Black Poppy featured in the Top 40 Prospects of One Jump Ahead a couple of seasons ago and Kerry Lee's seven year old has been in good form this spring winning at Cheltenham last month before producing a career best in the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday. The gelded son of Kayf Tara was tried over fences towards the end of last year but he was soon back over the smaller obstacles and the decision has been justified. A length and a quarter scorer under Adam Wedge, who was winning the two miles event for a second time, he is suited by decent ground and proved a real moneyspinner for connections.
There was a good attendance at the Merseyside track which staged the only mixed card in the British calendar. Angel Bleu recorded his first win since the Autumn of 2021 when taking the Listed seven furlongs event under Hector Crouch. A dual Group 1 winning juvenile, Ralph Beckett's four year old was lightly raced last term and struggled at the highest level. However, there were signs of a return to form at Wolverhampton in March and he confirmed it here with a neck win from the three year old Holguin. While there must be every chance he will return for the Group 3 John of Gaunt Stakes over the same C&D next month, he ought to benefit from a return to a mile in due course.
The disappointment of the day was Florida who was much too keen on his handicap debut earlier on the card. William Haggas' three year old wore a red hood beforehand but as soon as the stalls opened, Tom Marquand's mount was far too enthusiastic and the end result was predictable. That event went the way of James McHenry who has won both his outings this season and is progressing with each start. While the Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot (22nd June) is likely to come under consideration, the grey son of Starspangledbanner is bred to be even better over further - his dam won over a mile and a half. Don't be surprised if he is entered in the Golden Gates Handicap (24th June) at the Royal fixture, too. He is a strong stayer over eight furlongs at the moment.
William Haggas had better fortune at Lingfield with Sacred winning the Group 3 Chartwell Stakes at Lingfield. Rated 113, the five year old is arguably at her best when fresh and racing over seven furlongs. The switch to the all-weather certainly didn't inconvenience her as she powered away inside the final furlong to win by over two lengths. Her trainer is keen to try her over a mile once again - failed to stay in the 1000 Guineas a couple of years ago - with the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot (21st June) her most likely next port of call. The quicker the ground, the better. I thought the runner-up Sandrine shaped well in second - look at for her when dropping back to six furlongs in the near future. Not devoid of speed, Andrew Balding has entered her in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes (24th June) and she may bid to emulate her former stablemate Alcohol Free in the July Cup later in the summer.
It has been a busy few days writing columns for sportinglife.com and The Irish Field - I have been kindly asked to put together a weekly article for the latter which is something to look forward to. On Tuesday, I am heading across the Pennines to work at Beverley for Racing TV and, whilst over there, I intend going to York for the opening day of the Dante Festival. It is always a superb meeting and a good chance to catch up with a few connections / contacts. Then, at the end of the week, I am back at Aintree for their evening fixture on Friday. I will therefore update the Diary in between by various trips. By all accounts, Karl Burke runs a smart juvenile at the Knavesmire on Wednesday.
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