Antonia De Vega made a winning return to action in the Pontefract Castle Fillies’ Stakes – but it was hard work for the odds-on favourite.
Not beaten far in a Group One in Germany last season, she looked to face a pretty straightforward task back down in Listed company for Ralph Beckett, who has started the season in such good form.
Stablemate Manuela De Vega, who finished just in front of her in Germany, made a successful return to action in a stronger race at Haydock – but with the ground drying all the time, Antonia De Vega found herself under pressure with half a mile to run.
As Makawee went for home under Danny Tudhope, Harry Bentley was asking for everything on the 5-6 favourite, and entering the final furlong she began to respond.
With eventual runner-up La Lune also closing in, Makawee was weakening, and Antonia De Vega eventually prevailed by half a length.
“She made hard work of it. She wouldn’t want the ground any quicker than it was today,” said Beckett.
“She’s not an easy filly to get straight first time up, so she will come on for that race today.
“There’s obviously very little between her and Manuela De Vega, but we will do our best to try and keep them apart outside of Group One company.
“They did run against each other in a Group One in Munich at the back end of last season.
“The obvious race for both of them is the Lancashire Oaks – but now France has been opened up, we do have a few more options.
“Manuela De Vega is less ground dependent, so she has that in her favour.”
Bentley said: “This is probably her minimum trip, a mile and a half, and the ground is probably lively enough.
“She was just behind the bridle four out, and I really had to get after her, but she always does her best work at the end.
“There really isn’t much between her and Manuela, so when they clash it is very difficult to choose between them.”