Khalifa Sat added another string to Andrew Balding’s hand in the middle-distance department with victory in the Coral/British EBF Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood.
Having broken his maiden tag at the second time of asking at the Sussex track in September, the Free Eagle colt again proved his liking for the undulating circuit as he made all under Tom Marquand.
He was joined at the business end by even-money favourite Emissary, but the 8-1 winner was in no mood to give way and stuck to his guns to prevail by a neck, in a race that has proved a pointer to both Derby and Leger honours in the past.
Betfair and Paddy Power went 33-1 about his chance at Epsom.
Balding said: “He’s a really nice horse and he stays well. I’m very pleased with the performance today, but we’ll keep all the options open just for the time being. I’ve always thought he was more of a Leger horse than anything else and that’s very much on the agenda for later in the year.
“We’ll keep all the options open and debate it with the owner. The horse will probably tell us where we go next. He stays well and is a lovely horse to have in the yard.”
Balding’s yard of course houses 2000 Guineas hero Kameko, who is all set to go to the Investec-sponsored Derby on July 4, heading the market on the premier Classic at a general 4-1.
The Kingsclere trainer said: “I’m very happy with him, he’s seemingly in great form, he hasn’t done a lot since last weekend obviously, but he seems very nice and relaxed and has done well since the race.
“All being well that (the Derby) is very much the plan.”
Elsewhere on the card, Lyzbeth recorded a career-best success in the Coral/British EBF Cathedral Stakes.
Dropping back to six furlongs, the Martyn Meade-trained four-year-old travelled with some aplomb for Oisin Murphy and while long-time leader Bungee Jump did not go down without a fight, the 4-1 winner was a length to the good at the line for Listed honours.
Murphy said: “Her work on the grass at Manton has been pretty good. I suggested maybe even Royal Ascot, but this race fitted in pretty well and as you know black type is super important. It was good race planning.”
Meade was represented by his son and assistant Freddie, who said: “I think coming back to six furlongs was important, she’s been showing a lot of speed at home so we thought we’d drop her back. Ideally we’d have gone somewhere with a stiffer six, but she coped with it fine today so that was a bonus.
“She’s really strengthened up, got a bit quicker and hopefully there’s more to come.”
The stable will team up with Murphy again at Royal Ascot, with Technician all set for the Gold Cup.
Meade added: “Obviously Stradivarius is the target to be aimed at, he’s the dual Gold Cup winner, but he has been beaten a couple of times recently.
“Technician is a horse that takes some cajoling along and doesn’t do anything too quickly, so I think the Gold Cup trip will see him at his best really.”