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Evocative Spark was perhaps a little fortunate to be awarded the race at Ffos Las on his previous start (he was bumped close home), but he was strong in the market for this novice event and he shaped better than the bare result trying to give weight away all round.
He was once again a little keen in the early stages (as he had been in both starts before), but he travelled through much of the race like the best horse, his jockey quick to pull him out from behind runners early in the straight, and he was soon contesting the lead with the eventual winner.
This was Evocative Spark's first start at a mile and, while he was one the last horses to come off the bridle, he seemingly didn't appreciate the longer trip, fading badly inside the final furlong but not knocked about when once his chance had gone.
Evocative Spark is now eligible for nurseries and he rates the type that will have even more to offer, especially if dropped back to six or seven furlongs where he seems sure to be seen to better effect given the exuberance his shows in his races.
Owner David Armstrong held a good hand in the Ayr Silver Cup with Blackrod - who started favourite - and Bickerstaffe, both of whom shaped well in defeat, but the latter did well to finish as close as he did under the circumstances.
Bickerstaffe fared much the best of those who were drawn high in a race where the middle to lower numbers seemingly had an advantage. He also travelled better than most, ridden to get into contention around two furlongs out and staying on well in the closing stages.
He was left poorly positioned in a race where it paid to be up with the pace and firmly left the impression that he is in better form than his finishing position suggests. It's fair to say that he hasn't been seen to best effect since his win at Ascot in July, but he has the ability to win races from this sort of mark and, still only a three-year-old, he should be a fixture in big-field sprint handicaps for a while yet.
All day the betting suggested that Witch Hunter was a good thing in the opening race of the day at Newbury and, though he failed to land sustained support, he did shape with plenty of promise on debut.
He arguably bumped into an above-average juvenile in Deodar, who is from an excellent Juddmonte family, and represents Ralph Beckett who has enjoyed an excellent season with his juveniles so far.
Witch Hunter himself could turn out to be a useful colt, too, and he is one to look out for in a similar event next time. His sales price increased to €140,000 at the breeze-ups earlier this year and you can see why he was so strong in the market as he travelled like the best horse in the race for much of the contest and was one of the last to come off the bridle.
He appeared to hit the front briefly inside the final furlong but his inexperience told, not doing much once getting there, but rallying well when Deodar came to his quarters. Admittedly, he had no answer for that rival in the closing stages, but Richard Hannon's juveniles tend to improve for a run nowadays, and he looks well up to going one place better in the coming weeks.
The main talking point of this maiden soon afterwards was how impressive the winner Mighty Ulysses got the job done on debut, travelling into the race smoothly and displaying a potent turn of foot when asked to quicken inside the final furlong. He looks a smart colt in the making and may be stepped up in class next time such was the impression he made.
However, the John Ryan-trained Fourshadesofsilver also shaped extremely well in fourth, and is one to look out next time as he will be eligible for nurseries. He failed to beat a rival on his first two starts over five and seven furlongs, respectively, but he produced easily his best effort to date on his first start at a mile. Sent off the 150/1 outsider, Fourshadesofsilver didn't look out of place up against some well-bred types from powerful yards, and he was in fact one of the last horses to come off the bridle. His jockey didn't give him a hard time in the finish, resorting to the whip just once, and Fourshadesofsilver finished with running left at the line. The handicapper won't be able to go too high with his opening mark and he will almost certainly have more to offer in handicaps.
This looked an above-average maiden with plenty of attractive pedigrees on show and the winner, Millennial Moon, looked potentially smart as he streaked clear of his rivals inside the final furlong. The runner-up, Nations Pride, a well-bred Charlie Appleby newcomer, is sure to go into plenty of notebooks, too, as he looked in need of the experience and finished off his race well. He will likely be well found in the market next time, though, and Conservative, who finished third, arguably shaped with as much promise.
Conservative is from a good family and produced a promising first effort given how badly in need of the experience he was, never really travelling from the outset, having to be niggled along in the rear to stay in touch and still having plenty to do around two furlongs from home. It was the work he did from that point which was encouraging, though, keeping on well under a hands-and-heels ride and leaving the impression he would come on a bundle for that initial experience. Conservative's run style and pedigree suggest he will have no problem staying a mile and he is one to look out for in a similar event in the coming weeks.
Aidan O’Brien saddled the first two in this maiden for two-year-olds with River Thames, who has some big entries, looking a good prospect in making a winning debut. However, some of those behind shaped with promise, notably the Joseph O’Brien newcomer Fearless Futures.
Sixth in a barrier trial last month, he made an eyecatching debut in ninth after being slowly away and still had plenty to do early in the straight before keeping on into mid-division, nearest at the finish in ninth. He’s sure to improve with that experience behind him.
Fearless Futures is by the same sire as the winner, Churchill, and is out of the Fred Darling winner Maureen. She has already produced Roger Teal’s smart three-year-old sprint handicapper Whenthedealinsdone who was a good fifth in the Portland last Saturday but Fearless Futures could stay a bit further than a mile himself in due course.
Cephalus didn't show much in minor and maiden company in his first three starts, but he has caught the eye somewhat on both of his starts in nurseries on the all-weather.
Given what he had achieved on the track, an opening mark of 64 looked on the high side, but he travelled as though it wasn't beyond him when finishing sixth at Kempton nine days ago, and he confirmed that impression once again here.
He again scuppered his chances leaving the stalls, another slow start immediately putting him on the back foot, but he travelled very well in the rear, still positioned in last place at halfway but making good headway on the inner round the bend entering the home straight.
Cephalus was kept to the inside for a run on the cut-away around two furlongs out and he showed a nice turn of foot to get into contention, looking very threatening around a furlong from home and holding every chance. He kept to his task well but his earlier move into contention from an unpromising position seemingly told in the closing stages. Cephalus certainly travels through his races like a well-handicapped horse and, provided he can break on terms, he is more than capable of winning a similar event.
September 6-12 - Stone Age has more to offer
August 30- September 5 - Kettle Hill needs a step up in trip
August 23-29 - Alhezabr can gain compensation
August 16-22 - Jewel Maker back on a decent mark
August 9-15 - Shouldering one to keep on side
August 2-8 - Girl On Film could be one to watch
July 26-August 1 - Boundless Power looks capable of better still
July 19- 25 - Cliffs of Capri one to note for the Golden Mile
July 12- 18 - Riches And Rubies will improve for a longer trip
July 5- 11 - Hurricane Ivor remains a sprinter to be positive about
June 28-July 4 - Maglev one to note moving forward for William Haggas
June 21-27 - Clive Cox's juvenile Codify has more to offer in future
June 14-20 - Naval Crown is a horse to take forward from Royal Ascot
June 7-13 - Night Hunter caught the eye at Leicester
May 31-June 6 - To Be Wild was among the latest horses to take the eye
May 24-30 - Eyecatchers from Timeform including Bernardo O'Reilly
May 17-23 - Check out the week's eyecatchers from Timeform including Bezzas Lad
May 10-16 - Including a two-year-old to note from the Sunday meeting at Ripon