Robert Hornby was seen to great effect as he made every yard of the running on Manuela De Vega in the Betway Pinnacle Stakes at Haydock.
Having had a solid if unspectacular season last year, highlighted when beaten just a neck in a Group One in Germany, Manuela De Vega was sent off a 4-1 chance behind John Gosden’s even-money favourite Fanny Logan, who finished fourth at the Breeders’ Cup.
Dropping slightly in trip, Hornby could be confident his mount would stay every yard and once he was allowed an untroubled lead, he kept on extending his advantage on entering the straight.
At one point when around six lengths clear the question was had he gone too fast, as Robert Havlin still looked confident on the favourite, but when he asked his filly to close, Hornby still had plenty left in the locker.
Ralph Beckett’s charge powered down the middle of the track, coming home two lengths clear to provide the trainer and jockey with a double on the card after the earlier success of Babbo’s Boy.
“She’s a smart filly, her form in Germany worked out really well when she was second in a Group One,” said Hornby.
“This track is tailor-made for her in that it is flat and galloping. In a small field like this I didn’t want it to be a tactical affair as I know she stays very well and she showed that there, galloping out nicely.
“She’s very straightforward, she’s wintered well and she’s improved – she’ll go further this year.
“I never felt I had to do a lot to get that far clear so then I could sit and ride a race and go through the gears.
“She handles softer ground but it rides lovely out there, just on the easy side of good.”
He added: “Ralph’s horses are flying, so are Andrew Balding’s so hopefully I can have an exciting year.”
Space Blues had some high-class form in the book last season and returned to winning ways in the Betway Spring Trophy.
Charlie Appleby’s four-year-old was placed at Royal Ascot and was only beaten a length in a Group One on France, but needed to put a disappointing effort in Dubai behind him.
When course specialist Safe Voyage went clear another Haydock win looked on the cards, but James Doyle confidently delivered his challenge late and the 5-2 favourite won by a neck.
“He had the form in the book and has been placed in Group Ones. Things didn’t go to plan in Dubai, dropping down to six furlongs,” said Doyle.
“It looks like seven is his trip, he enjoyed that and it set up nicely for him, hopefully he can go on now.
“Ascot is a stiff six, and he does have form there, so it (Diamond Jubilee) might be interesting.”
Doyle later doubled up on William Haggas’ Golden Melody (4-1) in the six-furlong novice stakes.
“I didn’t know much about her, but they said she was professional,”said Doyle.
“There were all sorts of shapes and sizes at the start, but you couldn’t fault how she did it and the fact she’s come out and won now suggests William thinks she could be capable of going to Ascot.”
Lowther runner-up Liberty Beach (9-4 favourite) returned to action with a win in the Listed Cecil Frail Stakes.
John Queen’s filly, who won the Molecomb Stakes at Goodwood, beat Queen Jo Jo by three-quarters of a length.
Rider Jason Hart said: “She was entitled to do that. She probably travelled with a little bit too much zest, she dragged me into the race earlier than I wanted but she put the race to bed nicely.
“Now she’s won over six at least it opens up a bit of an option as she proved she stays, but as you’ve seen she’s got plenty of boot.”
Quinn said: “”She did well to get home considering she was a little bit free. She’s been second in a Lowther and she has won this on her first run back, but I’m just wondering whether five furlongs may be her trip.
“If she’s OK the two obvious races at Royal Ascot are the King’s Stand and the Commonwealth Cup, but if they come too quick it’s a long year and there will be other races for her.”