Once again at Epsom it was a case of ‘horses for courses’ today as those with proven ability to handle the ups and downs of the unique track took the honours.
First to strike was veteran sprinter Bishops Court, who bounced back to form in the opening Blue Square 0800 587 0200 Handicap.
Lynda Ramsden’s 11-year-old had not won for over a year but usually reserves his best for this sharp five furlongs, over which he has won twice in the past.
Seb Sanders always had the 12-1 chance in touch with the leaders as his half-brother Cape Royal set a strong pace.
Responding well to the jockey’s urgings, Bishops Court hit the front well inside the final furlong and had enough in reserve to hold the late challenge of Hidden Dragon by a head. Cape Royal was a futher head back in third.
“I’m absolutely thrilled. He loves this track and has given plenty of age to his rivals – including his half-brother,” said the winning trainer.
“We’ll come back here for the Dash on Derby day and hope he can do it again.”
Winning owner and breeder David Brotherton, celebrating his 64th birthday, said: “This has been the best present I could have wished for!”
On the day leading Vodafone Derby hope Motivator came to the track in order to get accquainted with its undulations, Tender Falcon underlined the importance of course form as he caused a 20-1 upset in the firstname.lastname@example.org Great Metropolitan Handicap.
Seemingly expected to need the run on his seasonal reappearance, the Ron Hodges-trained five-year-old made the long trip up from Devon worthwhile when edging out Balkan Knight after the pair drew clear at the furlong pole.
Sam Hitchcott’s mount appeared to be losing the battle until the young rider put his whip down and pushed him into the lead in the final few yards to shade the third photo-finish of the day.
“Being able to handle the course here makes a hell of a difference and we knew that was no problem after he won the amateurs’ derby here last year,” said Ivor Hodges, representing his brother.
“He likes this sort of ground and he kept progressing through last season.
“We did try and school him over hurdles once but he didn’t take to it and we decided he was too good to be messing around with.”
Hallhoo left favourite-backers cursing after he came fast and late to nail Elliots World on the line in the Weatherbys Blue Riband Trial.
The even-money market leader looked home and hosed when taking up the running from stablemate Love Palace with a quarter of a mile to run.
But the final incline proved just too much and he started to tire 100 yards from the finish, allowing Ted Durcan to snatch the spoils in the very last stride on the 3-1 winner.
“He looked as though he didn’t really want to do it last time at Doncaster but that was a very pleasing run – he looks as if he will stay a mile and a half well,” said Jonathan Mills, representing owner Ahmed Al Maktoum.
“Maybe the other one stopped a bit, but he had to show plenty of guts today.
“We will have to see how he comes out of this but I’m sure Mick (Channon) will talk to Sheikh Ahmed’s racing manager, Aziz Merza, and they will look at the options for him.
“Maybe something like the King Edward VII Stakes might be the race.”
Hallhoo was adding his name to the roll of honour for a race that has lost a little of its lustre, something Epsom supremo Stephen Wallis is keen to change.
He said: “We wrote to the connections of every horse entered and said that if they won this race we would pay all their entry fees up until the Derby – that’s about £4,000 for a horse entered as a two-year-old, or £12,000 as a three-year-old.
“It’s a bit disappointing that we got another small field and that the winner isn’t entered in the Derby, but we want to do something to get this race back on the map as a proper trial and we’ll be offering the same next year.”
Darryll Holland gave King’s Thought a fine front-running ride to take the bluesqpoker.com City And Suburban Handicap.
The 7-1 chance looked more resolute than nearest pursuer Shahzan House when push came to shove close home and held on bravely by three-quarters of a length.
Trainer Steve Gollings said: “This horse nearly died last summer. He had an eye infection and when he went away he contracted colic.
“It is a credit to everybody who has worked to get him back on the racecourse that he is here at all, let alone winning a nice race like this at Epsom.”
Seyaadi (10-3) benefited from the first-time application of a visor as he streaked away with the Drivers Jonas Maiden Stakes under Willie Supple.
The Ed Dunlop-trained gelding had proved a bitter disappointment when beaten at odds-on on his seasonal reappearance but looked a different animal here as he comfortably accounted for Hue by an eased-down three and a half lengths.
“He was bone idle at Doncaster but when we worked him in a visor it seemed to make the difference and it has obviously done the job today,” said Dunlop’s assistant Robin Trevor-Jones.
Veneer caused an upset when taking the concluding Philip Hall Memorial Classified Stakes under Lisa Jones at 14-1.