Merlin Magic is in line for a crack at the Dante Stakes at York next month after a winning return to action in the bet365 Esher Cup at Sandown.
Having finished ninth to Saxon Warrior in the Racing Post Trophy on his final start last season, the David Elsworth-trained son of Camelot put some useful rivals to the sword when clearing away to land the mile prize by three lengths.
Winning owner Jeff Smith said of the 4-1 chance: “I was extremely pleased. I had a long chat with David Elsworth this morning and I had about six analogies all telling me he had not come to himself yet.
“We had to get going with him and we only took him out the Guineas as he had not yet come to himself.
“He will almost certainly run in the Dante if he is fit and well. It’s a very exciting time, as you don’t win that sort of race that comfortably usually.”
Sir Michael Stoute can begin to map out bigger and better plans for Crystal Ocean after he registered a battling success in the be365 Gordon Richards Stakes.
Dual Group One winner Ulysses was successful for the yard 12 months ago and the Newmarket handler saw the Group Three prize head his way once more thanks to the son of Sea The Stars.
Sitting close to the early pace, which was set by First Sitting, last year’s St Leger runner-up moved on with the Queen’s Fabricate approaching the two-furlong pole.
Although briefly headed, the even-money favourite dug deep under Ryan Moore to get up close to the line and prevail by a short head.
Assistant trainer James Horton said: “Ryan was very pleased with him. This will sharpen him up a lot for some big targets later on in the year.
“It is nice knowing he is as effective over 10 as well 12 furlongs. It gives us a few more options.
“I think he had a good heave at the furlong pole. He is all guts and heart this horse. That has probably got him through it rather than fitness.
“He won very impressively at Goodwood on horrible ground, but I think he is better on better ground. I think the key to him is that he is such a brave horse.”
A return to the Esher track appears to be on the cards for runner-up Fabricate, according to his trainer Michael Bell.
The Newmarket handler said: “That was a fantastic run in defeat. He just got outstayed in the last 100 yards. My first inclination is to come back for the Brigadier Gerard.”