I was very disappointed with the three runners in the Top 40 Prospects on Saturday. A couple of them finished fifth, while the other was a tailed off last and hasn't remotely looked like winning in two starts this year. It was a poor day to say the least.
One of my old favourites Crystal Ocean has looked as good as ever, if not better, this spring winning the Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown for a second time last month. Sir Michael Stoute's five year old also won the Listed Aston Park Stakes at Newbury on Saturday for the second consecutive year under a penalty. Pushed out by Ryan Moore, he beat Laraaib by two lengths and set up a tilt at the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot next month. He looks capable of gaining his first Group 1 win this term but it remains to be seen whether it will be over ten furlongs. He has always looked at his best over a mile and a half but perhaps he is getting faster with age.
Roger Charlton won the London Gold Cup for the fourth time since 2011 when Headman (12/1) returned to form in the valuable ten furlongs contest. Too keen on his reappearance in a conditions event over the same C&D, the son of Kingman overcame a wide draw to beat the well supported and fast finishing Sinjaari by a short head. Rated 95, his trainer is keen to kept him to ten furlongs for the time being, while Jason Watson is adamant the colt will stay twelve furlongs. If he heads to the Royal meeting, his options include the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes (1m 2f), King George V Stakes or Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes (both 1m 4f).
The ten furlongs Listed Fillies' Trial was won twelve months ago by subsequent Irish Oaks winner Sea of Class and hopes were high the same connections' Sea of Faith would confirm the promise she had shown on her debut at Sandown last month. However, William Haggas' filly raced keenly early on and, having moved smoothly into contention, her effort flattened out inside the final furlong. The winner was won by Queen Power. Trained last season by Ralph Beckett, the daughter of Shamardal was transferred to Sir Michael Stoute during the winter. Unlucky on her reappearance at Ascot, she made amends here with a smart performance. Silvestre De Sousa's mount had plenty on her plate with quarter of a mile to run but she quickened up well and scored a shade cosily by a neck. It will be interesting to see where she heads next. Held in high regard, she will have no trouble winning Group races this year.
On Sunday, Kaftan (4/1) created a favourable impression in the opening one mile fillies' maiden at Naas. Featured in the What's The Craic In Ireland section of AOTF, Ger Lyons' Shamardal filly had caught the eye on her sole start at Leopardstown last Autumn. Held up early on, she made up a lot of ground inside the final quarter of a mile to head Kiss For A Jewel close home. A neck winner, she relished the step up to a mile and will have no trouble staying further in due course. From the family of Prestige Stakes winner Sense of Joy, she is a nice prospect with realistic black type aspirations.
Ahead On The Flat winners on Saturday and Sunday were: Barbados (4/6), Crystal Ocean (2/9), Headman (12/1), Jash (10/11), Kaftan (4/1), Muscika (18/1), Pistoletto (1/5) and Raise You (Evens).
Finally, congratulations to ValueRacingClub.co.uk following Included's success at Aintree on Friday evening. I was working there for Racing TV and the Alastair Ralph trained filly stayed on strongly to win the opening two and a half mile mares' handicap hurdle under Sam Twiston-Davies. The syndicate have experience a tough spell following the loss of Roddy and the injured incurred by Dominating. They thoroughly deserved a change of luck at the home of the Grand National.
Across the English Channel, it was great to see Benie Des Dieux win the French Champion Hurdle at Auteuil on Saturday. Willie Mullins' former Cheltenham Festival winner was racing beyond two and a half miles for the first time but had no trouble staying the extended three miles one trip. Partnered by Paul Townend, she stretched clear after the last to win by six and a half lengths. The eight year old has plenty of options next winter, both over hurdles or fences, but there must be every possibility she will be steered towards the Stayers' Hurdle next March. She is a top-class mare whose form figures since joining Ireland's champion trainer are 11111F11. I was lucky enough to see her win over fences at Carlisle in December 2017 and I also witnessed first hand her tumble in the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, having backed her at 9/4 ante-post. Owners Rich and Susannah Ricci have endured their fair share of setbacks over the last couple of years but have bounced back this spring with an Irish National and French champion Hurdle wins.
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