Both Andrew Balding and Tim Easterby have been in splendid form this spring and they were both amongst the winners on the opening day of Chester's May meeting. Youthful Spirit (15/2) had finished fourth over nine furlongs in the Feilden Stakes at Newmarket last month and the son of Camelot appreciated the step up to a mile and a half in the Group 3 Chester Vase. Ridden by Tom Marquand, he outstayed Fancy Man in the homestraight before registering a length and three quarters victory from Sandhurst. In all likelihood, he will take his chance in the Epsom Derby next month and, while he has earned his place in the line-up, it will be a surprise if he has the tactical speed to win Flat racing's Blue Riband. However, it is worth recalling the same owner's Khalifa Sat finished runner-up at Epsom in 2020.
Just for good measure, the Kingsclere trainer sent out Goolwa (33/1) to win the twelve furlongs novice stakes at Kempton on Wednesday evening. The daughter of Australia had only finished tenth on her sole outing as a juvenile but Andrew described her as 'a middle distance filly in the making' on page 57 of AOTF and expected her to improve as a three year old. A two lengths winner at the Sunbury track, you can't say fairer than that.
Tim Easterby sent out 10 winners in April and his red hot streak has continued during May with Showalong (13/8) enjoying the underfoot conditions in the five furlongs handicap. The son of Showcasing, who won twice last season, had finished fourth on his reappearance at Thirsk last month (fast ground). Well backed, David Allan's mount showed plenty of speed on the Roodeye and was good value for his three parts of a length win off a mark of 85. The Great Habton trainer suggested in Ahead On The Flat that the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes at Royal Ascot (18th June) could be a summer target - the stable won the race last year with Art Power. Granted ease underfoot, he is a useful sprinter.
Dubai Fountain won the Cheshire Oaks for Mark Johnston but one can't help feeling the best filly in the field finished second. Zeyaadah was unbeaten as a juvenile, including at Listed level, and was forced to carry a penalty. Held up by Jim Crowley, the daughter of Tamayuz was still going well turning for home but soon met trouble in running. Staying on well once in the clear, she was beaten a length by the winner. Franny Norton has few, if any, peers when it comes to riding around the Roodeye and there is no doubt he outrode the former champion jockey. The runner-up remains a smart prospect and, while it is debatable whether she will prove good enough to win the Oaks at Epsom in June, she is more than capable of claiming a Group prize this season. Time will tell whether slow ground is a necessity.
Agrimony (5/6) provided the Maidens In Waiting section in AOTF with a winner when taking the one mile maiden at Gowran. Joe Murphy's colt had shaped with immense promise when runner-up behind the highly regarded Wordsworth on his seasonal reappearance at the Curragh (10f) last month. Despite dropping back in trip here and overcoming a wide draw, the son of Pivotal was quickly into stride and, while he came under pressure at the two marker, he stayed on strongly and outstayed Emporio to win going away by three parts of a length with the pair clear of the remainder. He will be even better when returning to longer distances.
Southfield Harvest and Amarillo Sky both featured in the Top 40 Prospects in One Jump Ahead last season and only managed one win between them last winter. Typically, the pair won convincingly at Newton Abbot on Wednesday and are capable of winning more races while there is decent ground on offer. The former warmed to his task on his chasing bow before running out a convincing six lengths winner, while the latter looked a well treated youngster as he made all in the two miles handicap hurdle off a mark of 125. A sixteen lengths scorer, he didn't appear to get home over two and a half miles at Aintree last time.
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