National honours for Havana Grey
A round-up of the rest of the action from Sandown on Thursday evening as Havana Grey won the National Stakes under P J McDonald.
Havana Grey dominated from start to finish to land Listed honours in the Better Odds With Matchbook National Stakes.
In what turned out to be messy race in behind, the Karl Burke-trained youngster relaxed in front on the rail and while favourite Frozen Angel finished well when in the clear, having struggled with the pace early on, the 5-1 winner had done enough for a one-length call.
Second to the useful Simmy's Copshop on his debut at Nottingham, Burke's charge went one better in some style at Ayr and looks set to give his connections a good day out at Royal Ascot.
Winning rider PJ McDonald said: "He's progressing nicely, which a lot of Karl's horses do, and I think he will improve again, he just got a little bit lost with me in front tonight.
"I'd love to think so (Ascot next), but that's up to Karl and the owners. It would be hard not to go to Ascot with him, whether that be five or six furlongs. Before today I'd have thought six, but now I'm not so sure. He showed plenty of boot early."
Burke was represented by his daughter, Kelly, who said: "We were pretty hopeful coming here. Hopefully we can look to Royal Ascot. That looks like the plan. I don't know whether that will be five or six, but with what we've just watched there I'd probably say it would be five, but I will leave that up to the boss.
"He is such a straightforward horse, all he does is please you and he has got such a good attitude. PJ has ridden him from quite early days and has really liked him. It is nice for him to keep the ride.
"He will definitely be better taking a lead. We didn't want to lose the rail today with the good draw we got, but he showed second time he does improve when he has something to aim at."
Havana Gold was given an 8-1 from 20-1 quote by Paddy Power for the five-furlong Norfolk Stakes.
Ryan Moore dictated from the front on Khafoo Shememi to land the Matchbook Traders Conference Heron Stakes.
Recording a quick double after victory in the feature Brigadier Gerard Stakes on board Autocratic, Moore was keen to be positive from an outside draw, sliding across to grab the rail.
Setting his stall out from there on the Richard Hannon-trained three-year-old – who was fifth under a big weight in a hot handicap at Ascot earlier in the month – Moore found a willing partner, as first Zainhom flattered having struggled to get a gap, before Escobar swooped with what seemed a winning run, only to find the 5-1 winner a neck too strong.
Hannon said: "He looked a good horse when he won the Easter Stakes. He went in a handicap at Ascot and that didn't suit him and he didn't run his race and I don't know why.
"He looked great today and won well. Where we go from here I will have to speak to Bruce (Raymond, racing manager) and Saeed Suhail (owner). The nice thing about him is that he tries very hard and is on our side.
"He is a smashing horse, I just hope I get to keep him for next year as that could be his year. I don't want to overface him this season. Obviously we've got to look at a Group Three and something like the Sovereign Stakes later in the season could be for him."
Hugo Palmer said of Escobar: "He's run a massive race. He was difficult in the stalls and lost his race there. He was stuck behind the wrong horse and was carried too far back. He quickened up well, but the winner is a good, tenacious horse that stuck his head out at the line.
"It looked like he was going to go by, but he used up a lot getting there. He is back on track, which is great news."
Hannon also took the opening Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap with Boycie, ridden by Tina Smith.
The 7/1 chance got up close home on the far rail to nail long-time leader Silver Ghost in the closing stages and score by half a length.
Laidback Romeo got rolling late to win the Matchbook Betting Podcast Whitsun Cup Handicap.
A patient Adam Kirby needed the breaks a couple of furlongs out, but they duly came and he had the horse to take advantage once they did, bursting through to firstly collar Makzeem and then hold Greenside and Sir Roderic by a length and a neck.
The Clive Cox-trained five-year-old saw his season end in August last year with victory at Windsor and was having his first run since.
Cox said of his 8-1 scorer: "He didn't run in the Cambridgeshire at the end of last year, as the ground was not quite right.
"It opened up really well for him there and Adam Kirby gave him a super ride, and this is a race we have had a lot of success in in the past.
"Turning tracks seem to suit, he loves Windsor and Sandown and it's the old adage of horses for courses."
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