Thunder rumbles into Ascot picture with Newcastle success

Another Royal meeting contender for Mark Johnston.

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Thunder Of Niagara added himself to Mark Johnston’s growing team of Royal Ascot juveniles with an impressive display in the Betway/British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden at Newcastle.

With Eye Of Heaven among the favourites for the Norfolk Stakes having broken the track record at Newmarket on Thursday, the Middleham trainer appears to have plenty of bases covered, with Pelekai and Army Of India also winning on their first outings.

A son of Night Of Thunder, Thunder Of Niagara was sent off at 15-2 with John Gosden represented in the race by the favourite Third Kingdom, but that one only got going when Joe Fanning had streaked clear and Rebel At Dawn chased the winner home, beaten a length and three-quarters.

Assistant trainer Charlie Johnston said: “He’s a very nice horse. We always thought he was going to want seven furlongs, but a stiff six here at Newcastle offered him a nice chance first time out. He’s certainly added himself to the squad for Ascot.”

He added: “Eye Of Heaven has always stood out from the crowd on a morning cantering past. He broke the track record and will go for the Norfolk now.”

Tadleel (5-1) looks the sort of new addition to Richard Fahey’s yard with which he can have some fun after winning on his first start for the Malton handler in the Betway Casino Handicap.

Tony Hamilton was one of the first off the bridle, but the 32,000 guineas purchase out of Ed Dunlop’s yard kept finding for pressure and held off Fortamour by half a length.

Fahey said: “I’m just delighted that he ran a race because he’d been working well.

“He was a horse that we were keen to buy so it’s good that he won. He was a good-looking horse and I think he’d had a few niggly problems, nothing serious. I think we’ve probably got him at the right time.”

Tadleel is owned by several Sporting Life and Sky Bet employees and one of them, Michael Shinners, said remotely: “That was Tadleel’s first run for us so we’re delighted.

“Richard was hopeful before the race and he showed great determination to get his head in front.

“We all watched the race together on Zoom and will have a drink to celebrate.”

The Heed Your Hunch At Betway Handicap featured some unexposed individuals and they came to the fore with Gosden’s Daarik (2-1 favourite) beating Vitralite by three-quarters of a length.

Even the third, Red Bond, is a promising type so the form looks sure to be worth following.

Gosden’s son and assistant Thady said: “That was very pleasing to say it was his first run for a long time – since April last year.

“He just had a problem which kept him off so we gave him plenty of time.

“I don’t think he’s necessarily an all-weather horse, it may or may not be a coincidence he has run his best races here.

“There’s a new seven-furlong handicap at Ascot this year or he could go back up to a mile. It is coming up pretty quickly, though.”

Ben Haslam was a relieved man as Macho Pride (16-1) made a winning debut in the Betway/British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes under Harrison Shaw.

“We were hopeful. Macho Pride wasn’t cheap, we don’t spend 65,000 euro every day of the week so we were expecting something,” said Haslam.

“We trained his half-sister (Auckland Lodge) to win three times as a juvenile and he looked a slightly better model at the yearling sale.

“We will see how he comes out of this, but if he is OK we will think of Royal Ascot, probably for either the Norfolk or the Windsor Castle.”

Bryan Smart got off the mark for the year when Astrozone (9-2) won the Read Andrew Balding On Betway Insider Handicap for Graham Lee.

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