Sunbets All-Weather Championships Apprentice Handicap (7f)
Finals Day got off to a thrilling start as FORCEFUL APPEAL rolled back the years to clinch a narrow verdict for Epsom trainer Simon Dow in a race that showcased the talents of some of the most promising apprentice jockeys on the All-Weather scene this winter.
The nine-year-old capped a productive winter campaign by edging out the better-fancied War Glory in a photo-finish, despite jockey Paddy Bradley's concerns that he would find the drop in trip too sharp. The victory, albeit unexpected at massive odds of 33-1, was the biggest of Bradley’s fledgling career.
Richard Hannon’s War Glory, ridden by leading All-Weather apprentice Hollie Doyle, looked the likely winner as he closed down Forceful Appeal inside the final furlong but the winner stuck his head out gamely at the line. Charles Molson returned to action filling a winter break and finished well in third, ahead of the consistent Take The Helm.
Betway All-Weather Marathon Championships Conditions Stakes (2m)
Godolphin had been second twice in the stayers' final with Anglophile but finally went one better as WINNING STORY – the lesser fancied of their two representatives - ground out a convincing victory off a strong, even gallop. Saeed Bin Suroor's gelding was given a fine ride by Silvestre De Sousa, who produced his mount from a wide position off the home turn to lower the track record.
Winning Story may now be aimed at next month's Chester Cup or the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup after reversing Chelmsford City form with runner-up Watersmeet, who ran his usual game race. The popular grey – boasting a record of eight wins in 15 starts on sand - did well to race so prominently from the widest draw but couldn't repel the strong-finishing winner.
Steve Rogers posted his best performance of the winter to finish third for Roger Varian, ahead of David Bridgwater’s unexposed French import Cohesion, who appeared to stay the trip well enough on his first attempt at 2m. Natural Scenery, the other Godolphin runner, was well backed to land the title but this Newcastle winner looks more at home on a galloping track.
32Red All-Weather Fillies' And Mares' Championships Conditions Stakes (7f)
REALTRA had been disappointing out in Dubai after winning a Fast Track Qualifier in France after Christmas but bounced back to form in timely fashion for Roger Varian and Andrea Atzeni. The return to Polytrack, and the fitting of blinkers, helped the daughter of Dark Angel fend off favourite Muffri'Ha and Ashidihan.
The winner, who had won the Group 3 Sceptre Stakes at Doncaster in 2015 before being sidelined by injury, may now head back to Lingfield for the Group 3 Chartwell Stakes over the same trip next month.
Muffri'Ha, who twice had Realtra behind in Meydan, was all the rage after her Group 1 third in the Jebel Hatta, and certainly ran well, but trainer William Haggas’s concerns about the step back in distance proved correct. Ashadihan, winner of last season’s Chartwell Stakes over course and distance, got within a head and a neck of her higher rated rivals and remains in fine form.
Betway All-Weather Sprint Championships Conditions Stakes (6f)
Mythmaker, a confirmed front-runner who had been second twice in Listed races over course and distance, set a searching gallop from pole position in stall one but nothing was travelling as strongly as KIMBERELLA as the packed field descending the hill into the home bend.
Paul Hanagan got an immediate response from the seven-year-old once he asked him to quicken inside the final furlong and eased clear of the prominent Gracious John and Encore d'Or to make it two from two since joining the powerful Malton operation from Dandy Nicholls.
It was trainer Richard Fahey's third win in the race following successes with Alben Star in 2014 and 2016. Lancelot Du Lac ran his usual game race in fourth but couldn't match the finishing burst of Kimberella, who could now head to York for a Listed race at the Dante Meeting.
Sunbets All-Weather Mile Championships Conditions Stakes (1m)
Ennaadd, unbeaten in his last four starts, was all the rage following his impressive win in the Listed Hyde Stakes at Kempton Park back in November, but couldn't justify sustained support and was a disappointing fourth in arguably the strongest race on the card.
Instead, the victory belonged to the consistent grey SOVEREIGN DEBT, who had been second in this race in the previous two seasons and erased memories of a particularly unlucky defeat two years ago.
This time the eight-year-old was better placed to deliver his challenge and picked up smartly to give jockey Jimmy Sullivan - deputising for the suspended Andrew Mullen - the biggest win of his career. It was also a momentous occasion for trainer Ruth Carr, who only took charge of the horse a few weeks ago after his former trainer Dandy Nicholls quit the sport.
In second, the fast-finishing Lincoln Trial winner Nimr came within an ace of giving Richard Fahey and Paul Hanagan a notable double. In fact, Hanagan felt he would have won had the four-year-old handled the bend better. Listed winner Salateen tried to steal it from the front under Ryan Moore but couldn't repel his challengers on his first try at the distance.
32Red 3 Year Old All-Weather Championships Conditions Stakes (6f)
Impressive when winning the Listed Spring Cup over an extra furlong at Lingfield last time, William Haggas's SECOND THOUGHT proved his versatility to claim the three-year-olds' crown with plenty in hand.
Robert Winston, who deservedly kept the ride after striking up a successful partnership with the colt this winter, delivered his challenge to perfection to earn the son of Kodiac a crack at the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
Robert Cowell's Visionary, a Fast Track winner in Dundalk last month - continued his progress in second, doing all his best work in the closing stages, and is another who will appreciate a return to 7f. Tomily has been a solid performer all winter and Richard Hannon’s compact little sprinter gave the form a robust look back in third after hitting the front inside the final furlong.
Betway Easter Classic All-Weather Middle Distance Championships Conditions Stakes (1m2f)
Winter Derby hero CONVEY brought a smart profile to this race and readily justified his cramped odds to take the season's richest race for Ryan Moore and Sir Michael Stoute.
The 111-rated favourite travelled a little keenly behind pace-setter Third Time Lucky and Paul Hanagan before quickening away from a toiling field to stamp his class on the £200,000 contest. He may now take up an invitation to race in the valuable Hong Kong Mile next month en route to a Pattern campaign on turf back home.
Rookie trainer Archie Watson’s mare Absolute Blast, who was third to Convey in February's Group 3, ran another massive race in second to confirm the merits of her Listed win at Kempton, but not even an additional 2lb allowance could help her close the gap.
France was well supported throughout the card and their raider Allez Henri out-ran his odds to finish an encouraging third. However, not even a jockey switch could revitalise last year's champion Grendisar, who could finish only seventh under Silvestre De Sousa.