Crystal Ocean took the first step towards a return to the top table after giving trainer Sir Michael Stoute a 10th victory in the bet365 Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown.
Forced to work rather hard to land the spoils in the Group Three prize 12 months ago, the son of Sea The Stars ran out an impressive winner on this occasion to become just the second dual winner of the race.
Tracking the early pace cut for much of the 10-furlong journey by eventual runner up Knight To Behold, the 5-6 favourite moved into a lead he would not surrender at the two pole, before crossing the line with two and a quarter lengths to spare in the hands of Ryan Moore.
Stoute said: “It was a better performance than last year, so that is a pleasing aspect. He has been a model of consistency. I think he needed to get back to work as well and that would have done him good.
“He is in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh, so that could be considered. It will be that or Newbury (Aston Park).
“We need to win a Group One with him, so we need to do a bit of thinking.”
The Harry Dunlop-trained Knight To Behold could go to France next month.
Dunlop said: “I was very pleased and to be honest with you I thought it would be hard to beat Crystal Ocean.
“I think what I was so pleased about was that we had good horses in behind and we should improve a lot. We could maybe look at the Prix d’Ispahan for him next time.”
Beat The Bank made his class count to claim the fourth Group Two success of his career in the bet365 Mile.
After failing to fire at Group One level on his final two starts last year, the Andrew Balding-trained five-year-old made the most of a drop down in class on his seasonal return.
Despite looking held at the furlong pole, the Paco Boy gelding found an extra gear to forge on close home, defeating recent Doncaster winner Sharja Bridge by half a length.
The 7-4 winner was cut from 12-1 into 8-1 for next month’s Lockinge at Newbury by Unibet.
Balding said: “He is very tough and he did a similar thing last year at Ascot and Goodwood when he looked beaten then found again. He is just incredibly tough.
“At some stage we will try a mile and a quarter – Royal Ascot would be the first time we would look at it, but I think we will try the Lockinge next and take it from there.
“It was his first run of the year in the Lockinge last year, he wasn’t firing then, but I’ve been really happy with him this spring. He deserves to win a Group One.”
A rematch with Sharja Bridge could be on the cards, with his trainer Roger Varian also leaning towards the Lockinge.
Varian said: “He ran well and has probably not done too much wrong. He was outbattled a little bit.
“He had to step up again, but we are talking about a horse that won a handicap on his final start last season and won a Listed race at Doncaster very well.
“I don’t know why, but I think he is better on a flat track. He probably deserves to line up in a Lockinge.”
Moore struck earlier with Masaru, who made it two wins from as many starts this season in giving weight all round to land the bet365 Esher Cup.
Making his first start over a mile, the son of Lethal Force held on by a half a length to consign Migration to the runner-up spot for the second race in succession.
Trainer Richard Hannon said of the 9-1 winner: “I think he got the mile there and saw it out OK. He was in front a fair way out and Ryan had committed him in front a bit sooner than he ideally wanted to.
“I always hoped he was a good horse. Last time at Kempton he got there very easily, like a Group horse, then he didn’t go anywhere. Although he won, I was a little disappointed.
“There is a race at Haydock in a couple of weeks we will look at (Silver Bowl), then there is obviously the Britannia (at Royal Ascot).”
Sparkle Roll (13-8) will have her sights raised significantly on her next start after defying a penalty in the Nordoff Robbins Sir George Martin Memorial Fillies’ Novice Stakes.
The daughter of Kingman, who holds an entry in the Investec Oaks, made her return to action a winning when initiating a brace for trainer John Gosden with a two-length victory in the mile-and-a-quarter contest.
Gosden said: “I was very happy with her. We will now point her towards the Musidora (at York) and that would be the plan. We like her a lot. She enjoyed the climb here today.”
Frankie Dettori’s name was chanted in the stands at the Esher track following the victory of Derby entry Private Secretary (3-1) in the concluding bet365.com Handicap.
Getting a perfect split up the inside rail, the popular Italian steered the Kingman colt home by two and a quarter lengths in a race Gosden claimed in 2015 with subsequent Irish Derby winner Jack Hobbs.
Gosden said: “He did well at Redcar and has progressed to Sandown. He got a very fortunate run up the rail. He got lucky and it opened. Frankie saw his opportunity and went. If that hadn’t have opened he would have been an unlucky fourth.
“He has got a good turn of foot and is a very genuine horse. There are a couple of spots we could look at with him, but we will stick to a mile and a quarter.”