Trainer Hughie Morrison’s patience was rewarded when Pastoral Pursuits came good in Group Two company as track records continued to fall at Doncaster today.
The colt’s progressive two-year-old campaign had been brought to an abrupt end with a chipped bone in the knee, and the son of Bahamian Bounty was having only his third start this year in the GNER Park Stakes.
He looked to be struggling at one stage, but picked up well for Steve Drowne to hit the front inside the last of the seven furlongs and get the better of Firebreak by one and a quarter lengths.
Court Masterpiece was third, a further one and a half lengths away.
In registering a time of 1m 21.66sec Pastoral Pursuits (5-1) became the seventh horse to lower the course record from the first nine races run at the St Leger meeting.
“The Prix de la Foret (at Longchamp on October 9) will be the next step, I suppose. He’s won a Group Two, so now he can go for a Group One. That’s the natural progression.” Morrison said.
“We’ve been incredibly patient this year. I always felt he was too good to run if he wasn’t healthy.
“It looked as though he’d get a mile out there, and what pleased me was how he finished. He has not been getting home that well in his two previous races this year, but he really put it together today.”
Bargain-buy Pastoral Pursuits has now won five of his seven starts.
Morrison added: “I bought him for 24,000 guineas and we put the syndicate (the Pursuits Partnership) together. They are an enthusiastic band of owners who enjoy their racing, and that’s what the game is all about.”
Drowne, who rates the horse the best he has ridden, added: “Pastoral Pursuits is a real star. The feel he gives me is as good as anything I’ve had.
“It might not look impressive from the stands, because I am always rowing away in the early stages, but you know he will always find for you and he really lengthened in the final furlong.
“He’ll get a mile. I’ve always felt he rode like a miler.”
Leading fancy Fong’s Thong proved disappointing when dropping out tamely after making much of the running, but Jimmy Fortune, who rode Brian Meehan’s charge, reported that the colt lost his action inside the final furlong.
With the fast ground and a brisk tail-wind, another record was shattered in the Earth Mortgages Scarbrough Stakes when Celtic Mill (15-2) covered the five furlongs in a blistering 57.28 seconds.
Frankie Dettori had the David Barker-trained gelding smartly into his stride and they were never headed in the Listed race, getting home by half a length from Talbot Avenue.
“He’s very quick. David told me to let him burn them and I said, all right, leave it to me,” said Dettori.
“He really fancied the horse and Lynda (Ramsden) jocked me off Bishops Court, so I got the ride.”
Celtic Mill was winning his second Listed race of the season, having been on the mark in this grade at Windsor in May.
Barker added: “He’s been struggling with a penalty, but he’s in there mixing it with them. He’s just the sort of horse to suit Frankie, a big loopy rein, go as fast as you want. He’s had two rides for me and they’ve both won.”
Celtic Mill could now be tried in Group Two company.
Barker explained: “He’s in the Diadem (at Ascot), which is six furlongs round a bend, and we used to practise around Wolverhampton.
“If he gets in there, that’s where he goes next. There are only 12 runners allowed and if he’s in good form it’s a shame if he misses out.”
Meehan made amends for Fong’s Thong’s defeat when saddling Attune (12-1) to take the JRA Golden Jubilee Sceptre Stakes.
The Kevin Darley-ridden winner finished well to score by a length from Gonfilia to complete a three-timer following wins at Newmarket in July and at Salisbury seven days ago.
“I’m absolutely delighted with her. She’s a wonderful filly – a real trier,” Meehan said.
“We’ll take stock now and see where we go next. We’ll play it by ear. I would say there is a lot of improvement in her.”
Drowne went on to complete a 125-1 double when he brought Singhalese (20-1) with a well-timed run to claim the Ralph Raper Memorial Prince Of Wales Cup for owner Paul Dixon and trainer Jamie Osborne.
Osborne, who had not saddled a winner for three weeks, said: “We wanted to come here for this nursery and we had to rush her last run a bit so that we got the third run in. I was a bit concerned that we might have been asking too big a question too soon.
“Unless there is a valuable nursery somewhere I would say that would be it for this year.”
Dixon, who was also experiencing a change of fortunes, added: “I thought I’d shot a robin. We haven’t been able to buy a winner.”