Paul Hanagan proved exactly why he was recruited to be Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s first jockey with a consummate ride aboard potentially useful stayer Thimaar in the Betfred The Bonus King Queen’s Prize at Kempton.
The unassuming Hanagan, who narrowly defeated Silvestre de Sousa in last year’s championship, found himself embroiled in a full-on duel with the Brazilian in the home straight of the two-mile handicap as 100-30 favourite Gulf Of Naples drew alongside.
Thimaar, who is a veritable giant of a horse, rounded off a promising three-year-old season by winning at Ascot and looked closer to the finished article as he found a necessary length in the closing stages and lowered the two-mile track record.
A yawning seven lengths spanned back to third-placed Halla San.
“He was the heaviest horse in the yard by a long way last year, so we gelded him because if you weigh less, there’s less to carry. It was nothing to do with his attitude,” said trainer John Gosden.
“He has won at Ascot before and will now go for the Sagaro Stakes on May 2.”
A busy day on the Polytrack saw the staging of the two conditions events which have replaced the old Easter and Masaka Stakes. Neither are held ostensibly as Classic trials but the respective winners both hold Guineas entries.
It was Gosden again in the Betfred “Double Delight” Conditions Stakes when Eastern Sun (100-30 joint-favourite) scored with a fair amount of authority, leading throughout and being nursed home by William Buick.
Gosden said: “He only ran twice, as in the Solario Stakes at Sandown (when third) it rained for three hours beforehand and it messed up his season.
“He’s in the 2000 Guineas and we’ll have to see. William thought he may be best at a mile and a quarter.”
The trainer did not dismiss suggestions of either the German or Italian Guineas.
Buick switched to Mick Channon’s Laugh Out Loud (6-1) in the Betfred “When Both Teams Score” Fillies’ Stakes.
Not seen until this year and already a winner of a maiden at the course, she was produced with patience and eventually finished a length up on Way Too Hot and Esentepe.
“She’s a filly we’ve always thought a lot of and I’m pleased it’s all come together,” said Channon.
“I know the owners would be keen to run in the (1000) Guineas but we’ll have to see, as they have other nice horses like Fillionaire and Muaamara to come.”
De Sousa has a change of scenery this year with Godolphin in Newmarket but united with regular employer Mark Johnston when Baileys Jubilee (9-1) showed herself to be a pretty smart early juvenile in the Betfred The Bonus King Bingo/British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes.
The daughter of Bahamian Bounty showed an electrifying turn of foot to sprint four lengths clear.
Johnston’s assistant, Jock Bennett, said: “She had known her job in the stalls at home and she had been working well, but the best thing about that was the way she picked up and went away.
“It gives us a bit more of a line with our two-year-olds and I’d imagine she’ll go on for a novice event now.”
The day’s Listed race, the Betfred Mobile Sports Snowdrop Fillies’ Stakes, had a fine finish with James Fanshawe’s Captivator (7-1) showing tenacity under Kieren Fallon to short-head the 7-4 favourite Law Of The Range.
“We tried her over longer distances last season but she seems to have become quicker so this mile suited,” said Fanshawe.
“She’s from a really good family, the dam Cashew has produced horses like Macadamia, and it’s great she has stayed in training.
“I’m going to have to have a think about where she’ll go now.”
Law Of The Range, who was jarred-up from her previous outing at Glorious Goodwood, also thrilled connections with her effort.
A drop back to a mile brought about a startling turn of fortunes for Hughie Morrison’s Nazreef (11-1) in the Betfred Goals Galore Handicap.
Owner Mike Watson said: “We tried him over longer last week but it didn’t really work. He’s best on the Polytrack but Hughie says he’ll go on grass if it’s no quicker than good.
“He’d like to run him in the Spring Cup at Newbury but it might come too fast, so there’s races like the Hunt Cup and the London Mile Final here later in the year.”
Richard Hannon claimed a one-two with Shamaal Nibras (16-1) leading home Amazing Storm in the Betfred “Hat Trick Heaven” Handicap.