4:01pm Friday 9th May 2014
MARK JOHNSTON has a very smart two-year-old on his hands in the shape of Mukhmal who defied the highest draw of all in stall ten to win the Manor House Stables Lily Agnes Conditions Stakes at Chester on Wednesday.
The youngster was giving 6lb and more away to his rivals and had to come around the whole field before grabbing the rail after breaking smartly.
It was an incident-packed race as What A Squirtle was withdrawn after getting loose beforehand and then Saphira Silver unseated Matthew Cosham on leaving the stalls.
Mukhmal never looked like being caught, though, and despite meeting Cheerio Sweetie on 9lb worse terms than at Musselburgh, the colt came out on top once more.
Jockey Paul Hanagan is riding on a crest of a wave, partnering the new Oaks favourite Taghrooda on Sunday and riding a fiver-timer on Monday.
He said: "It takes some doing (from that draw). I think he felt the benefit of that run at Musselburgh where he's learned a lot and he was quick that day. He's just so straightforward.
"I can't remember the last time I was drawn ten of ten and won like that. I was going a stride quicker than I wanted to, but he just pricked his ears in front and had a look around and then went again.
"I was pleased he pricked his ears once we got to the front because I'd had to use up quite a bit of him to get there."
When asked if he felt the winner was Royal Ascot material, he replied: "Yes."
Richard Hills, assistant racing manager to owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, said: "Over five furlongs from stall ten is an awful long way out, so fair credit to the horse – I thought it was very impressive."
The Norfolk Stakes is likely to be the target for Mukhmal at the Royal meeting.
Next week all eyes will be on York's three day Dante Festival which gets underway on Wednesday.
There will be plenty of clues for the Investec Derby in the Dante itself and a very interesting runner is the Peter Chapple-Hyam trained Arod, who created a big impression when winning at Windsor recently.
"He is most likely to go to York, I would have thought," said David Redvers, racing manager to owners Qatar Racing.
"That is the race Pete has been keen to go for all along, so I think that's where we'll be heading. The Dante looks an unbelievably hot race, but if he is going to be a genuine Derby contender, then he needs to run well in a race like that.
"He had a walk out at Newmarket last Saturday to give him a day out. He took all the preliminaries tremendously well and didn't turn a hair."
A big danger to Arod is True Story who will be ridden by Kieren Fallon and he is adamant the colt will stay the mile-and-a-half trip in the Investec Derby next month.
True Story is trained by Saeed bin Suroor and owned by Godolphin, for whom Fallon will be given plenty of opportunities to shine this summer.
The rider said: "He's got speed. I think he'll stay.
"He's got the action of a horse that will definitely get a trip.
"He's got a great attitude, he was very impressive in the Feilden. And he's got the ability."
While preparations are coming along fine on the track, there was a small fire at the track last Wednesday morning.
A statement issued by York read: "York racecourse can confirm that there was a small fire in a perimeter building at the track on Wednesday morning.
"There was no threat to life and no one has been injured.
"The building affected is part of the workshops for the groundstaff and thanks to the prompt response of North Yorkshire Fire Service and our own team, the incident has been contained. No racegoers buildings have been affected.
"The track looks forward to the return of racing on Wednesday, May 14 and this incident will not affect the staging of the Dante Festival."
Before then, there are a couple of local fixtures to report, starting this evening at Ripon. The six race card is due under way at 5.55pm.
Tomorrow evening, Thirsk also stage an evening meeting. Their seven-race card starts at 5.40pm, both cards have a competitive look to them.
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