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The main talking point after the opening race at Navan on Sunday was the winning performance of the choicely-bred Prettiest, who created a good impression on debut for Aidan O’Brien. A first foal of multiple Group 1 winner Alice Springs, she looks another exciting type for top connections who will likely head to Royal Ascot, but there was also some promise from the runners in behind her, notably Viareggio, who was also making her debut.
There is stamina on the dam’s side of her pedigree – she is out of a mile winner whose smart half-sister stayed a mile and a half – so it was encouraging how well Viareggio travelled over a trip which is likely to prove short of her optimum. She was soon prominent following a slightly slow start, and her jockey had to niggle her on and off the bridle from halfway where greenness was evident.
When the pace quickened from the two-furlong marker Viareggio was initially a little outpaced, but her work in the closing stages was encouraging with an eye to the future. Viareggio started at 16/1, which isn’t a surprise given Jessica Harrington’s juveniles habitually improve for their debut – Albion Square won on his second start in the following race – but there was plenty to glean from her performance, and she looks a sure-fire future winner, while she is also the type that will progress through the season once having her stamina stretched.
Bernardo O'Reilly has dropped to his last winning mark and his effort at Haydock on Saturday suggests that he is ready to cash in soon.
The field split into two groups of eight at Haydock and it looked like an advantage to be on the far side, where Punchbowl Flyer, the eventual winner, took them along.
Punchbowl Flyer was all out to hold off the late lunge of Bielsa, who was an obvious eyecatcher having fared best of those who raced up the centre. However, Bielsa was not the only horse from the centre group to finish powerfully as Bernardo O'Reilly also caught the eye with his late flourish.
Bernardo O'Reilly raced up a similar part of the track to Bielsa, but was even further off the pace. He was not ideally positioned but he impressed with how well he kept on and it would be little surprise to see him gain compensation next time. It's worth noting that he had shaped with promise when sixth on his reappearance at Ascot three weeks ago, and he has seemingly returned in fine form this season.
Plenty of powerful stables were represented in the seven-furlong novice at Yarmouth on Friday and it looked like one of the better two-year-old races run in Britain so far this season.
Godolphin's winner, New Science, is likely to be a big player in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot, but it's also worth being positive about the Queen's runner-up Reach For The Moon, who is in the care of John and Thady Gosden..
Reach For The Moon made some appeal on paper - he is by Sea The Stars out of dual listed winner Golden Stream - and he created a positive impression on debut, doing well to finish runner-up given how green he was. An early sign of his inexperience was his jumping of the path after a furlong, while he also looked very green when asked for his effort, edging off a straight line and taking time to respond to his rider's urgings. The penny dropped late on, though, and he ran on nicely under a hands-and-heels ride to grab second.
He looks sure to progress for that initial experience and should prove difficult to beat on his next start.
Atomic Lady shaped with plenty of promise when third on her debut at Thirsk earlier this month, and she remains a filly to be positive about despite failing to build on that effort – at least in pure form terms – when second in the fillies’ novice event at Ripon on Thursday.
A slow start had immediately put her on the back foot at Thirsk, but she caught the eye with a smooth move into contention entering the final two furlongs and sustained her run well from there to be beaten just a length and three quarters, doing so despite jockey Duran Fentiman resorting to no more than hands-and-heels riding.
Atomic Lady’s strength at the finish suggested she would be suited by the step up to six furlongs at Ripon, where she was sent off the 11/4 favourite but ultimately didn’t get the opportunity to show what she can do given how things developed. She was faster away this time (despite diving right) but quickly became involved in a battle for the lead with Favourite Child, the pair going head-to-head at a fierce gallop and pressing on too far out.
The winner Jersey Rose was ideally positioned in their slipstream to pick up the pieces, but Atomic Lady deserved plenty of credit under the circumstances for sticking to her task as well as she did, comfortably seeing off the other pacesetter as she passed the post three and a half lengths behind the winner.
Atomic Lady is clearly blessed with plenty of speed but should have no problem staying six furlongs if ridden more efficiently. She remains open to more improvement with that in mind and should be a banker for a similar event in the coming weeks.
This was a low-grade affair, but it was a well-run race, and form that makes plenty of sense, the pair who pulled a long way clear in the latter stages having dropped to lenient marks following a spell in the doldrums.
Briac, who was making just his second start for Adam West, bounced right back to form with his reappearance run under his belt, and arguably should have won. He failed to settle in the rear early in the race, but soon got into a nice rhythm and was tanking along in the mid-section, travelling like a well-handicapped horse.
He was still in the second half of the field going down the back on the final circuit, and a big mistake at the third-last – where he nearly came down – didn’t help his cause. It was the rapid headway he made after that blunder which strengthened the opinion he is well ahead of his mark, though, pushed along on the home turn and quickly upsides the leaders when jumping two from home.
Briac jumped the last narrowly ahead of the well-backed winner and was in front on the run-in everywhere bar the line. It is fair to say that Briac did more running than the winner and did especially well to finish as close as he did, the front two in a different league to the remainder after jumping the last. Briac hasn’t been with Adam West long, and will remain of interest even after being reassessed for this effort.
The form of this handicap chase looks strong for the grade, won by a thriving winner in the shape of Do It For Thy Sen, who made it two wins from two starts over course and distance in the space of two weeks, beating the well-handicapped Astute Boy with plenty to spare.
There was plenty to glean from the performance of Astute Boy, though, who fully backed up the positive impression he created on his chasing debut at Hexham earlier this month. He was just a modest maiden over hurdles, but he has excelled himself switched to fences so far, and judged by his most recent display, he is well up to winning races from a mark in the 80s over fences.
Astute Boy was ridden much more patiently than the winner, waited with in the rear for much of the race before he started to pick rivals up down the back straight of the final circuit. He was still travelling well within himself on the home turn until his jockey asked him to close further on the principals, doing so in good style and briefly coming back on the bridle.
His jumping was assured when asked to get into contention and he stayed on well in the closing stages for all he was ultimately not match for the winner (beaten eight lengths). Astute Boy pulled well clear of a couple of recent winners in third and fourth, however, and it is not hard to envisage him going one place better in the near future.
Astute Boy has plenty of form at two miles over hurdles and he probably wouldn’t be inconvenienced by a drop back in trip given how he travelled, and a similar event should be there for the taking in the coming weeks, still likely to have more to offer over fences on what will just be his third start over the larger obstacles after all.
Five-runner handicap hurdles in May aren't usually races of note but there was a decent contest at Ludlow on Monday and it could pay to follow Pagero next time.
Pagero had to settle for third on his first start since October, but he shaped with plenty of promise and ought to do better with this run under his belt.
Pagero was held up off the steady gallop but he caught the eye travelling best on the turn in to the straight. He held every chance at the second-last but was untidy at that obstacle and was unable to quicken as Takeit Easy kept on well to make it back-to-back wins over course and distance.
Pagero has clearly returned from a break in decent heart and, as he is at least as effective over two and a half miles, connections will have plenty of options over the summer.
May 17-23 - Check out last week's eyecatchers from Timeform including Bezzas Lad.
May 10-16 - We round up the week's eyecatchers from Timeform including a two-year-old to note from the Sunday meeting at Ripon.
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