the mark at the third time of asking on the step up to 10 furlongs.

“He’s improved with each run and I was really happy with him, getting that extra couple of furlongs under his belt really played to his strengths,” said Marquand.

“He probably bumped into not a bad horse (Ranchero) at Nottingham (when second) but having the extra trip, he showed a nice bit of toe and wasn’t doing an awful lot in front.

“I think he’s a really nice horse who had progressed. He should be a decent handicapper and one to look forward to.”

No chance of the jockeys at Salisbury forgetting to weigh in
No chance of the jockeys at Salisbury forgetting to weigh in (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Another decent winner on the card was Roger Charlton’s Pleasant Man (7-1) who bounced back from a below-par display in the Chester Vase to win the Whitsbury Manor Stud Bibury Cup Handicap for Jason Watson.

Ralph Beckett’s Seattle King (100-30 favourite) was a well-backed winner on debut in the Due Diligence Standing At Whitsbury Manor British EBF Blagrave Maiden Stakes.

Alenquer proves his class in King Edward

Alenquer backed up the form of his Sandown win with a stylish success in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.

William Haggas’ colt won the bet365 Classic Trial at the Esher track with subsequent Derby winner Adayer back in second, and connections had been considering supplementing him for Epsom or going for the German Derby.

However, a setback meant those thoughts were short lived and now they may be wondering what might have been.

Sent off the 13-8 favourite, Tom Marquand was happy to watch the race develop from his position at the rear of the small field as Bellocio and Tasman Bay forced the pace.

Given the testing conditions the race known colloquially as the ‘Ascot Derby’ could have turned into a war of attrition – but Alenquer moved smoothly up to challenge before quickening up smartly.

Being by German sire Adlerflug the ground was never going to be an issue and he pulled away nicely to win by a length and a half, with Tasman Bay running a cracker in second for former Olympic eventer Sir Mark Todd.

Betfair cut the winner to 12-1 from 25s for the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes back at Ascot in July.

Haggas – not present as he was preparing for Newmarket’s evening meeting – said: “It was terrific and I’m really pleased.

“I think Tom only gave him a couple of flicks because it was heavy ground, but I don’t think he needed to, it looked like he was always going to win.

“I’m not sure about the St Leger, I think he’s a bit quicker than that but all options are open. He’s not a today horse, he’s very much for the longer term as well so we’ve lots of exciting options.”

Haggas won the Hampton Court Stakes on Thursday with Mohaafeth, with at one stage both horses in the Derby reckoning before ultimately neither ran.

“With Mohaafeth I don’t know what trip will be his best, he’s pretty good at a mile and a quarter,” said Haggas.

“The Irish Derby is next weekend so Alenquer won’t be going there, he isn’t in the Grand Prix de Paris, but we could go there. It is such a pain getting to France at the minute, but it’s on July 14 so it’s pretty good timing.

“We could supplement as it’s a good race.”

Marquand added: “It’s very wet. I know the winning jockey always says the ground is better than it is, but we’re not going in all that far down the back, it’s just that surface water that’s flicking up and I’m so glad we’re racing today, obviously.

“I got nice instructions off William, he said get him relaxed, find a rhythm and see how you go, don’t go too soon and be confident. If ever there’s a way to ride a good horse, it’s doing that. He was wonderful, and relaxed into a perfect rhythm.

“They couldn’t run in the Dante, but they could have chucked him into the Derby at the last second, but patience is always pretty much key with horses.

“He stayed a mile and a half on soft ground extremely well, so I have no doubt William has some fancy ideas for him and I look forward to hearing them.

“I don’t care (about the rain), winning is winning isn’t it, and Ascot is Ascot!”

Oh This Is Us delivers last-gasp Diomed win

Oh This Is Us got up right on the line to narrowly Century Dream a third victory in the Cazoo Diomed Stakes.

The latter was dropping in class for a Group Three contest he won in 2018 and 2020 – and was always in the vanguard as Marie’s Diamond led the field along.

When James Doyle kicked on Simon and Ed Crisford’s 2-1 joint-favourite it looked to be a race-winning move, after Frankie Dettori and Duke Of Hazzard found themselves stuck down on the rail.

But the Richard Hannon-trained Oh This Is Us picked up smartly for Tom Marquand once he got out and saw daylight, and as he edged relentlessly closer, he just got there to win by a nose at 18-1.

Hannon said: “He’s my favourite (horse in the yard) and has been for some time.

“You never know when he’s going to pop up – he won at 66-1 at Ascot (in April).

“He’s never won a Group race before, so although there’s a Derby today, that’s probably mine!

“He’s won for something like eight different jockeys and Tom has won about seven on him – he’s just been a star.”

Considering future plans, he added: “He’s in the Royal Hunt Cup (at Royal Ascot), but we’ll find our way around the big meetings, like today, and be very kind to him.

“He deserved that today and it might set him up as a stallion.

“He drove the horse box here today and probably won’t retire until he’s 25!”

Mr Lupton adds York landmark to Fahey celebrations

Fresh from celebrating his 3,000th British winner on Tuesday evening, Richard Fahey saddled his 150th success at York when stable favourite Mr Lupton won the Churchill Tyres Handicap.

Now an eight-year-old, Mr Lupton has mixed it with some of the best sprinters around down the years but has always enjoyed the cut and thrust of big handicaps.

He had only four of the 18 runners behind him with a little over a furlong to run, when Bielsa hit the front, but he quickened up well under Paul Hanagan.

Woven, Danzan and 125-1 outsider Zargun all still had a chance – but Mr Lupton eventually won going away by a length. Danzan beat Zargun a nose for second, with it all getting a bit tight close home.

“That’s great to get 150 here. I’d like to get it again – but that probably won’t happen,” said Fahey.

“It wasn’t really until this morning I realised there are a lot of trainers I hold in very high esteem and have a lot of respect for and aren’t on the list.

“We’ve just got to carry on. I was still up at 10 to 4 this morning, so it makes no difference.”

“To do it with Mr Lupton is nice. He’s been a legend for us and has won some big races. He loves it when they go quick up front.

“I tipped it on the radio this morning, so I’ll be a hero!

“He’s getting too old for Group races. I’ll probably stick him in he Wokingham and see what happens.”

Ilaraab ridden by Tom Marquand (left) streaks clear to win the opener
Ilaraab, ridden by Tom Marquand (left), streaks clear to win the opener (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Ilaraab had earlier taken his winning streak to six with an impressive performance in the Sky Bet Race To The Ebor Jorvik Handicap.

The William Haggas-trained four-year-old ended the 2020 campaign with victory over the extended 10 furlongs on this course in October, and showed he was still on the upgrade when destroying this field of seasoned handicappers.

Tom Marquand had the son of Wootton Bassett in the last half dozen as Sam Cooke made the running with My Frankel and Glasses Up in the front rank.

Sam Cooke was reeled in at the business end, and Raymond Tusk hit the front, but llaraab (7-2 favourite) made relentless progress down the outside and was soon in control.

He bounded clear in the final furlong to score by three lengths from 40-1 runner-up Raymond Tusk. Throne Hall was half a length away in third place, with Win O’Clock fourth.

Marquand said: “The ground is drying out, and it could almost do with a sprinkling of rain to loosen it out a little.

“You wouldn’t know where the ceiling is for this lad – you couldn’t say he was putting it all on the line to get in front there.

“It wasn’t as if he got there on the bridle, and I almost expected him to do that. I’d only had the chance to win on him once, but he’s always impressed me in that he’d just do enough to win. I guess that is why he has won six on the bounce and still doesn’t look fully exposed.

“It’s a blessing that he’s got that trait, really.”

Haggas was not at York but said: “I don’t know what we’ll do with him next. I think the Hardwicke would be too big a jump straight away and the Tapster (at Goodwood) is too close. I’ve just got to dot a few I’s and cross a few T’s.

“Ground is important to him I think, today’s was as quick as he’d want it.”

Wobwobwob streaks clear at York
Wobwobwob streaks clear at York (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Marquand doubled up aboard the Adrian Keatley-trained Wobwobwob in the Sky Bet Handicap.

Third at Newmarket’s Craven meeting on his latest outing, the 7-1 shot went a couple of places better with a three-and-a-quarter-length verdict over Northern Express.

Keatley said: “We’ll take our time and see what the weather does, but first of all we’ll see what the handicapper does.

“One day he might be one for the Lincoln or something like that.

“He needs cut in the ground, so the handicaps over seven furlongs and a mile at the start and end of the season might suit.”

Bryan Smart was emotional following the victory of Project Dante (7-2) on debut in the British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes.

The Showcasing juvenile sported the colours of the late Reg Bond, with whom Smart went back a long way.

“He’s a lovely horse and he’s been very professional since we got him,” said the North Yorkshire trainer.

“When Reg was still alive he told me to go and buy him some nice horses. I did – we’ve run two, and they’ve both won (Bond Chairman the other), and we’ve two more to come.

“We’ll wait and see about Ascot – there’s a lot more to come from him, he looked a bit porky in the paddock. He’s tough, which is what you need in a two-year-old. That looked a hot race.

“We were all in tears. Reg and his family left me for a time, and these are the first ones since they came back.”

Flyin’ Solo made it two from two on turf when running away with the Conundrum HR Consulting Handicap.

David Menuisier’s four-year-old, who had won one of his four starts on the all-weather before last month’s Newbury success, outshone his 18 rivals.

Leading two furlongs out in the hands of Rossa Ryan, the 3-1 favourite scooted clear and was not hard pressed to score by two lengths from Propriety.

Ryan said: “From his maiden when he won, he would probably be unbeaten, but his next two runs on the all-weather caught him out.

“His transition to the grass has gone really well. I always thought he would be better on the grass.

“David thought a mile and a quarter might be a bit short. The last day we got away with it. Over a mile and a half, you’ve seen the true horse.

“He travelled super. I was able to put him where I wanted, but I had to do it the hard way. I had to go the long way round, but he’s going the right way.”

Ilaraab makes it six of the best

Ilaraab took his winning streak to six with an impressive performance in the Sky Bet Race To The Ebor Jorvik Handicap at York.

The William Haggas-trained four-year-old ended the 2020 campaign with victory over the extended 10 furlongs on this course in October, and showed he was still on the upgrade when destroying this field of seasoned handicappers.

Tom Marquand had the son of Wootton Bassett in the last half dozen as Sam Cooke made the running with My Frankel and Glasses Up in the front rank.

Sam Cooke was reeled in at the business end, and Raymond Tusk hit the front, but llaraab (7-2 favourite) made relentless progress down the outside and was soon in control.

He bounded clear in the final furlong to score by three lengths from 40-1 runner-up Raymond Tusk. Throne Hall was half a length away in third place, with Win O’Clock fourth.

Marquand said: “The ground is drying out, and it could almost do with a sprinkling of rain to loosen it out a little.

“You wouldn’t know where the ceiling is for this lad – you couldn’t say he was putting it all on the line to get in front there.

“It wasn’t as if he got there on the bridle, and I almost expected him to do that. I’d only had the chance to win on him once, but he’s always impressed me in that he’d just do enough to win. I guess that is why he has won six on the bounce and still doesn’t look fully exposed.

“It’s a blessing that he’s got that trait, really.”

Haggas was not at York but said: “I don’t know what we’ll do with him next.

“I think the Hardwicke would be too big a jump straight away and the Tapster (at Goodwood) is too close. I’ve just got to dot a few I’s and cross a few T’s.

“Ground is important to him I think, today’s was as quick as he’d want it.”

Trainer Richard Fahey celebrated his 3,000th British winner on Tuesday evening at Ayr and carried his good week forward when 14-1 shot Mr Lupton won for the fourth time on the Knavesmire in the Churchill Tyres Handicap – giving the trainer his 150th victory at York.

Now an eight-year-old, Mr Lupton has mixed it with some of the best sprinters around down the years but has always enjoyed the cut and thrust of big handicaps.

He had only four of the 18 runners behind him with a little over a furlong to run, when Bielsa hit the front, but he quickened up well under Paul Hanagan.

Woven, Danzan and 125-1 outsider Zargun all still had a chance – but Mr Lupton eventually won going away by a length. Danzan beat Zargun a nose for second. with it all getting a bit tight close home.

Fahey said: “Fantastic. He’s a wonderful horse. He’s an absolute legend.

“It was great to get the 3,000 up – and now it’s great to have a winner here.

“I tipped it on the radio this morning, so I’ll be a hero!

“He’s getting too old for Group races. I’ll probably stick him in he Wokingham and see what happens.”

Reflecting on his 3000-winner milestone, Fahey added: “It wasn’t really until this morning I realised there are a lot of trainers I hold in very high esteem and have a lot of respect for and aren’t on the list.

“We’ve just got to carry on. I was still up at 10 to 4 this morning, so it makes no difference.”

Youth Spirit’s Derby trail evokes landmark memories of Mill Reef

It is 50 years since Mill Reef provided Kingsclere with its most famous moment by winning the Derby for Ian Balding – and there will be no more popular winner should his son Andrew repeat the trick with Youth Spirit next month.

Youth Spirit is the son of a Derby winner in Camelot, and Balding has always rated him highly.

His Chester Vase victor was a fine third to Battleground in the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood last year before an injury kept him off the track for the rest of the season.

Youth Spirit returned over nine furlongs in the Feilden Stakes at Newmarket – where he was fourth to Highland Avenue – and relished the step up to the Derby distance of a mile and a half under Tom Marquand on the Roodee, beating Aidan O’Brien’s Sandhurst by a length and three-quarters.

He is subsequently a general 25-1 chance for the Cazoo-sponsored blue riband Classic – but given Khalifa Sat finished second at 50-1 last year for the same connections, the price should certainly not put anyone off.

“He’s always been a horse we’ve rated very highly – the question mark was whether he stayed or not,” said Balding.

“There is stamina in the sire’s side, obviously, but there is plenty of speed on the dam’s side. He saw the trip out really well, and I’m thrilled.

“I knew he’d improve a good bit from Newmarket, because he’d been off the track a long while before running there, and everything happened a bit quick for him.

“He’s obviously come on for it, and I just thought he did everything really nicely today.

“Comparisons are bound to be drawn between him and Khalifa Sat. But Youth Spirit has much more speed – Khalifa Sat was a strong stayer at the trip – so I’m delighted the owner (Ahmad Al Shaikh) has another good one.

“The plan, as long as everything goes all right between now and then, is to head for Epsom.”

When told it would be the 50th anniversary of Mill Reef’s finest hour, Balding seemed surprised.

Geoff Lewis and Mill Reef return victorious at Epsom
Geoff Lewis and Mill Reef return victorious at Epsom (PA Archive)

“Is that right?!” he asked. “Well I obviously can’t compare the two because I wasn’t around then – and in any case, he’s (Youth Spirit) a long way from ticking the boxes that he had, but he could have a live chance in the Derby.”

Khalifa Sat turned up at Epsom relatively unconsidered last year, despite having won a trial at Goodwood.

Marquand was due to ride the Derby favourite English King before losing the mount to a certain Frankie Dettori – and then going close on a big outsider.

Tom Marquand has enjoyed a great spell since returning from Australia
Tom Marquand has enjoyed a great spell since returning from Australia (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“It’s great for Ahmad Al Shaikh to have another one for the Derby, because last year that was a fair story with Khalifa Sat finishing second,” said Marquand.

“Hopefully they can go one bette.

“Khalifa Sat surprised me in the Derby, because he looked more a staying type, whereas this lad is the other way around – 12 furlongs is as far as he’ll want.

“They have different profiles. But this lad is really game and genuine, and I’m sure we’ll have a go.

“This will have been a real good experience to have been around here, because it is pretty different compared to everywhere else, and it should stand him in good stead for Epsom.”

Youth Spirit enters Derby reckoning with Chester Vase victory

Andrew Balding’s Youth Spirit emerged as a Derby contender in causing a minor upset with a clear-cut victory in the Chester Vase.

Blue Riband Trial winner Wirko was the 6-4 favourite to cement his Epsom claims for Charlie Appleby, while Law Of The Sea – already a dual winner this year – also carried the Godolphin colours for John and Thady Gosden.

Aidan O’Brien, who had saddled seven of the last nine winners of the Group Three contest, was represented by Craven Stakes sixth Sandhurst – but it was Youth Spirit (15-2) who stole the show.

Wirko cut out much of the running under William Buick, but was a spent force before the home turn, at which stage Fancy Man looked the most likely winner when sweeping to the front.

However, while his effort was ultimately short lived, Youth Spirit – fourth in the Feilden Stakes at Newmarket three weeks ago – finished with gusto under Tom Marquand to prevail by a length and three-quarters.

Sandhurst was one of the first off the bridle, but boxed on well to beat Fancy Man to the runner-up spot.

Bookmakers went 25-1 about Youth Spirit’s chance in the premier Classic, and Marquand – sporting the colours of last year’s Derby runner-up Khalifa Sat – said: “To be honest he was a bit behind the bridle, this was my first time riding him and it looked like he did that over nine furlongs at Newmarket.

“That must just be his run style because when I sat into him and gave him a proper squeeze coming to the three he was all there for me.

“The one question he had to answer was the trip, but you’d have to say he hit the line extremely well. It was a muddly race, but he’ll stay in an honest-run race as well.

“Chester is a funny old place and if you swing out your race can be over, but I followed William and I knew he’d take me into the guts of the race. He was really tough, stuck his head out and was there for me.”

He added: “It’s great for Ahmad Al Shaikh to have another one for the Derby because last year that was a fair story with Khalifa Sat finishing second. Hopefully they can go one better.

“Khalifa Sat surprised me in the Derby as he looked more a staying type, whereas this lad is the other way around – 12 furlongs is as far as he’ll want.”

Tom Marquand after winning the Chester Vase
Tom Marquand after winning the Chester Vase (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Balding was represented by his wife, Anna Lisa, who said: “Andrew has always thought a lot of him and today has shown what we wanted to find out.

“I’m sure the owner will be looking forward to a runner in the Derby so I’d be amazed if he didn’t show up at Epsom.

“Somebody made me aware the other day that it is 50 years since Mill Reef won the Derby for Kingsclere, which is fantastic, but it will be a little bit quieter this year.

“When Tom got on him he said ‘a Camelot round here on soft ground, he’ll love it’ and he was right. He was a massive price, I couldn’t believe it.

“Andrew’s record in the Derby isn’t great, but he was second and fourth last year.”