RED Verdon looked a class apart from his rivals when returning to winning ways in the Listed Betway Grand Cup Stakes at Doncaster.
Ed Dunlop’s globetrotter was last seen finishing fourth of four on the all-weather, but has been a smart performer in his day and had too many guns for his rivals.
David Allan waited as long as he could before putting the race to bed and streaked a length and three-quarters clear of favourite King’s Advice.
Robin Trevor Jones, Dunlop’s travelling head man, said of the 11/4 winner: “Dave won a lovely race on him at York last year too and I couldn’t believe the handicapper dropped him to 109.
“His run in Caulfield was good, he got absolutely murdered and wasn’t beaten far. He loved bullying them today, they weren’t good enough for him.
“He’s a 114/115 horse on his day. We’d have to consider the Ebor. We went for it last year, but he didn’t run a race. I doubt we’ll get the chance to go back to Australia. He’s gone out twice for the Melbourne Cup and not run in either.”
There cannot be many more popular horses in the north than El Astronaute and John Quinn’s sprinter began his sixth season of racing with his 13th career success in the Listed Betway Achilles Stakes.
The seven-year-old has a big following due to his style of racing, which is very much blast and run.
While that leaves him vulnerable on occasions in the highest company – although he was third in the Prix de l’Abbaye when last seen – he is very difficult to catch at this lower level, as he proved once more.
Regular rider Jason Hart got him into his customary position at the head of affairs early on and with favourite Dakota Gold looking beaten at halfway having missed the break, he just had Tarboosh to beat.
Paul Midgley’s charge had been on an upward curve at the end of last season and looks set for another big year given the way he travelled through this contest. However, try as he might he could not get past the game chestnut, who kept on pulling out more to win by half a length at 9/2.
“He’s a fantastic horse to ride and to have around the place, you always know what he is going to bring,” said Hart. “He’s very straightforward in terms of a race, but at the back end of last year he had an issue in the stalls in Ireland.
“We’ve changed a couple of little things and today I pulled the blind off as the stalls were opening and it’s worked the oracle.
“He normally improves off his first run of the year so that bodes well. He stuck to his guns today and showed his usual blistering pace.
“I’ve had three winners since the comeback, and two have been listed so I can’t complain.”
Mark Johnston unleashed another nice juvenile as Dubai Fountain (4/7 favourite) defied greenness to win the Betway British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes.
Main market rival She Do appeared to be travelling the better on more than occasion but Franny Norton’s mount pulled out plenty for pressure to win going away by a length.
“I always enjoy it when a jockey sits upsides one of ours looking clever because when push comes to shove I know who’ll find and I’m not sure you will,” said assistant trainer Charlie Johnston.
“For all the other one looked to be going better at halfway you could see her huge big ears going back and forwards. She was very green.
“We know she will want a mile this year and a mile and a half next year, but we had what was effectively a match race an hour down the road so it was the perfect introduction.
“I wouldn’t be in a rush to go into pattern company just yet so we’ll look to win one with a penalty.”
There was also on odds-on shot in the opening Betway British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes, but Karl Burke’s Significantly could not repel Kevin Ryan’s Uncle Jumbo (18/1).
Jockey Kevin Stott said: “I don’t know why he was such a big price as he’s been working very well at home.”
Powerful performance… Au Clair De Lune is by Sea The Stars and out of crack mare Missunited, and stretches clear to win under @_benacurtis for @georgeoscott at @DoncasterRaces pic.twitter.com/vYbA26LeZf— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) June 14, 2020
Ben Curtis has made a flying start to the season and was on the mark with the well-bred Au Clair De Lune (5/1) in the Betway Novice Stakes.
A big price when fifth on her debut over 10 furlongs, George Scott’s daughter of Sea The Stars and the versatile Missunited relished the step up in trip and powered away to win by four lengths.
“She’s bred to be a star and her mother was hardy as anything so it’s nice to see her go out and do that against two nice horses,” said Curtis.
“I was full of running approaching the two marker and she quickened up well, but then she just had a look around close home.”
Lahore relished the drop down to the minimum trip in the Betway Handicap at and looks set for another profitable season for Phil Makin.
Surprisingly since winning on his debut over five furlongs for Clive Cox, this was his first run back down at that distance and he seemed to enjoy it, beating the favourite Jabbarockie by a length and a half under Rowan Scott.
“He was grand last year and to be fair we thought we had him in better nick,” said Makin of the 10/1 winner. "All the big handicaps look open to him now.
“Paul Mulrennan rode him mostly last year and he always said to drop him back to five because he loves coming off a fast pace yet that’s his first run at five since his debut.”