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York return ‘still an option’ for Mohaafeth

Next month’s Juddmonte International at York remains a possible option for Mohaafeth, despite his eclipse on the Knavesmire last weekend.

The three-year-old was sent off the 4-5 favourite for Saturday’s Group Two York Stakes but had to settle for a fast-finishing third, beaten half a length by the surprise winner Bangkok after sitting in last for much of the extended 10-furlong trip.

Trainer William Haggas was not too disappointed in the immediate aftermath, while connections feel on further reflection that perhaps pacemaker Montatham did not set a strong enough gallop and Mohaafeth therefore just had too much to do.

Angus Gold, racing manager for owner Shadwell Estate, said: “I think it’s fair to say we probably got our tactics wrong, which didn’t help him by setting too slow a pace.

“William feels this horse could easily have the speed to come back to a mile – and having said that, he has won three times at a mile and a quarter, so we can’t say he doesn’t stay.

“I think he just tried to quicken from behind off a quickening pace, if that makes sense. They sprinted, and he had plenty of ground to make up, and I think that’s why you could argue he didn’t stay – but I think it was more he had to make up his ground and he ran some pretty remarkable sectionals and just got tired.”

Mohaafeth had previously impressed in winning three times in the early part of the season, before soft ground at Epsom scuppered a Cazoo Derby run.

Having gained compensation with victory in the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Frankel colt is a general 12-1 shot for the International on August 18 – and is also entered for the Celebration Mile at Goodwood, Irish Champion Stakes and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Gold added: “We have all the options open. He’s still in the Juddmonte – had he won nicely on Saturday, that’s where we would have been heading.

“We’ll see how he comes out of it, how he is, and that’s still an option – and everything else is still to be discussed.”

York welcomes 30,000 crowd back to ‘bit of normality’

York racecourse boss William Derby welcomed the sight of busy grandstands as the track hosted its first unrestricted crowd for 18 months.

The Knavesmire, along with Ascot hosting the first full Saturday attendance since the relaxation of coronavirus measures this week, staged the Group Two Sky Bet York Stakes – with live music from Rick Astley and then McFly providing added entertainment after racing over the past two days.

York was almost full to capacity on Saturday, with remaining walk-up tickets available only in the centre of the track.

“We’re really pleased that racegoers can return in more normal numbers today,” said Derby, chief executive and the clerk of the course.

“We raced yesterday evening, and it tasted a bit like normality. We’re pleased to be back today, with great racing and music again tonight.

“We had about 10,000 last night and we think about 30,000 today. We reached our capacity on the stands’ side – but people could turn up for the Clock Tower enclosure in the middle of the course today, where they can enjoy their picnics, the seven races and the music.”

The meeting comes ahead of next month’s Ebor Festival, York’s headline fixture and one which is likely to attract similar numbers.

“It’s been a long 18 months for everyone in the country,” added Derby.

“It’s great we’re back – and from our perspective, we’re looking forward to next month for our flagship meeting, the Ebor Festival.

“We’re pleased to be getting back and having a successful rest of the year. People seem to be enjoy being back out and bringing a bit of normality to their lives.”

A crowd of nearly 15,000 attended Ascot to watch Adayar back up his Derby victory with a convincing success in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes.

“There’s something very special when a horse goes straight from the Derby to the Arc and there was no hiding place today,” said Nick Smith, director of racing and public affairs at the track.

“That was a perfect horse race. Sometimes the King George produces a hero and sometimes it confirms a hero but I think the public love to engage with three-year-olds.

“This isn’t just Ascot’s midsummer showpiece, it is Flat racing’s highlight of the summer and today it certainly lived up to its billing.

“It takes a special Derby winner to win this which sometimes gets lost, but today what made it so special was the strength of the older horses. The winner has clearly got so much more to give as he was such a late developer.

“And of course, the big thing today was the crowd. To hear them cheering the horses home and then the reception William (Buick, winning rider) got when he came back in, it was brilliant.”

Venturous pounces for surprise win in York’s Dash

Venturous battled on gamely to spring a 33-1 surprise in the Sky Bet Dash Handicap at York.

David Barron’s eight-year-old got the better of Music Society to land the £25,000 first prize by a short head, with long-time leader Blind Beggar third.

Venturous was slowly away, but jockey Connor Beasley did not panic and was able to track his way through the field and challenge Music Society in the closing stages.

The winning jockey said: “He’s got stacks of ability – it’s just he’s a monkey in the stalls and likes to get up on his back legs.

“Luckily enough, he went in last – but he was down on all fours when the gates opened.

“He travelled all over them, and it was a case of following the right ones through. I knew the eventual second horse was a big finisher, so I latched on to that one. He took me where I wanted to.

“It was a ding-dong battle from the furlong pole, but he’s very game and determined.

“I had to play a waiting game and play my cards at the right stage. He’s shown there he has bags of ability, and he’s a solid yardstick.”

Tom Scudamore showed he is as effective on the Flat as he is over obstacles with a power-packed ride on Soul Seeker (11-2) to win the Sky Bet ‘Jump Jockeys’ Nunthorpe Handicap for a second time.

Scudamore looked at home as he steered the four-year-old to a neck victory over Son And Sannie in a driving finish.

Successful in this race in 2017, Scudamore continued his lucrative association with trainer David O’Meara and the horse’s co-owners Rasio Cymru – having scored on Stonific for the team in the Betway Summer Handicap Hurdle at Market Rasen a week ago.

Scudamore said: “I was joking with my valet that I’m making this race my own. It’s great it’s worked out again. It’s great for the owners and for David after last week. With 30,000 people here, it’s good.

“I love riding winners. It’s great to come to a track like this and meet the Flat boys as well.”

O’Meara said: “It was grand and it’s the fourth win for this horse this year. He had sound form in Ireland and looked like he wanted six furlongs.

“Now he is a five-furlong horse on fast ground. We learn about these horses as we go along.”

Beasley was given a four-day ban (July 7-10) for using his whip in the incorrect place on Venturous but he hit back by completing a double with a hard-fought win on Dance To Paris (13-2) in the Sky Bet Proud To Support Macmillan Handicap.

Lucy Wadham’s six-year-old stuck to her task tenaciously to deny the rallying pace-setter Ghadbbaan by a neck at the end of the extended two miles.

Beasley said: “She was a very willing partner. They went a lovely, even gallop which suited her. We grabbed the bull by the horns at the three pole and she kept sticking her neck out.”

After his triumph on Bangkok in the Sky Bet York Stakes, jockey David Probert got his brace in the Sky Bet Request A Bet Handicap when steering home Chalk Stream (5-2) in the colours of the The Queen.

The Sea The Stars gelding led all the way and kept on stoutly to beat Eclipse De Lunar by two and a quarter lengths to give trainer William Haggas some compensation after the defeat of Mohaafeth in the feature race.

“He’s not a straight forward horse. He’s a baby still and I think he’ll improve with a bit of time,” said Haggas.

“He got a bit lit up. He’d not seen as many people before but we got away with it and he ran a good race.”

Outside World (6-4 favourite) went one better than on her debut when getting off the mark in emphatic fashion in the Sky Bet Horse Racing In Running EBF Restricted Novice Stakes.

Making all the running, the Mark Johnston-trained filly pulled clear of her rivals to score by four lengths from International Boy under Franny Norton.

“She was unlucky to get beat first time at Lingfield – she was only beaten on the nod. I think she’s improved from that and will improve again,” said Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father.

“She’s a bit highly strung at home and I was a bit worried today with the crowds as well. I think there’s more to come from her mentally.

“She had the Lowther entry before she ever ran so that tells you what we thought of her. I don’t think she beat a lot here today and it would be a huge jump up in class, but she put them to the sword in good style.”

Northern Express (11-2) finished like a train to land the Sky Bet Paying Extra Places Handicap.

Produced to perfection by Paul Mulrennan, Michael Dods’ three-year-old hit the front close home to score cosily by a length and three-quarters from Pagan.

“We thought he needed further. One day here he finished second and then at Chester a few weeks ago he travelled well and kicked on turning in,” said Dods.

“He thought he’d done enough and I said to Paul ride him from the back, drop him out, get him to settle and ride a proper race on him and he’s done it nicely. He’s a nice horse.”

Aristia outdoes Alpine Star to take Listed honours at York

Aristia thwarted a winning comeback for the classy Alpine Star as Hayley Turner completed a York treble in the Listed British Stallion Studs EBF Lyric Fillies’ Stakes.

Alpine Star, winner of the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot on her first start of last season and a close second in three subsequent Group Ones, could not quite repel 22-1 shot Aristia’s determined challenge and had to settle for runner-up spot.

Richard Hannon’s winner, a successful debutante at Newbury in April who has twice been beaten at Listed and Group Two level since, appeared set to be outdone by the strong-travelling odds-on favourite a furlong out but battled on to prevail by a short head.

The three-year-old’s victory continued a fine evening for Turner, who won the opening John Wright Electrical Silk Series Female Jockeys’ Handicap on Andrew Balding’s Dejame Paso at 11-4 and then the JKH 80th Birthday Celebration EBF Restricted Novice Stakes with Charlie McBride’s 13-8 favourite Silken Petals.

Jessica Harrington’s Alpine Star was returning from a 292-day absence, after a spring setback delayed her four-year-old campaign, but Turner nonetheless admitted it was beyond expectations to beat her.

Turner told Racing TV:  “It was a surprise certainly – because I think we were all thinking we were going to be second to the favourite.

“But she’s a really tough filly, and she battled well – and I think having fitness and toughness on her side helped her manage to get home.”

Aristia, who launched her challenge from off the pace, had a stirring duel with Alpine Star before just getting the better of the exchange – with Fooraat only another short-head back in third of seven.

Turner added: “I was drawn seven and ideally would like to have had a bit of cover. But without taking her right back, I couldn’t manage that – but she actually did settle quite well.

“We managed to follow the favourite through, which gave us a nice lead. We made it a test for the favourite, which played in our favour.

“Alpine Star is a tough filly, a Group One winner with a very high rating. We all thought we might be second, but that was a nice surprise.”

Mohaafeth makes next step with York Stakes date

Mohaafeth bids to make it five wins from five starts this season in an intriguing renewal of the Sky Bet York Stakes.

The son of Frankel emerged as a leading contender for the Derby after his first three victories of the campaign, but was taken out of the premier Classic at Epsom on the day of the race because of unsuitable ground.

Trainer William Haggas instead sent his exciting colt to Royal Ascot, where he ran out an impressive winner of the Group Three Hampton Court Stakes.

Mohaafeth will be a hot favourite to successfully graduate to Group Two level on the Knavesmire this weekend – but with fellow Royal Ascot winner Juan Elcano and high-class Irish raider Armory among the opposition, his task is far from straightforward.

Angus Gold, racing manager for owners Shadwell Estate, said: “I’m very much looking forward to seeing Mohaafeth run. It’s the next step up. We’ve waited for this race particularly, and William and his team have been very happy with him. Let’s see if he can take the next step and go from there.

“He’s an exciting horse and one to look forward to, and obviously he’s done everything right this year. It will be very interesting to see him on Saturday. Hopefully there will be no excuses, and we can see how we get on.”

The Shadwell colours will also be carried in the five-strong field by stablemate Montatham, of whom Gold added: “William wants to make sure there’s a bit of pace. We don’t want a falsely-run race.

“He’ll be there or thereabouts. He’s a lovely horse and a real star for us, so hopefully he can run a good race.”

Armory represents trainer Aidan O'Brien in the Sky Bet York Stakes on the Knavesmire
Armory represents trainer Aidan O’Brien in the Sky Bet York Stakes on the Knavesmire (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

While Mohaafeth is stepping up in class, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Armory is dropping down in grade – having finished a close-up third behind esteemed stablemate Love in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on his latest outing.

Armory is 7lb clear of Mohaafeth on official ratings, but does have to concede 12lb to his younger rival.

“We thought this looked a nice race for Armory,” said O’Brien.

“It’s 10 furlongs on hopefully good ground, and that is what he wants. Hopefully he’ll run well.”

Kevin Ryan’s Juan Elcano bids to follow up victory in the Wolferton Stakes, with Andrew Balding’s Bangkok completing the field.

York and Ascot all set for Saturday crowds

Officials at Ascot and York are ready to welcome racegoers for the first weekend meetings since many Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.

York are anticipating a figure of around 30,000 on Saturday, with a sell-out in all enclosures on the stands’ side of the course.

Ascot’s projected attendance will be around half that number – between 14,000 and 15,000 for a card which features the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes.

Nick Smith, Ascot’s director of racing and public affairs, said: “The King George is going to be a fantastic race. Hopefully they all stand their ground. We’re just waiting on the weather to have the final say.

“We’re forecast some rain overnight and in the morning. As we know from Royal Ascot (last month), predicting how much rain we’re going to get is nearly impossible. Hopefully we don’t get too much.

“We’d like enough to bring the whole field into it, but not so much that it turns the ground soft.

“We’re expecting a crowd of somewhere between 14,000 and 15,000 – it depends on walk-ups.

“We’d normally get between 24,000 and 25,000 for the King George. We’re obviously going to be some way short of that, but we wouldn’t want too many more than we’re going to have, to be honest. It’s better to have a manageable crowd – safety first.”

The weather is expected to be kinder at York, where McFly are in concert after racing – during which  the highlight will be the Sky Bet York Stakes.

James Brennan, York’s head of marketing and sponsorship, said: “Unlike the south we are looking at a dry and pleasant forecast, and the other remarkable thing is we have not had the Clock Tower (or Picnic) enclosure open in 21 months.

“Tomorrow we might reach the 30,000 mark.

“Stands’ side – County Stand, Grandstand and Paddock – we have reached capacity. The Clock Tower enclosure only goes on sale on the day. Its capacity is several thousand. We wouldn’t be expecting to turn people away from that, but you never know. None of us knows what life will be like as we emerge from the pandemic, but there’s a real buzz about the place.

“Aidan (O’Brien) is sending one over from Ireland (Armory) for the York Stakes, for the first time in a long time. We’re delighted at that, and the music broadens the base and engages more people. If it’s the only time they come racing then it’s great. We hope they gave a great time.

“There is real excitement in terms of seeing people back.”

Alpine the Star attraction in York Listed heat

Racegoers at York on Friday evening will be treated to the sight of top-class filly Alpine Star making her return to action in the British Stallion Studs EBF Lyric Fillies’ Stakes.

Jessica Harrington’s filly followed in the hoofprints of her multiple Group One-winning half-sister Alpha Centauri by running out a brilliant winner of the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot last summer.

The daughter of Sea The Moon went on to fill the runner-up spot in three more top-level events before the end of 2020 – going down by under a length in French Oaks, the Prix Jacques le Marois and the Prix de l’Opera.

Alpine Star has not been seen in competitive action since pushing Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa all the way at ParisLongchamp in October, but appears to face a relatively straightforward task on her Listed comeback on the Knavesmire.

Harrington said: “It’s a nice little start-off for her and then we can plan for the autumn. We’ve got loads of options.

“She had a little setback earlier in the year, which is why we didn’t get to run her.

“This is a nice place for her to start and a nice opportunity. She doesn’t have to carry a penalty and is taking on just fillies, so let’s hope all goes well.

“She arrived over there safely this (Thursday) morning.”

Fooraat is among Alpine Star's rivals
Fooraat is among Alpine Star’s rivals (Megan Ridgwell/PA)

The Irish raider will be long odds-on to dispatch of six rivals in Friday’s extended 10-furlong contest.

The second-best horse on ratings is Roger Varian’s Fooraat, but even she has 16lb to find with Alpine Star.

The William Haggas-trained Sea Empress and Vesela from Ralph Beckett’s yard also feature.

Royal Ascot winners set for York Stakes showdown

Royal Ascot winners Mohaafeth and Juan Elcano could face Irish challenger Armory in an intriguing renewal of the Sky Bet York Stakes.

Following his late withdrawal from the Cazoo Derby at Epsom in early June, the William Haggas-trained Mohaafeth made it four from four for the season in the Hampton Court Stakes at last month’s showpiece meeting.

Kevin Ryan’s Juan Elcano, meanwhile, bounced back from a disappointing run of results with victory in the Wolferton Stakes under Andrea Atzeni, who believes he will have plenty in his favour on the Knavesmire this weekend.

He said: “He won nicely at Ascot on fast ground, which hopefully he’ll get on Saturday – that is what he wants.

“I think an easy mile and a quarter at York will suit him perfectly. Obviously our fellow has got to improve again, but I’m sure he will have done and it was great to get his head in front the last day.

“He’s a horse we always thought a lot of. Like I said, he needs to take another step forward, but if he does he should be very competitive.”

Armory winning the Huxley Stakes at Chester
Armory winning the Huxley Stakes at Chester (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The highest-rated horse in the field is Armory, who could bid to provide trainer Aidan O’Brien with a first York Stakes success after finishing a close-up third behind his esteemed stablemate Love in last month’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes.

Haggas has also entered talented miler Montatham, who could test the water over 10 furlongs for the first time in Saturday’s Group Two feature.

Andrew Balding’s Bangkok and Ebury from Scott Dixon’s yard are the other hopefuls.

King George could be preferred destination for Mishriff

Connections of Mishriff will consider two options for the return to action of Mishriff, with the Sky Bet York Stakes a possible alternative to the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes – though the Ascot showpiece appears to be the more likely target.

As a dual Group One winner, the John and Thady Gosden-trained Mishriff would have to give a lot of weight to the Group Two opposition on the Knavesmire that could include the highly-regarded three-year-old colt Mohaafeth.

The weight differential is not as much in the King George because of its top-level status.

Mishriff in the paddock before the Eclipse
Mishriff in the paddock before the Eclipse (Nick Robson/PA)

Both races are on Saturday week, which could give Mishriff enough time to recover ahead of another target on the horizon, the Juddmonte International, over York’s extended mile and a quarter on August 18.

Mishriff’s two Group One triumphs have come on foreign soil, in the French Derby and the Dubai Sheema Classic, and connections would love the Make Believe colt to achieve a domestic success at the top level.

He was last seen in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown, finishing third to St Mark’s Basilica.

“He might go to York or he might go to the King George. He’s got to give away a lot more weight at York as he gets a Group One penalty there as well as (giving away) the age allowance. It’s in John’s hands,” said Ted Voute, racing manager to owner Prince Faisal.

“Mishriff came back from the Eclipse and was kicking and bucking. John said was very fresh so he got him back on the gallops.

“After the Eclipse he blew quite a bit. He’s a four-year-old now and that might have put him spot on for a race next Saturday.

“It’s in John’s hands and the Prince is happy to go with whatever he feels.

“We’ll wait and see where he guides us, but I suspect he’ll guide us to the King George. That seems to be the way the vibes are.

“There’s only one horse, Twice Over, who has one the Group Two at York and then the Juddmonte at York. There is a Group One at Munich, but we’d have to supplement him.

“That was in the middle of the Eclipse and the Juddmonte, but we are keen to get a domestic Group One. That would be the icing on the cake.”

Ward eyes Nunthorpe or Flying Five for Golden Pal

Golden Pal will be trained for either the Nunthorpe at York or the Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh following his spectacular return to action in America.

Narrowly denied by The Lir Jet in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot last summer, Wesley Ward’s speedball went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Keeneland in November – putting a return to the Royal meeting on his prospective agenda this summer.

An early-season setback prevented Golden Pal from lining up in the King’s Stand last month – but having looked better than ever in making a successful comeback in the Grade Three Quick Call Stakes at Saratoga on Thursday, another trip to Europe is back on.

Asked whether he felt Golden Pal could be the best horse he has trained, Ward said: “He’s a couple more things to do, but I think he’s on course – I’m really excited.

“Yesterday’s race was five and a half, and the competition wasn’t at the same level as what he would face in the Nunthorpe, but if you shorten that up a 16th of a mile (half a furlong), I think he could run with anything I’ve ever trained.

“Over five furlongs, he’s a killer. He’s just so quick and agile, and mentally he’s really coming around, more so this year than last year.

“He’s always been able to run, but now the rider can contain him – and when he asks for that little burst, very few horses I’ve had have been able to do that.”

Ward would love to settle a score in the Nunthorpe on August 20, having trained both Acapulco and Lady Aurelia to finish second in the Group One feature on the Knavesmire.

But the Washington-born trainer may yet wait for the Flying Five if he feels Golden Pal needs an extra couple of weeks to recover from his exertions.

He told the PA news agency: “The Nunthorpe has eluded me, but hopefully we’ll get it done this year!

“We’ve been having massive rainstorms over here, so there was quite a bit of give in the ground yesterday. He handled the ground well at Ascot last year as well, so he’s got no issues with the ground being a little soft.

“The only issue would be, while he pulled up really good and sound (after Thursday’s race), we’ll see how his energy levels are in his works here in the next couple of weeks – and whether it warrants giving him an extra bit of time for the Flying Five.

“One of those two races is what he’ll be in.”

Another Ward-trained star being prepared for a repeat trans-Atlantic mission is dual Royal Ascot heroine Campanelle.

Campanelle (left) and Dragon Symbol fight out the finish to the Commonwealth Cup
Campanelle (left) and Dragon Symbol fight out the finish to the Commonwealth Cup (David Davies/PA)

Winner of the Commonwealth Cup in the stewards’ room last month, the Kodiac filly’s next appearance is likely to be in France.

“We’re doing really well with her,” he said.

“She had a breeze on the dirt for the first time since I’ve had her last week, and we’re asking the powers that be for a breeze on the grass at Keeneland this week.

“She’s on target for the Maurice de Gheest at Deauville (August 8) and leaves here on July 31.

“Like Golden Pal, she has no issues with softer ground. In fact, it might be better if it rains a little.”

York return under consideration for Strait Of Hormuz

Jedd O’Keeffe is likely to keep Strait Of Hormuz in Yorkshire for his next run following his excellent effort in defeat in the John Smith’s Cup.

The four-year-old came from well off the pace at York on Saturday to hold every chance in the final furlong, before eventually being beaten just a head and a nose into third place behind Johnny Drama.

O’Keeffe may take Strait Of Hormuz back to the Knavesmire for the Sky Bet Handicap over the same extended 10 furlongs on Ebor day, August 21.

There is also a race over a similar trip at Doncaster on July 31 which could be on his agenda.

“I was absolutely thrilled,” said the Leyburn trainer.

“We got excited for a second. I thought he’d just about got his head in front briefly.

“He ran a great race, and I was particularly pleased because it didn’t look a race where you could come from some way back. It was a great effort.”

It was informative too.

O’Keeffe added: “I think we’ve worked out that 10 furlongs is probably his optimum trip. He’s come out of the race brilliant, 100 per cent.

“There’s a handicap at Doncaster in just over two weeks’ time. That’s a possible.

“There’s a nice 10-furlong handicap back at York at the Ebor meeting. That’s under consideration, but we haven’t made any firm plans.”

Winter Power sizzles on the Knavesmire

Winter Power is set for a return to the Knavesmire after a blistering performance in the Listed John Smith’s City Walls Stakes at York.

The filly bounced back from an unplaced run in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot to produce a convincing success as 9-4 favourite under David Allan.

The Nunthorpe Stakes is now on the agenda, a Group One test run over the same course and distance in August, but trainer Tim Easterby would like to see the three-year-old rein in her enthusiasm a touch.

“That was pretty impressive,” Easterby said.

“David said he wasn’t in control of her, she was going too quick.

“She’s got to get settled, if she doesn’t settle she won’t get home.

“She won it well, but she has got to settle because she was doing too much.

“She’ll go for the Nunthorpe, whether we’ll go to Goodwood I’m not sure.

“She won’t be short of speed but you’ve got to be in control.”

The victory was the second leg of a York double for both trainer and jockey, who teamed up earlier on the card to take the John Smith’s Nursery Stakes with Atomic Lady.

Drama delivers for Balding and Bryan at York

Johnny Drama pulled off a hard-fought victory in the John Smith’s Cup for in-form trainer Andrew Balding and young jockey Joshua Bryan at York.

Apprentice Bryan, riding by far the biggest winner of his career, had 22-1 shot Johnny Drama up with the pace from the outset and stayed on best in the final strides to get the better of long-time leader Cockalorum.

Balding, who won this major handicap with Pivoine two years ago, is enjoying an outstanding season and was following up big-race success with Sandrine in Newmarket’s Duchess of Cambridge Stakes 24 hours earlier.

Johnny Drama was a prolific winner on all-weather surfaces last winter, having also twice been successful on turf in Ireland two years ago.

He began his career by finishing seventh to Cockalorum in a Leopardstown maiden three years ago – and it was that same rival, sent off at 40-1 this time, who got closest to him again.

But Balding’s six-year-old, running for the first time since finishing last of five in the Winter Derby at Lingfield in February, proved strongest by just a head – with Strait Of Hormuz and Dawaam a nose and two lengths further back in third and fourth respectively.

Bryan said: “That was amazing, Johnny Drama is a gutsy horse.

“He can be a bit slow out of the gates, but he pinged the lids today and we got a lovely position.

“I got a lovely run up and I thought I had the leader on my right beat, the horse on my inside came late on and he only won because he tries so hard and he put his head down.

“I’ve been there (at Balding’s) since I was 16 as an apprentice, I’m 21 now and I lost my claim in March so that’s a great way to start.

“I’ve had a couple of rides here, I actually won a pony race here back when I was 15 but I don’t think that really counts, you don’t get the same prize money!”

There was a sad postscript to the race when it was confirmed that Surrey Pride, pulled up two furlongs out, suffered a fatal injury.

Hukum back to winning ways at York

Hukum claimed a second Group Three prize when triumphant in the John Smith’s Silver Cup Stakes at York.

The Shadwell-owned colt is also already a Listed winner and was last seen finishing third behind Wonderful Tonight in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Ridden by Jim Crowley and trained by Owen Burrows, the four-year-old finished a length and three-quarters ahead of Archie Watson’s Outbox.

“He’s such a consistent horse,” Burrows said of the 3-1 favourite.

“That was a big run at Ascot and the form is working out well.

“He’s a Group Three winner again, he travelled well and he did it nicely.

“This ground helps, it’s better than it was at Ascot but you can’t say he doesn’t handle it, he’s just better on nice, lovely, good ground.”

La Trinidad continued his progression to take the John Smith’s Racing Handicap at 13-2 for Rowan Scott and Roger Fell.

The gelding was victorious last month on the Knavesmire, striking in a nine-furlong handicap to earn himself a 6lb rise in the weights, but the increased burden did little to hinder him in sealing back to back York wins when he prevailed by half a length.

“I was bullish about him,” Fell said.

“La Trinidad is going the right way, I’ve always thought he was a good horse.

“We won’t over-race him and he could win a nice race.”

Goobinator gave trainer Donald McCain a first York winner when taking the John Smith’s Stayers’ Handicap under Paul Mulrennan.

The five-year-old has been campaigned on the Flat since a heavy fall under the National Hunt code at Musselburgh in January and gained a second victory on the level when taking the extended two-mile contest by three-quarters of a length at 12-1.

“He just lost his way, he had a terrible fall at Musselburgh that just wasn’t his fault,” McCain said.

“He lost his confidence completely with jumping, he was getting so high in the air, but the ability is still there.

“He won the Scottish Champion Hurdle trial up at Ayr and he looked like he was going the right way but he’s gone the wrong way because of that fall, so it’s just nice to get him back on track – we’ll look for another one now.”

Atomic Lady (9-2) backed up her first career success at Ripon last month with another win, this time taking the John Smith’s Nursery Handicap by a length and three quarters.

The filly raced alone towards the outer rail for much of the race and saw off a challenge from 7-2 joint-favourite Silken Petals to prevail.

Light Refrain puts the record straight at York

Light Refrain put Royal Ascot disappointment behind her with victory in the William Hill Summer Stakes at York – providing jockey Tom Marquand with his 10th success in the Queen’s colours.

A smile is rarely far away from Marquand’s face, but it was all the more evident after he had delivered William Haggas’ filly from off the pace to beat Vadream by two and a quarter lengths in the Group Three feature.

Marquand was also on board when Light Refrain got stuck in the mud on her previous outing, finishing a well-beaten 11th of 18 in last month’s Jersey Stakes after a deluge had turned the ground soft on the final day of the Royal meeting.

It was a very different outcome 20 days later as the three-year-old dropped back to six furlongs and turned round the form with Jersey Stakes third Vadream, who had to settle for runner-up spot this time behind the 7-2 winner.

Light Refrain’s return to winning ways has brought high-profile future targets into the equation – including a possible bid for the Group One Haydock Sprint Cup at Haydock in September.

Marquand, meanwhile, can reflect on this happier experience after having to handle the frustration at Ascot – when the Queen was in attendance.

He said: “Her Majesty was present at Ascot, and it was disappointing.

“But she hated the ground, and it dragged the speed out of her. Ascot went like a gluepot on the last day – and she didn’t love it.

“We all agreed that coming back to six furlongs and coming back to sprinting would do the trick, and that decision was justified.”

Light Refrain always appeared to be travelling comfortably and produced a telling change of gear to lead two furlongs.

Marquand added: “She’s a gorgeous filly and she’s come so good mentally.

“She falls asleep in behind one, gets a tow in and she’s all there for you when you need her to be.

“Ever since my first year riding, I’ve been lucky enough to have one or two (winners for the Queen) each year – and riding winners for Her Majesty is as high up in the sport as you can get in term of who you’re riding for.

“It was a pretty straightforward job today. I hope there’ll be a bit more to come, with some nice opportunities for her throughout the summer.

“There’s lots of different avenues she can go down now, with ground not being an issue as long as it’s not extremes.”

Haggas’ wife Maureen confirmed Haydock is likely to figure in discussions about the remainder of Light Refrain’s campaign.

She said: “That was really good. She’s done well, because this is always a competitive race.

“She’s lovely. She probably ideally could do with a little bit more cut in the ground, but it didn’t seem to bother her – and she travelled well.

“She’s done very little wrong this year, really. She’s now won a Listed and a Group Three.

“I really think this is her trip – she travelled so well, and this is a fast six.

“She handles soft ground, so she’s probably worth a cut at one of those nice races later on in the year.

“She could (go to the Haydock Sprint Cup) – absolutely. She’s won a Listed and Group Three, so you’ve got to go Group One or Group Two, and you haven’t really got much to lose.

“I just don’t think she’d want rattling fast ground, which at some point we’re going to get, because we’ve had a lot of soft.”

Callum Rodriguez and Ben Robinson were two more jockeys with plenty to smile about – after both riding doubles.

Eternal Halo was an 11-4 co-favourite of three in the six-runner William Hill Pick-Your-Places Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Stakes but proved a most emphatic four-length winner for Rodriguez and trainer Keith Dalgleish.

Rodriguez had to get a little more serious on Challet, who prevailed by a length and a half at 20-1 from fellow outsider Give It Some Teddy in the Garbutt And Elliott Handicap.

The winning jockey said: “That was a good performance – he got into a lovely rhythm in front and he’s seen the trip out well.

“I’m delighted.”

So too was Robinson, who struck first on Brian Ellison’s 2-1 favourite Cormier in the opening williamhill.com Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap and then sprang a 40-1 shock on James Watt for Paul Midgley when taking the Longines Irish Champions Weekend Handicap by a head.

Cormier’s determined length win from Noble Masquerade was his second in succession on the Flat, and sixth in all over the last 12 months – including two over hurdles.

Robinson said: “He’s got very good hurdles form, he’s fresh off a run from Pontefract – where he won quite easily – so my only doubt for today was the sun on the ground and it drying out.

“But the class got him through it, and he got away with it.

“I’d say he’ll still mix and match. The owner Dan Gilbert loves dual-purpose horses, so I’d say he’ll do a bit of both.”