Hold Fast appeared to appreciate a step up in trip to get off the mark at the third time of asking with a battling success in the Unibet Thanks The Frontline Workers Maiden Stakes at Kempton.
Despite the race being delayed by nearly 10 minutes after debutant Father Of Jazz broke through the stalls before being withdrawn, the Andrew Balding-trained three-year-old kept her cool to get the better of Nashy by half a length on her first start over a mile and a quarter.
Winning jockey David Probert said of the 7-1 shot: “She is a pretty consistent filly. She ran well last year at Glorious Goodwood in defeat. She has come on quite a bit over the winter. I thought the 10 furlongs around here would be a bit sharp for her, but fair do’s to the filly – she jumped well and travelled good and hit the line pretty nice.
“I’d say she would improve again going up in trip. She has got a great attitude. Her home work has been good. She is a very straightforward filly.”
It was a winning first ride back for Probert since racing resumed at Newcastle on Monday following an enforced shutdown of more than two months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He added: “It was hard work. I’m delighted to be back as there has been a lot of hard work to get us where we are and doing the job we love, so it is great.”
Benny And The Jets ended his losing run stretching back to last May with a decisive victory in the Unibet Handicap.
The Sylvester Kirk-trained four-year-old showed too much speed for his rivals, crossing the line three and a quarter lengths clear of Spoof to claim his first win over five furlongs.
Kirk said of the 6-1 winner: “That was his first win over five furlongs and he has strengthened up and is moving better than ever. I was pleased with the way he was going at home.
“I said to Rob (Hornby) if he pings out don’t disappoint him and that is what happened. It would be great if he could sneak into one of those big sprint handicaps over five or six furlongs later in the year.”
Army Of India secured his ticket to Royal Ascot in digging deep to make a triumphant debut in the British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes.
The Mark Johnston-trained son of Sepoy claimed the honour of winning the opening two-year-old race of the season with a game victory in the six-furlong contest.
Racing front rank from outset the 7-2 winner pulled out enough to deny favourite Science by a short head and earn a 16-1 quote for the Coventry Stakes with Paddy Power.
He was ridden by Joe Fanning, who said: “He had done good work at home and we fancied him strongly. We would have been disappointed if he wasn’t there or thereabouts.
“He jumped and travelled so comfortably there – I was always so happy with him. I thought it was a good performance. He wasn’t doing a lot in front, but he was just always finding.
“I think in time he will stay further, but at the moment six is fine. I’d say he will be off to Royal Ascot.”
On the Johnston juvenile team as a whole, he added: “I felt two weeks into lockdown a lot of them really started coming to themselves and they’ve done plenty of work. They never got laid off as we kept on top of them, so I would be hopeful of a good few winners.”
Meraas (7-1) went one better than on his debut to complete a double for Johnston and Fanning with a front-running victory in the Unibet 3 Uniboosts A Day Maiden Stakes.
Making the most of a quick exit the son of Oasis Dream found plenty from the sharp end to defeat even-money favourite Cold Front by three lengths.
Fanning said: “I probably should have won him last time. I chased the two market leaders and probably just fell in a heap little bit.
“Today he jumped and travelled well and I was always confident he would pick up. At the junction I thought it would take a good one to get by me. I don’t think he is a bad horse.
“I’d probably say we will take in another small race, but I’d leave that to Mark. I was pleased with those last two runs.
“He is a horse that shows plenty of speed early on, but he might get seven later on in the year.”
Secratario (6-1) made it two wins from as many starts since joining Shaun Keightley when taking a step back up in trip in his stride in the Unibet 3 Uniboosts A Day Handicap.
Racing over a mile and a half for the first in more than 18 months, the Josephine Gordon-ridden five-year-old prevailed by a length to follow up his recent Chelmsford success over two furlongs shorter.
Keightley said: “He is a game horse. Racing over a mile and a quarter or a mile and a half doesn’t really matter. I was just a bit worried he would be a bit too keen, but he did it well.
“He would want some kick in the ground and the all-weather suits him, as that is what he has won all his races on. If we got plenty of juice on the turf we would give it a go, but he seems to like the level surfaces on all-weather tracks.”