Dee Ex Bee faces stamina test in Sagaro return

Derby second tackles Ascot feature

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Dee Ex Bee is expected to improve for a step up in trip on his seasonal return at Ascot in Wednesday’s Longines Sagaro Stakes.

Last year’s Epsom Derby second will tackle two miles for the first time in the Group Three prize, which is the second of eight qualifying legs for the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million bonus.

Although failing to win any of his eight starts last season, the Mark Johnston-trained son of Farhh was placed three times at Group One level along with finishing fourth in the St Leger at Doncaster on his penultimate start.

Charlie Johnston, assistant trainer, said: “We are looking forward to getting Dee Ex Bee back out.

“He was second in the Derby last year and often these kind of horses would probably be campaigned at the Coronation Cup or King George at four, but we always felt Dee Ex Bee would improve for a step up in distance.

“We won’t know if he stays the trip until afterwards, but we are pretty certain he will get it. He has got that class having been placed three times at Group One level.

“Hopefully he has got that mix of class and stamina that will make him a competitive cup horse.

“We would not have minded if Ascot had got a little bit more rain as he handles cut in the ground, but the ground should be OK.”

Connections of the John Gosden-trained Weekender are hoping a gelding operation can help bring about a bit more improvement from the five-year-old.

Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to owner Khalid Abdullah, said: “Weekender was supposed to go out to Dubai but he got a little nick.

“He has come back fine and he should be up to be up to being competitive in a race like this, but it looks tough enough for a Group Three.

“He has been gelded and hopefully that will give us an advantage with him.”

The Nicky Henderson-trained Verdana Blue returns to the Flat, where she will be partnered by Oisin Murphy for the first time, having run out a decisive winner of the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr last time out.

Murphy said: “She won very well in the Scottish Champion Hurdle the last day at Ayr and the step back up to two miles on the Flat will help her.

“She was beaten by Gumball last time on the Flat, but that was over a mile and a half and she will be better over further back on turf.

“It looks a very competitive renewal and I think Weekender is a very good horse, so we will see how we go.

“She does have race fitness on her side and I’d imagine they are pretty happy with her.”

Richard Hannon will double-handed with both Raymond Tusk and dual course winner Danehill Kodiac, who will be making his first start since finishing third in last year’s Ormonde Stakes at Chester.

Hannon said: “Danehill Kodiac is fresh and well. He was lame after Chester as he came back very stiff. We left him alone for the rest of the year and gave him the winter off and we have brought him back for this.

“He is a good horse and he has won a Group Three. It is a nice starting point and if he doesn’t stay, we can bring him back in trip.

“Raymond Tusk has been in good form. We were going to go to France, but have decided to come here instead. Hopefully he will get the two miles as well.”

The field is completed by the Ed Dunlop-trained Amazing Red and Cleonte from the Andrew Balding yard.

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