Pimpernel puts down 2000 Guineas marker

JOHN DUNLOP has found the StanJames.com 2000 Guineas elusive over the years but the race moved a massive step closer as Elusive Pimpernel stamped his mark on the Racing Post breezeupbonus.com Craven Stakes at Newmarket yesterday.

The Arundel veteran has three 1000 Guineas wins to his name as well as two Derbys, two Oaks and a hat-trick of St Legers in a career stretching back to 1966.

But the first Classic of the season is within touching distance, with Elusive Pimpernel now quoted as the 5-1 second favourite by the sponsors behind 5-2 market leader St Nicholas Abbey.

Dunlop’s son of Elusive Quality was readily brushed aside by that rival when second in the Racing Post Trophy last autumn, but the trainer is relishing the rematch after a progressive winter for his representative.

That Doncaster defeat was the only one of his juvenile campaign and he slaughtered the field on his first outing as a three-year-old.

Ryan Moore took over from the suspended Eddie Ahern aboard the 10-11 favourite and after issuing his orders coming out of the Dip his partner willingly put his giant stride to good use.

He charged clear heading towards the final furlong and devoured the ground to pull four lengths clear of Racing Post Trophy fourth Dancing David.

Dunlop said: “He is a pretty good horse and it is fairly obvious where he will go.

“You are always apprehensive about these things but we are always delighted when it comes off.

“That was very impressive. I didn’t think he was under pressure, but he does come off the bridle and he picked up extremely well.

“There were two things to take out of the Racing Post Trophy. First of all it was slow ground, which didn’t suit, and they didn’t go very fast, so it wasn’t a truly run race.

“The winner (St Nicholas Abbey) was very impressive at Doncaster, but mine is a very, very big horse who has matured through the winter and maybe the other horse hasn’t.”

Looking further into the season, Dunlop added: “He will get a mile and a quarter at most and is not a Derby horse.

“He is in the French Derby and there are plenty of options, but we will see what happens in the Guineas first.”

Equiano has now experienced both sides of a tight finish to the Connaught Access Flooring Abernant Stakes but this year the luck was on his side.

Last season the sprinter was touched off by Tax Free in the Listed event but the line came to his aid this time around as he thwarted the lunging finish of Mullionmileanhour.

It was the first time Equiano (11-4 favourite) had won since taking the 2008 King’s Stand at Royal Ascot, when trained in Spain, and his current handler Barry Hills is likely to aim him for the same race again.

Sri Putra (11-2) hit the heights of a Deauville Group Two last summer and conditions came just right for him in a muddling Weatherbys Bloodstock Services Earl Of Sefton Stakes.

Trainer Michael Jarvis may be planning further overseas forays for the five-year-old, who raced with one other companion on the far side of the track and was helped by Neil Callan to repel the wavering challenge of Henry Cecil’s Tranquil Tiger.

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