Malotru produced a stylish display to capture the Ladbrokes Home Of The Odds Boost Spring Cup Stakes at Lingfield.
Marco Botti’s colt looked the class act on paper in the Listed race, having finished fourth in the Gimcrack at York before slightly disappointing in the Mill Reef at Newbury.
Travelling smoothly before bursting clear under Andrea Atzeni, the son of Casamento accounted for Saeed bin Suroor’s Raaeb by three and a quarter lengths, in what was a fast-track qualifier for All-Weather Finals Day on Good Friday.
Botti said: “I am very pleased. The main thing today was to get Malotru relaxed, as we came here to learn whether he is a sprinter or a horse who could go seven furlongs and possibly a mile, because last year he showed plenty of pace.
“He will definitely come on from this – coming into the race, I was worried that it might be coming 10 days too early from a fitness point of view.
“I think we will stick to seven furlongs now with a view to going up to a mile and we could look at something like the Greenham Stakes at Newbury.
“Andrea is happy to stay at seven for the time being and eventually we could look at an easy mile. I think that is how we will campaign him, rather than going back to six.”
He added: “We thought last year he was a nice horse, but he finished the season disappointingly in the Mill Reef. Nothing went right for him, as he was very keen and then for whatever reason he hung badly.
“I was disappointed and it left us in the dark a little about what to do this year. Today was an important stepping-stone in that respect.”
Atzeni said: “I rode Malotru once last year, in a two-year-old race in Milan, and he won quite nicely. I had not ridden him since due to other commitments, but he had run well enough behind Pierre Lapin at Newbury, which was obviously a very good race.
“Marco thinks a lot of him. He looked good in the paddock beforehand and picked up nicely. I thought he was the best horse in the race, albeit we did not know how good the favourite was after winning impressively first time out.
“It was a learning curve for this fella. I think he is the sort of horse that if you put him in the race too early, he may not be able to quicken as well as you would like.
“It is important for him to relax and, if he continues to do that, he could get a bit further.”
Nonios was an impressive winner of the Bombardier British Hopped Amber Beer Handicap for David Simcock and Dylan Hogan.
All five still held a chance close home and it was the eight-year-old who swept down the outside to win well.
Richard Hughes’ Top Breeze prevailed by the narrowest of margins in the Betway Casino Handicap.
The 7-4 favourite got a great run up the rail under Shane Kelly, but Verne Castle, having been headed, battled back to be beaten just a nose.
Clog Maker took his record to two wins from three outings in the Betway Novice Stakes.
Mark Johnston’s colt was sent off the 6-5 favourite and despite hanging right, ran on strongly to win by a length and three-quarters under Franny Norton.