Sandown round-up: Dee Ex Bee wins the Matchbook VIP Henry II Stakes for Mark Johnston

Top trainer Mark Johnston
Top trainer Mark Johnston

Dee Ex Bee confirmed he will be a major player in the Ascot Gold Cup after enhancing his position as the rising star of the staying division in the Matchbook VIP Henry II Stakes at Sandown.

The Mark Johnston-trained son of Farhh may not be the flashiest horse in training, but he is effective at getting the job done - as he demonstrated in backing up his victory in the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot in the Group Three prize.

Dictating matters from the outset, the 4-7 favourite kicked from the front when set to be challenged by his stablemate Austrian School and Mekong, before defeating the latter by a length and three-quarters, to complete a quick double for Silvestre de Sousa.

Johnston's charge was cut to 6-1 by Sky Bet for Ascot, and the Middleham trainer said: "I think he is a bit lazy and we probably saw that last time as well.

"William Buick said exactly the same and Silvestre said every time he came away from Austrian School he dropped the bit and he would have to take him back there to get racing again.

"Both Charlie (Johnston) and I said we wanted to see Austrian School go up there and take him on and make it more of a test of stamina, but then in the straight when he attempted to he couldn't get there.

"It looked slow to me early on, but I was surprised Making Miracles was not able to go the pace and Austrian School was unable to get up there and go at Dee Ex Bee.

"I think the extra half-mile (of the Gold Cup) will be nothing but positive.

"We had some reservations coming here in a five-runner race from the point of view of the horse's rating and reputation, in that he had not a lot to gain, but everything to lose.

"The aim is to win the Ascot Gold Cup and if we are going to do that he needed another run."

King reigns at Sandown

King Of Comedy looks a colt going places judging by his striking success in the Matchbook Low Commission Exchange Heron Stakes.

The 9-4 market leader was keen in the early exchanges under Frankie Dettori but was still travelling powerfully as they turned for home before quickening up smartly when given the office approaching the furlong marker.

Roseman chased in vain back in second but was no match for the winner, eventually going down by 2 1/2 lengths, while Sangarius shaped with promise on his seasonal reappearance back in third.

Notably, it was a 1-2-3 for sire Kingman who is fast becoming one of the most promising young stallions in Europe.

Gosden said: "He is an interesting and talented horse and as Frankie said, he is a good horse but he doesn't know it yet, which is an interesting thing to say. I think mentally he is still in the development stage and to to that extent he is a work in progress.

"Initially when he first asked him to go he was a little bit, 'What am I meant to do', and his last furlong was impressive.

"I think we will stay where we are (a mile). His brother won 15 minutes earlier over a mile and a quarter at Chelmsford, but I think we will stay where we are.

"He is the most genuine generous horse, but he did have to have a little jog down to the start and gave the jockey a good sweat! We can look at Royal Ascot, but we will see how we go.

"He is in the St James's Palace Stakes and all that sort of thing. You can certainly look at that sort of race, but I think he is trying to tell me that mentally there is still a way to go."

Flippa has rivals in a spin

Flippa The Strippa can also look forward to an outing at the Royal meeting following a surprise success in the National Stakes.

Sent off at 16-1, the De Sousa-ridden daughter of Outstrip backed up her recent victory at Chepstow when showing plenty of speed to capture the five-furlong Listed prize.

Taking it up around a furlong from home, the Charlie Hills-trained two-year-old - despite hanging late on - had enough in hand to see off Jm Jackson by a length and a quarter.

Hills said: "We will have to look at Ascot now. She showed a really good turn of foot there. The race was probably a little bit run to suit her.

"There was plenty of pace on and she got a nice tow into it. She was still a little green when she hit the front, but she put the race to bed well.

"I'm sure she will get six furlongs in time. I'd think Queen Mary more so than the Albany at this stage."

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