Skardu maintained his unbeaten record by coming home strongly to win the Craven Stakes at Newmarket on Wednesday.
Trainer William Haggas will now be feeling he has a chance of landing the 2000 Guineas for the first time with the son of Shamardal.
Just like the winner of the Nell Gwyn 24 hours earlier, Skardu lined up having had just the one run at two – but late market support forced him into 3/1 and proved telling.
Settled at the rear by James Doyle, he challenged late after Set Piece had made a big move down the outside.
Roger Charlton’s Momkin then burst through near the rails to momentarily hit the front, before Skardu just gained the upper hand to win by a neck, with Set Piece a length and three-quarters away in third.
Royal Marine, a Group 1 winner last year, was not in the best position before staying on for fourth, while Zakouski was ultimately disappointing.
Skardu is now as short as 5/1 for the Guineas though 10/1 is also available with some firms.
Haggas said: “I was quite pleased with him, but I don’t know what the form is like. He had a nice race and relaxed well. He showed a nice turn of foot and won.
“He surprised me when he won (first time out), but he performed well. I thought he looked good beforehand today. He was very calm and performed well in the race.
“He has gone from a maiden to a Group 3, so hopefully there is a bit more in him. He doesn’t do a lot at home. I think we can get a bit excited. If all things are equal he will be running (in the Guineas)
“James knows Charlie’s (Appleby, Zakouski) horse very well and he said he is a pretty smart horse and he didn’t run his race today. I’m highly delighted.
“James said he had to take a pull three out, but we are trying to educate a horse that is trying to go into the fast lane, as he has got a lot to learn. I can’t fault him at the moment.”
“His owner is from Bahrain. I spoke to him half an hour before and he answered on the first ring, I said I would call him straight after – he will be over the moon.”
Harry Charlton, assistant trainer, said of Momkin: “I think we can cross off the Ffos Las run. His Newbury run was a good run and he beat Beat Le Bon who is a solid 96 horse. He has grown and improved and he has run well. He is a little bit backward in his coat and you would expect him to come on.
“He is in the 2000 Guineas and French 2000 Guineas and it will be ground dependent. The other benefit of the French race is the extra week or whatever it is. He is a very good mover. He got knocked between the two and the one and a half, he had a clear run at the end but that just knocked him off balance a bit.”
Keystroke gave Stuart Williams the biggest winner of his career when swooping to spring a 66/1 surprise in the Abernant Stakes.
A thrilling finish to the Connaught Access Flooring Abernant Stakes springs a surprise, as Keystroke surges home to claim victory in a photo finish, with Adam Kirby on board for @WilliamsStuart at a massive 66/1 ?? pic.twitter.com/ub5q0pFdqi— Newmarket Racecourse (@NewmarketRace) April 17, 2019
After making a winning stable debut at Kempton in January, the seven-year-old son of Pivotal had plenty to prove having failed to fire in a listed contest at Wolverhampton last time out.
Held up off a strong pace, Adam Kirby’s mount made up a rapid amount of late headway in the six-furlong prize before getting up by head to deny Yafta, with Brando – seeking a third straight win in the race – a further neck away in third.
Victory gave Williams his first ever Group 3 winner, and he said: “I was very pleased with him. We were coming here an outsider, but he hasn’t done much racing on turf and definitely not much racing over six furlongs.
“He won really well at Kempton when we first ran him on the all-weather in the winter, then things didn’t go right at Wolverhampton and the surface was a bit deep that day.
“I had a word with the owners, said I think he will be as good on the turf and they said to treat him like a decent horse and go for this race.
“He got a little hiccup 10 days ago, he just got a small quarter-crack (in hoof) and the farrier has done a fantastic job to get him here.
“It’s a first group winner for me on my home track, so it is very pleasing. I think the owners would like to go to Royal Ascot, so we might end up going there.”
Richard Hannon could attempt to gain compensation with Yafta in next month’s Duke of York Stakes at York.
He said: “I’m so gutted for that horse, as he is the biggest gentleman you will meet. We will go to the Duke of York now. He has only been out of the first two once.
“He probably hasn’t seen the horse on his outside. I think there are plenty of group races in him, and hopefully a Group 1.”
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