Lingfield Park : Convey and Royal Birth gained their places for All-Weather Championships Finals Day following scintillating Fast-Track Qualifier wins on Polytrack on Saturday 25th February.
Convey, having his first start since 1st October, swooped late to claim the 10-furlong £100,000 Group Three Betway Winter Derby and secure a free and guaranteed spot in the £200,000 Betway Easter Classic over the same course and distance on Good Friday, 14th April.
Stepping up to 1 mile and a quarter for the first time, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained five-year-old travelled well in midfield for Andrea Atzeni and quickened smartly when coming widest of all in the straight to collar long-time leader Pinzolo (Ismail Mohammed/Tom Marquand) near the line for a neck success in 2m 4.68s.
The Lingfield Park victory gave Stoute his first success of 2017, while new owner Robert Ng gained immediate payback for the 130,000 guineas cost of the horse at Tattersalls Autumn Horses In Training Sale.
Absolute Blast (Archie Watson/Oisin Murphy) who took the lead inside the final furlong but lost out in the closing stages, finished a further head back in third, with a neck to Zhui Feng (Amanda Perrett/Jim Crowley) and the same margin to the fifth home Grendisar (Marco Botti/Adam Kirby) in a blanket finish.
Battalion (Jamie Osborne/George Baker), the 7/4 favourite and very slow into stride out of the stalls, was a never nearer sixth.
Ante-post favourite Mutakayyef (William Haggas) missed the contest due to a foot abscess.
Andrea Atzeni said: “Convey did it quite well. Obviously, it was his first time over this trip – I wasn’t sure that he would get it but Sir Michael was pretty positive and thought he would stay.
“It worked out perfectly from a bad draw. I actually lost my left iron coming out of the stalls but somehow managed to put it back on. He travelled smoothly and I didn’t want to go too early because I didn’t know what he was going to do in front.
“To be fair to the horse, he was always doing enough to win his race and saw the trip out really well.
“After Mutakayyef came out, I thought that Convey was the best horse in the race. He obviously likes the All-Weather, having won on it before, and is a horse that has always had a lot of ability. He has been gelded and could be a decent horse over the summer.”
Convey is unbeaten in two starts on the All-Weather, having won easily on his debut at Kempton Park in 2014.
Ismail Mohammed commented: “I was very pleased with Pinzolo. He is a mile and a half horse and ran very well over 10 furlongs today. Finals Day is a possibility but we might end up on the grass instead. We will see how he comes out of this race.”
Aaron Jones enjoyed a dream first ride at Listed level as 8/1 chance Royal Birth flew home to take the five-furlong £45,000 Betway Hever Sprint and book his free place in the £150,000 Betway All-Weather Sprint Championships over six furlongs on Good Friday.
The Stuart Williams-trained six-year-old, making a quick reappearance after finishing third in a valuable handicap at Wolverhampton on Monday, ran on strongly from mid-field to collar 4/1 shot Lancelot Du Lac (Dean Ivory/Robert Winston) near the line and score by half a length, with a head back to Verne Castle (Andrew Balding/David Probert). The 5/4 favourite, Pretend (Charlie Appleby/Adam Kirby), broke slowly from the stalls, came widest into the straight and never made an impression when finishing fifth.
Royal Birth’s winning time of 56.77s was a tenth of a second outside the course record set by Ladies Are Forever in the same race four years ago.
Newmarket-based Stuart Williams commented: “Royal Birth has always been a good horse but had soundness issues when he was younger. He hasn’t had that many miles on the clock – we have him in a good position at the moment and he is starting to repay us.
“We planned to come here after his run at Wolverhampton on Monday and, hopefully, we would have won that race first but it didn’t pan out as well as it could have done.
“Aaron gets on really well on the horse and he is a steal for his three pound claim. It is his first Listed win and he deserves to get more rides.
“Royal Birth stays six furlongs, so we always knew that he would come home, and he has got plenty of speed. Hopefully, he will head to Finals Day now.
“You need a decent draw around here and things to fall right. It went right for us today and, if it goes right for us on Finals Day, he will be there with a chance.”
Aaron Jones added: “This was my first ride in a Listed race and it has worked out well. Royal Birth has been a good horse for me – I won a heritage handicap on him at Ascot last year.”
Dean Ivory reported: “Lancelot Du Lac has run a fine race. We thought that we had won but there was one flying who did us on the line.
“It was a bit of a reversal of what happened in the Cleves Stakes, when we just got up, but you have to hang on to Lancelot Du Lac a bit more over five furlongs and drop him on the line. It’s all about timing over this trip.
“We are delighted and I think that six furlongs will suit him better, as older horses sometimes tend to lose that little bit of speed. We will put him away now until Good Friday.”