Zabeel Champion completed a quickfire hat-trick with the narrowest of victories on the second day of the Guineas Festival at Newmarket.
Following back-to-back triumphs at Ripon – most recently scoring comfortably last weekend – Mark Johnston’s colt was a 9-4 chance to add to his tally in the Back And Lay On Betfair Exchange Handicap.
The front-running Grand Bazaar and Frankie Dettori looked to have done enough to hold on as he raced inside the last half-furlong, but he was joined by both Zabeel Champion and 7-4 favourite Global Storm on the line.
Following a brief wait, the judged confirmed the Ben Curtis-ridden Zabeel Champion the winner by a nose from Global Storm, with Grand Bazaar just a short head further away in third.
Johnston said: “Jaber (Abdullah, owner) has sometimes not been too happy that we’ve been stepping him up to a mile and a half – and coming out of the dip, I thought he’d be telling me I got it wrong, but luckily he stayed on at the end.
“Today it looked like he could stay even further – it looked like he was beaten a furlong out.
“I suppose we’ll look at a handicap at Royal Ascot, depending on what the handicapper does. He is in the Hardwicke Stakes as well.
“He wasn’t entered at Ripon last Saturday until 11.50am and he wasn’t entered here until about 11.59am.
“If everything else keeps failing to turn up, then he’ll keep turning up!”
River Alwen finished with a flourish to land top honours in the Better Odds On Betfair Exchange Handicap.
Western Symphony looked the likely winner after kicking for home racing out of the dip, but Jamie Spencer had kept a little up his sleeve aboard 5-1 shot River Alwen, who had finished fourth on his seasonal debut at Newbury a fortnight ago.
Richard Hannon’s charge was doing his best work in the final half-furlong on the Rowley Mile and got up to score by a length.
Spencer said: “He did well. He benefited from Newbury, he needed that run and was a bit fresh.
“He was dropped 2lb for that and this was a winnable race.
“I think 10 furlongs is his trip, but he will get more adaptable to middle-distances as he goes along.
“He should progress and improve again.”
Dig Two stepped up on his racecourse debut to open his account in the Betfair British EBF Maiden Stakes.
The Hugo Palmer-trained youngster was close to the pace set by My Dubawi in the closing stages and comfortably put the race to bed once set alight by James Doyle.
Dig Two (17-2), who was sixth at Windsor three weeks ago, bounded clear to score by two and three-quarter lengths from Secret Strength, the 11-8 favourite.
Doyle said: “I’m very pleased with him and I’m sure he will take a good step forward again.
“I’m not sure what Hugo’s plan is with him. Beforehand it didn’t look the strongest of events, but the time was good and he showed a willing attitude.”
Connections of Parachute could look to the Royal meeting following his determined success in the Betfair Weighed In Podcast Handicap.
Ed Walker said of his 3-1 winner: “He is a funny horse as he doesn’t do a stroke at home. I’ve been saying, tongue in cheek, to the owners (Highclere Thoroughbred Racing) that he reminds me of English King who was a lazy workhorse that perks up on the track and this guy seems the same.
“I’d love to go for the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot as I think that would be perfect for him. I don’t know whether we would go again or just freshen him up for Ascot. He is a progressive horse that has very solid form.”