Dunlop puts down Classic 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 today.

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 today.

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.

"I don't know what the opposition was like. He was odds-on and it was 6-1 the field - they are good judges these punters.

"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."

Moore added: "He's a big horse and when he hit his stride he quickened up very well.

"He travelled like the best horse in the race and once he got out he was always going to gallop past them.

"He showed he's in good order. He likes the track and handles the ground, so has a lot going for him."

Dancing David was with the winner before he started his charge but found himself readily put in his place.

Trainer Brian Meehan said: "I'm very pleased with him. He got a bit of a slow start but he's kept on very nicely.

"I'll have to speak to the owners but we think he might need to step up to a mile and a quarter.

"We've got the French Derby as an option to think about."

The Barry Hills-trained Critical Moment ran a fine race to finish third having cut out much of the running.

The trainer's son and assistant Charlie Hills said: "That was very pleasing and he'll step up in distance now.

"He'll go to Chester for either the Dee Stakes or the Chester Vase."

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