Anthem tunes up for Royal Ascot in style

The weather may have made it feel more like January than June for Royal Ascot trials day at Naas yesterday, but there were plenty of clues on offer for those who braved the wind and rain, not least in the shape of Anthem Alexander.

Winner of the hottest Queen Mary seen for many a year 12 months ago, she was making her seasonal reappearance in the Racing Post Lacken Stakes and despite the lack of a recent run and racing on ground softer than she cares for, Eddie Lynam’s filly was a ready winner.

Favourite Toscanini was sending out distress signals from an early stage so Pat Smullen switched his sights to Aidan O’Brien’s The Happy Prince and she was pushed out to win the Group Three by a length at 5-2.

RaceBets make Anthem Alexander 8-1 from 12-1 for the inaugural running of the Commonwealth Cup.

“I’m relieved more than anything and know she has trained on. That run will do her the world of good,” said Lynam.

“If I have my way she will go for the Commonwealth, but she is also entered in the King’s Stand and the other option is to run in both.

“We know she doesn’t like soft or heavy ground and we know she wants good or firm, so we wanted to run her here to see where we could draw a line in the sand.

“I think the world of her, but sooner or later you have to run and go and prove it. I think that was a good trial and it was run two seconds faster than the other six-furlong races. Let’s hope we are lucky at Ascot with her.”

Lynam had struck earlier when Ortiga finally broke her maiden at the sixth time of asking in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Fillies Maiden under Gary Carroll.

Richard Hannon’s Great Page got her big-race aspirations back on track with an impressive win in the Coolmore Stud EBF Fillies’ Sprint Stakes.

Having taken the eye with a debut success at Windsor she was comfortably beaten by stable companion Illuminate just 13 days later at Salisbury over five furlongs.

Stepping up in trip for a Listed race which has a good record of producing a smart winner or two, the winner looked in a different league to her seven rivals.

Sean Levey moved through stylishly before kicking three lengths clear of Jim Bolger’s apparent second-string Special Focus with Promised Money third.

Tim Palin, of owners Middleham Park Racing, said: “She ran back too quick when she was beaten last time.

“It was only 13 days after she put up a big effort on her debut and it was only over five and she needs six.

“The Albany, Cherry Hinton and Moyglare are all possibles. She’s bred for a mile and could be a Guineas filly.

“Sean said it was a muddling pace early and he got there way too soon but he couldn’t do anything about it, she just dragged him there.”

The consistent Heaven’s Guest gained his first win at Listed level in the Owenstown Stud Stakes.

A winner of several heritage handicaps for Richard Fahey, he was ridden by James Doyle for the first time. Sent off the 2-1 favourite, he appeared to be booked for a place as Lat Hawill and Stay De Night got a break on the field, but all his experiences in the big handicaps paid dividends as he knuckled down to win by half a length.

Doyle, riding his first winner at the course on his first visit said: “I was happy with him most of the way.

“The ground was too quick last time in the Victoria Cup, but the rain has come for him today.

“Six or seven furlongs suits him as he’s a strong travelling horse, although it took him a while to get going today so he’s probably best over seven.”

Andy Oliver’s Vitally Important (10-1) returned to winning ways in the New BBQ Evening Format At Naas Handicap.

Oliver said: “Fran (Berry) gave him a great ride. He’s a big horse and showed a lot of promise on his first start. He didn’t build on that in his two runs this year, but we put a lot of that down to the ground.

“Even though he’s by Pivotal, he likes a bit of better ground and it was just about ideal today. We’ll see what the handicapper does with him.”

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