Al Aasy has always been held in high regard by William Haggas and the striking son of Sea The Stars is beginning to live up his lofty reputation. A wide margin winner on the Rowley Mile last time, the Hamdan Al Maktoum owned colt made a seamless transition into Group company by taking the Bahrain Trophy on the first day of Newmarket's July meeting. Held up by Jim Crowley, he made his moved on the outside before staying on strongly to beat Dawn Rising by a length and a quarter. The step up to a mile and a half plus has been the making of Al Aasy and it would be no surprise to see him steered towards the St Leger at Doncaster in September. The Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes at York next month would appeal as a likely stepping stone. Despite gaining his last two wins on slow ground, his trainer is adamant he will be better on a lively surface. A big rangy colt, he will make an even better four year old.
I must confess to being disappointed by Highest Ground's defeat in the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York. Admittedly, this represented a huge step up in class for Sir Michael Stoute's charge having won a novice stakes at Haydock last time. However, once he hit the front inside the final furlong, I thought Oisin Murphy's mount would stretch clear for an easy win. Unfortunately, the Frankel colt was worn down late on by the unexposed Thunderous. Beaten a neck, the first two were a couple of lengths ahead of 2000 Guineas fifth Juan Elcano. Perhaps I am underestimating Mark Johnston's winner. Despite losing his unbeaten record, I still think Highest Ground is a smart colt and he will be winning at this level in the future. With hindsight, the champion jockey may have committed his mount too soon but he was almost certainly conscious of allowing the front running Cormorant too much rope. It will be interesting to see where he goes next but it is possible he will also contest the Great Voltigeur at the same track in August.
There were a couple of good results on the Knavesmire on Thursday for followers of Ahead On The Flat. Rhythmic Intent (15/8), who is featured in the Handicap Snips, was heavily supported before the ten furlongs handicap and it proved well founded with Stuart Williams' progressive four year old scoring readily. Placed on his reappearance over a mile last month, he relished this longer trip and won going away. Ten or twelve furlongs on good or slower ground is ideal and he is capable of winning a big prize later this year. Tim Easterby's interview produced a couple of winners at Ripon on Wednesday, namely Dark Jedi (6/1) and Garden Oasis (11/1), and the Great Habton based handler sent out Mr Carpenter to win the twelve furlongs handicap on his first start for the yard at 100/1. I think he is the first winner at such odds in AOTF.
There was some interesting racing at Newbury on Wednesday evening and the Unraced Three Year Olds section may have unearthed another good one. Darain (2/1) cost a fortune (3,500,000gns) as a yearling but is bred to be something special being a full-brother to former stablemate Too Darn Hot. Making his belated racecourse bow in the ten furlongs novice stakes, the son of Dubawi ran out an impressive four and three quarters of a length winner. Owned by Qatar Racing and Watership Down Stud, he quickened away inside the final furlong and looks very useful. John Gosden has indicated another novice event under a penalty is likely to be next. I would expect him to stay further, if necessary.
Finally, one for the notebook. Ralph Beckett spoke favourably about the then unraced three year old filly Deft in Ahead On The Flat. A half-sister to the yard's Epsom Oaks winner Talent, the daughter of Dubawi was well held on her debut over a mile at Kempton but has shaped much better since upped in trip. Fourth at Windsor next time, she progressed to fill the same position at Newbury on Wednesday. Staying on at the finish, she was only a couple of lengths behind Ed Walker's Balzac and will come into her own over a mile and a half. Now qualified for handicaps, she is very much one to follow in middle distance fillies' handicaps.
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