Charlie Fellowes could have a live contender for the Investec Derby on his hands after King Ottokar ran out a convincing winner of the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup British EBF Conditions Stakes at Newbury.
Returning to the scene of his debut victory in September, the son of Motivator dented the hopes of a number unbeaten rivals when taking the step up to a mile and a quarter in his stride.
King Ottokar – who finished down the field in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster on his final start last season – was cut from 50-1 into 16-1 for the Derby by Paddy Power, while William Hill went 33-1 about his chance in the premier Classic.
Fellowes said of the 14-1 winner: “We came here thinking if we finished in the first four it would be a good result. We felt he would come on for the run and we felt this was a pretty hot race.
“I’ve always thought he was very good, but my very good and John Gosden’s very good are two different things – (but) he might just be John Gosden very good.
“Doncaster was just too much, too soon. They went very hard and he wasn’t experienced enough.
“He relishes cut in the ground and that is something we have got to think about going forward, but he is in all the big races.
“He is in the Dante, but if we are going to think about Epsom – which the owner would love to do – maybe somewhere like Chester and you can get cut in the ground there. It might just make him think, as he is a big horse. He would probably go a mile and a quarter there.
“He could be the best I’ve trained. It would lovely for him to be a Derby runner. If we can go to Epsom, we would love to go.”
Highland Chief took the first step towards a potential outing at Royal Ascot after giving his sire Gleneagles his first winner in the West Berkshire Brewery “Newcomers” EBF Maiden Stakes.
Despite being bred to stay, the Paul Cole-trained two-year-old had more than enough speed over the five-furlong trip to make a winning debut when getting the better of Separate by a neck to earn a 33-1 quote for the Coventry Stakes with Paddy Power.
Cole said of the 16-1 winner: “We knew he was going to run well, because he worked so well.
“He will probably go for a novice next and then, hopefully, like all trainers say, we can go to Ascot with him if he makes the progress.
“He will definitely run over six now as he is not a five-furlong horse. Generous won over five at Ascot and he got a mile and a half.”
Andrew Balding pointed towards an outing at Listed level for Happy Power (9-4) after he made light work of a 10lb hike in the weights to run out a decisive winner of the Dubai Duty Free Full Of Surprises Handicap.
Balding said: “He is horse we have liked and he improved all of last year. We knew he was pretty fit and he handles a bit of dig, so conditions were pretty perfect for him.
“He did it nicely and there is probably a little bit left in the tank, so he probably deserves a step up in class.
“That (Jersey) is a possibility. He is in the German 2000 Guineas, but we will probably stay closer to home and look for a Listed race.
“The Heron Stakes is a possibility, but there is a seven-furlong Listed race at Newmarket (King Charles II Stakes) which is more likely.”
Gosden himself has plenty to look forward to with Star Catcher (10-11), who saw off her rivals by four and a half lengths in the opening division of the MansionBet Maiden Fillies’ Stakes.
Gosden – who won the race 12 months ago with Lah Ti Dar – said: “She was green first time out, but she has learnt a lot there. She has got a lot of strengthening and development to do. She handled the ground well.
“We will look at one of the (Oaks) trials in early May. I could see her as a filly getting better in the autumn. That (Haras De Bouquetot Fillies’ Trial Stakes, back at Newbury) is a strong possibility.”
The Richard Hannon-trained Quick lived up to her name when finishing fastest of them all to give owner Julie Wood a welcome winner in the Coln Valley Stud Bridget Maiden Fillies’ Stakes, scoring by a short head.
Wood said of the 25-1 winner: “I was really pleased with that. Last season she had a few early niggles and we gave her time.
“This is the start of the dream. Today was the plan and we were hoping to learn a little more – but I think we have learnt a lot.”