Evergreen Pactolus took his career earnings above £200,000 with a 13th victory in the Betway Handicap at Lingfield.
Stuart Williams’ eight-year-old improved on his second in this same race last year, taking over from long-time leader C Note and then holding a highly-competitive eight-strong field at bay to win by half a length at 5-1 under Adam Kirby.
Pactolus, racing for the 62nd time, is right back to his very best and was following up his Boxing Day win at Wolverhampton.
Williams confirmed the gelding has two high-profile Lingfield targets over the coming months – the Winter Derby and then a return to the Easter Classic, in which he finished fourth last year over this same 10-furlong distance.
“If anything, he might still be improving – you’d like to have a yard full like him,” the Newmarket trainer told Sky Sports Racing.
“He’s got much better, confidence-wise – which he had a lack of when he was younger – and he’s just progressing all the time.”
Williams is hoping the Classic may be the right race for Pactolus in the spring, but he is wary of the mighty threat posed by John Gosden’s impressive Cambridgeshire winner Wissahickon.
He said: “He’s going back in it again, and he’s in the Winter Derby as well.
“But obviously, we’ve got Wissahickon to contend with in those two races – if he turns up. Let’s hope he might go to Dubai instead!”
Gosden’s St Peters Basilica is comparatively near the start of his career – but has still kept his powerful connections waiting a little longer than they must have hoped for his first win.
It was at the seventh attempt that the well-bred three-year-old colt, wearing blinkers for the first time, led all the way to score with some authority under Robert Havlin in the Ladbrokes Novice Stakes.
The winning jockey said of the even-money favourite: “I worked him with blinkers on the other day, and he worked well – showed a good bit of speed.
“We always knew he had some talent in there somewhere – it was just keeping his mind on the job.”
Withering late surges down the outside were the hallmarks of victory in the first two races on the card.
Mr Andros stretched away by one and three-quarter lengths to seal the opening Like Sun Racing On Facebook Handicap at 10-1 under Shane Kelly for Brendan Powell.
Then Hollie Doyle and 13-2 shot First Link provided a winner for Wiltshire-based Frenchman Jean-Rene Auvray, by one and a half lengths over the same distance of seven furlongs in the Ladbrokes Home Of The Odds Boost Fillies’ Handicap.
John Best’s Casa Comigo appreciated the step up to two miles for the first time, as he and Kieren Fox foiled an Auvray double with Nafaayes to win by one and three-quarter lengths at 9-2 in the Betway Casino Handicap.
There was to be no double either for Gosden and Havlin, in the Wissahickon colours of George Strawbridge, when 4-11 favourite Vandella had no answer to 8-1 shot Capriolette.
The emphatic three-and-a-quarter-length win under Liam Keniry, in the closing Ladbrokes Home Of The Odds Boost Fillies’ Novice Stakes, marked a return to form for trainer Ed Walker.