Silvestre de Sousa gave his new partnership with King Power Racing an early-season boost after steering Bye Bye Hong Kong to glory in the Woodford Reserve Cardinal Conditions Stakes at Chelmsford.
All eyes were on U S S Michigan, one of two runners in the race for Aidan O’Brien, as he attempted to book his ticket in next month’s Kentucky Derby, but it was not to be for the son of War Front who was sent off the 15-8 favourite to back up his recent Dundalk success.
Sitting just in behind the early pace, the Andrew Balding-trained Bye Bye Hong Kong (7-2) picked up well under the champion before holding off the late rally of Antilles, stablemate of the favourite, with Group Two winner Dark Vision a further head back in third.
De Sousa said: “He is a really nice horse and Andrew really likes him. He has got a long future ahead of him. I think he is a Group horse, whether a Group One, I don’t know, but he will win Group races.
“It was nice prize-money and the team will be happy. It is just nice to keep the ball rolling.”
An outing in the Qipco 2000 Guineas has not been ruled out by trainer Mark Johnston for Dark Vision, who was making his first start since finishing down the field in last year’s Champagne Stakes at Doncaster.
Johnston said: “I was a lot happier than last time. He was struggling early on and flew late.
“James said it was a bit sharp for him and that the Guineas might be a bit sharp for him, but he has only sat on him once, around this track.
“It is all positives really, as it is not his track. That is him back to how he was. We certainly won’t be ruling out the 2000 Guineas.”
While the dream of an outing at Churchill Downs may be over for U S S Michigan, connections were still satisfied with the performance.
Kevin Buckley, representing O’Brien, who was having his first runners at the Essex circuit, said: “Ryan was happy enough with him. It was only his third run and he is still learning, plus it was his first time over a mile, so we were going into the unknown.
“He will come on from that.”
Lion Hearted put himself in pole position to collect a £10,000 bonus after registering a seventh win since the turn of the year with victory in the Bet totetrifecta At totesport.com Handicap.
The Mick Appleby-trained five year old moved one ahead of both Matterhorn and Executive Force at the top of the winning-most horse leaderboard in the All-Weather Championships after defeating favourite Quick Breath by half a length in the seven-furlong contest.
Appleby said of the 3-1 winner: “I thought he had a definite chance, but I thought the favourite would take a bit of beating if fully wound up.
“We got him from Tracey Collins and he started off for us rated 45. The Dixon brothers (Chris and Martin) picked him out as he looked like an all-weather horse and was bred to be one.
“There is a 0-90 handicap here next week we could go for or we might try to run him in the apprentice race at Lingfield on Good Friday.
“To be fair he should have won another two or three times. He missed two races because of the equine flu shutdown, then once here when it was called off because of fog and once at Newcastle when it was called off because of snow.”
Sir Michael Stoute got off the mark for 2019 after Derevo (8-13) went one better than on his debut at Doncaster when defeating Kempton scorer Kimblewick by a length and a quarter in the Bet toteexacta At totesport.com Novice Stakes.
Stoute’s representative Steve Eastwood said: “He ran a nice race at Doncaster last year, he was a little bit green but he was running on at the end. It was a slow start last year, so it is nice to get one on the board.”
Robyn Brisland gave Seamus Cronin a glowing endorsement after Compass Point (9-4) completed a hat-trick when holding the late rally of Attain by half a length in the Transparent Recruitment Solutions Ltd Apprentice Handicap.
Brisland said: “The race panned out lovely for him. This kid will be champion apprentice this year. I spotted him three weeks ago. He can ride mine all year.
“I did my time riding with Gary Moore and Ryan Moore was there – I think this lad rides as well as him at this stage.”
Charlie Wallis has plenty to thank former trainer Chris Dwyer for and Rose Berry repaid some of that gratitude when landing the Bet totequadpot At totesport.com Fillies’ Handicap to form the first leg of a double for De Sousa.
Wallis said of the 11-4 winner: “It was very kind of Chris to send her to me. She came to me in great nick and I’ve just kept her fresh and happy. Chris has done all the work with her.
“Chris gave me my first ride as an amateur at Wolverhampton. I think I was about fifth or sixth and he told me to cruise to the two pole and then kick and that’s what I did.”
Wallis celebrated further success after Kyllukey was awarded the Bet totescoop6 At totesport.com Handicap in the stewards’ room.
That victory also formed the second leg of a double for rider David Egan, who had earlier been successful aboard the David Loughnane-trained Hic Bibi in the Bet toteswinger At totesport.com Handicap.