Red Verdon got back on track after his unsuccessful long-haul trips with a first victory for 13 months in the Unibet Conditions Stakes at Doncaster.
The Group One regular had no luck in Australia or Hong Kong for trainer Ed Dunlop late last year, but showed he still retains plenty of ability as he prevailed against useful rivals on Sunday.
Crowning Eagle set out to lead all the way but was headed by Red Verdon (5-2), who galloped on resolutely for Ryan Moore on his first start since being gelded.
Outsider Indianapolis finished well for second place, a length and a quarter back at 50-1. Crowned Eagle was third, with hot favourite Willie John only fourth on his eagerly-awaited return.
“Australia didn’t go well – he couldn’t run in the Melbourne Cup (due to a setback),” said Dunlop.
“He had no run in the Caulfield Cup, and then in the Hong Kong Vase he nearly came down on his knees. But he got very colty abroad, so we decided to geld him.
“It was only a conditions race, but he deserved to win this – and it’s good to see him start back so well, so I’m very pleased.”
Red Verdon has the option of going back up in trip at some point, but not yet.
“He was a heavy horse, so having him gelded could help him,” added Dunlop.
“I was thinking of going for the Listed race at Nottingham (over a mile and three-quarters), but Ryan thinks we shouldn’t go that far and stay at a mile and a half.
“There is the Ormonde at Chester, but we’ll think about it and see.”
Right Action (7-1) produced a gutsy display under Silvestre de Sousa to win the 32Red.com Handicap for the second year running.
The Richard Fahey-trained five-year-old was hard-pressed throughout the final quarter-mile but kept responding to the champion jockey’s urgings to score by half-a-length from Saluti.
Connections have the Silver Bunbury Cup at Newmarket’s July meeting as the season’s main target.
“He wears his heart on his sleeve,” said Tom Palin, of owners Middleham Park Racing.
“He runs his races every year. This is a race we’ll have in mind for him – it ticks a lot of boxes at the start of the year.
“He’s a very willing partner for Silvestre, and they get on very well. They keep finding for each other.
“We’ll try not to complicate things this year. One race we missed last season was the Silver Bunbury Cup. That’s going to be his Derby this year. We won it three years ago with Swift Approval.”
De Sousa doubled up on Fox Champion (9-4 favourite) in the Unibet Novice Stakes to give him his fourth winner already in a matter of days for his new retainers King Power Racing.
The Richard Hannon-trained son of Kodiac was always prominent and kept on gamely to hold the late challenge of Franz Kafka by half-a-length.
De Sousa said: “He’s a nice horse and has got a bright future. Whatever he’s done today, he’ll improve.
“It’s a big team. King Power have got a lot of horses. It’s nice to see someone come into racing and do as well as they are.”
Hannon’s assistant Tom Ward said: “He’s got a great attitude and was very tenacious today. He was a bit fresh in running and beforehand, but I think he’ll settle down.
“The plan will be to stick to seven (furlongs) for now, but we’ll probably step up to a mile eventually.
“I think we’ll step him up in grade now. We’ll just see whether we go down the handicap route or go for a Listed or a Group Three. It will depend where we get put.”
Liam Keniry came in for a winning spare ride on Foolaad (20-1) in the 32Red Handicap for Edinwinstowe handler Roy Bowring.
Keniry replaced the ill Robert Winston and made a lot of the running on the eight-year-old sprinter, who dug deep to hold Danielsflyer by a head in a bunch finish.
De Sousa completed a 116-1 treble when steering Good Birthday (7-2) home for King Power in the Unibet Handicap.
He produced the Andrew Balding-trained three-year-old with a storming run in the centre of the course to beat Red Bond by a length and three-quarters.
“He’s wonderfully laid-back and he’s got ability,” Balding said of his winner.
Stonific (14-1) went one better than 12 months ago in the 32Red Casino Handicap as David O’Meara’s six-year-old took the prize by a length from Employer.
“He likes it here,” said O’Meara’s assistant Jason Kelly.
“He ran in this race last year and was second. He likes a good, honest gallop and plenty of cover – so it suits him.”