Havana Grey strikes at Sandown

Havana Grey: Struck at Sandown again.

Speedy juvenile Havana Grey set the record straight in the Allied World Dragon Stakes at Sandown.

Karl Burke's youngster was disappointing in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, but showed his true colours in this Listed affair over five furlongs.

Jockey PJ McDonald was keen to get into a sweet early rhythm aboard Havana Grey, who bounced out of stall two under a 3lb penalty.

Windsor Castle Stakes runner-up Roussel also travelled kindly and made his move two furlongs out.

But just as it looked like the 5-4 favourite would haul back Havana Grey, McDonald's partner kicked on again and ended up winning by a length and a quarter.

To Wafij finished third, another neck in arrears of Havana Grey, who won the Listed National Stakes over this course and distance in May.

McDonald said: "He's done it very well. The horse has made a liar out of me because I always said to Karl he'd be better held up as he's got an electric turn of foot."

Burke was absent – as he was when Havana Grey won the National Stakes – but was represented by his daughter, Kelly, who said: "We are really pleased. Ascot was a bit disappointing, but it is Ascot and these things happen. He seemed to be on the wrong side.

"We were confident coming here and he proved what we always thought of him. He has got options at Goodwood and the option in France (Prix Robert Papin) and he will have those two options."

She added: "That seems to be the way to ride him. We thought he might be better being held on to, as at home that's how we've been riding him, but on the track it seems to be different."

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Speaking from his North Yorkshire base, Burke pointed towards Goodwood as his preferred option.

He said: "He's a very good horse. He's got a great cruising speed but he can also quicken off it.

"He's just got that fantastic turn of foot and I'm really happy he's shown it again.

"I'm very keen that we go for the Molecomb at Goodwood.

"The owners were thinking about the Prix Robert Papin, but I think the five furlongs of the Molecomb is perfect, rather than travel all the way to France with him."

Spark Plug came nicely off the pace to win the Ambant Gala Stakes. Brian Meehan's six-year-old (4-1) was runner-up in this mile-and-a-quarter Listed race 12 months ago and easily went one place better under Ryan Moore.

Jake's Hill and Kidmenever jostled for the lead as the field turned for home, but Moore was happy to bide his time aboard the 2016 Cambridgeshire winner.

Kidmenever did well to keep going, but he was powerless against Spark Plug's last-furlong charge and was beaten into second by a length and three-quarters.

Jake's Hill was a creditable third, but last year's winner Ayrad, the 100-30 favourite, did not find a great deal and faded meekly.

Meehan said: "It is nice to get the old horse's head in front and I am delighted for David Kent who looks after him. He has been very loyal and you don't often see that bond between horse and lad nowadays.

"Ryan Moore was available and Jimmy Fortune was not around and was not available until next week. He (Fortune, who has been out of action through injury) rode work yesterday morning and got stuck in.

"Ryan took him on the inside and he got a bit of luck coming through, but he's given him a beautiful ride.

"There are no big plans, as such. I'm pleased to win this, but I am not sure where we will go next.

"We might look at a similar race at Newbury in a couple of weeks, but he does pick up a penalty."

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