Task Force will be primed to perfection for his Qipco 2000 Guineas tilt after thriving in a racecourse gallop at Newbury on Monday.

The Middle Park runner-up found just sprint star Vandeek too good when visiting Newmarket last autumn and is preparing to step up to a mile on his return to the Rowley Mile for the opening Classic of the season.

Although solely racing at six furlongs in his three starts at two, the Ralph Beckett-trained son of Frankel is bred to be a Guineas contender, with not only his sire a champion at the home of racing but also his dam Special Duty, who was the 1000 Guineas victor in 2010.

Having begun putting the finishing touches to his Guineas preparations with a racecourse sighter over six furlongs, connections are now eagerly looking forward to Task Force’s shot at glory on May 4.

“The gallop went well and the horse did everything Ralph wanted him to do,” said Barry Mahon, European racing manager for owners Juddmonte.

“He worked six furlongs and Ralph came away happy with the horse and it leaves him on track for the Guineas on Saturday week.

“He is bred to win a Classic as he’s by a Guineas winner out of a Guineas winner and there are not many horses who boast a pedigree like that. He’s a nice horse and showed good form last year.

“He’s done well from two to three and has changed shape a lot. We feel he definitely doesn’t look a sprinter and last year he was a bit keen and a bit mentally immature, so we kept him to six furlongs and he had the talent to be able to perform over that distance. Now we’re looking forward to seeing if he can be just as effective to win over a mile.”

Task Force is as short as 12-1 for the 2000 Guineas and with no horse leaping out of the pack with a statement performance during the recent trials, connections hope they are in possession of one of the unexposed candidates who can shape up well against the formidable might of City Of Troy and Rosallion.

Mahon continued: “We’re under no illusions and it’s going to be a hard task to beat the two at the top of the market who both look exceptionally talented colts, but it’s a Classic and we have a horse who has shown Group One form and who we think will stay a mile so we have to give it a go and we’re excited to run him.

“We won’t find out until the day whether we’re up to that standard or not, but it’s nice to be able to partake and if there are any weaknesses in the top two, then we hope we are there to pick up the pieces.”

However, there will not be any Juddmonte representation in the Qipco 1000 Guineas, with the Beckett-trained fillies Skellet and Indelible to sit out the Newmarket action.

Skellet was last seen finishing a neck second to Nell Gwyn runner-up Dance Sequence in the Oh So Sharp Stakes but has met with a setback and although the form of Indelible’s two appearances late last year have a smart look to them, her team are keen not to rush her into Classic action.

Both fillies will be given plenty of time to flourish over the next few weeks, with the French and Irish versions of the Guineas possible options available moving forwards.

“They are coming along in their own time and are a little bit behind,” continued Mahon.

“Indelible has just taken a bit of time and Skellet had a small setback that has caused her to miss a couple of days training – nothing of any real significance, just a nuisance of a thing which has meant she’s had to have two or three days off.

“We just said we would sit tight and let them come to themselves and you have a French Guineas 10 or 12 days after the English Guineas and then you have an Irish one in another 10 or 12 days after France and there is no point fitting a square peg in a round hole if they are not ready for Newmarket.”

Valvano is set for a step up in distance following his encouraging return behind 2000 Guineas hopeful Notable Speech at Kempton.

An impressive winner of a heavy ground maiden at Nottingham last October, the Ralph Beckett-trained colt was tasked with taking on Godolphin’s highly-regarded and unbeaten track-and-trip specialist for his return in a conditions race won by some top operators over the years.

The son of Night Of Thunder lost little in defeat when headed late on by the speedy winner – who was cut across the boards for the 2000 Guineas in the aftermath – and having blown away the cobwebs and confirmed the promise of his excellent debut, connections can now look forward to moving up in distance and a possible run in a Classic trial next.

“We knew we were going to use Saturday as a stepping stone and we know that he is going to want 10 furlongs plus and probably with a bit of juice in the ground, so for Valvano to go a mile round Kempton and take on a horse who has every chance of taking his chance in the Guineas, it was always going to be a tough ask,” said Alex Elliott, adviser to owners Valmont.

“It will have done him good to get the freshness out of him and it was an improvement on his debut and will have taught him something. We look forward to stepping him up in trip now and we will probably look at a trial, I suppose.

“The winner looks a cut above in terms of going a mile and you would like to think if we could make the same improvement as we did from a maiden going into a conditions race when going up in trip in preferred conditions, we could have a really smart horse hopefully.”

With the feeling Valvano has a preference for cut in the ground, weather conditions could dictate where he steps up in trip and although he holds an entry for the Betfred Derby, it could be the French equivalent at Chantilly that becomes a longer-term objective.

Elliott continued: “Ralph thinks from his pedigree he is going to want a little bit of rain and I think he is going to be ground dependent.

“On the bottom side of his pedigree there is a lot of stamina, being out of a Duke Of Marmalade mare. But Night Of Thunder doesn’t really get them to stay that far. Ten furlongs could be his optimum for now but I think Ralph is pretty confident the horse could stay even further.

“He’s in the Dante, but wherever the rain is, whether that is York or Chester or something like that, if that went to plan, we could look at going to France for the French Derby.

“We’ll see and it’s a long way away and for now it is nice to see him back and make the progression. Hopefully he can take another step forward next time.”

Fellow Valmont-owned three-year-old Feigning Madness could also put his Classic hopes to the test when he makes his return in trial action at either Epsom or Lingfield.

The son of Ulysses somewhat surprised his team when going unbeaten in two starts as a two-year-old and as well as being a candidate for the Derby, the colt is also seen as a possible St Leger prospect for later in the campaign.

“He ran above expectation last year, he ran at Newbury first time and we thought he would be green, which he was, but we didn’t really expect him to do what he did,” continued Elliott.

“To then carry a penalty the way he did at Newmarket when the horse was on his head the whole way, you have to think the horse is going to stay super well.

“He’s going to come back in a trial and it will either be the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom or Lingfield. He has had two runs now and has learnt a lot. He is crying out for a step up in trip and we’re going to try to pick our easiest way to Epsom – if we can run well in a trial, then why not take a shot.

“He’s a well-balanced horse and his work has been good this year, which is pleasing everybody, and I think the further he goes, the better, so you could hopefully see him in something at Doncaster at the end of the season.”

Feigning Madness claimed the scalp of Ed Walker’s Harper’s Ferry on his second start and it was interesting to see another of the Valmont string, Moon Over Miami, also finish ahead of that rival when making a taking debut at Doncaster at the beginning of the Flat turf season.

As he is a gelding, Classic events are off the cards, but connections are keen to see the Kimpton Downs inmate continue his on-track education with a view to lining up at Royal Ascot in the summer.

“The time boys went crazy over Moon Over Miami but with him being a gelding, he can’t take in one of the trials so we will probably go for another novice with a penalty,” added Elliott.

“I think Ralph has his eye on something Greenham weekend – I think there is a 10 furlong novice there – and I guess we will be trying to get three runs into him before Royal Ascot.

“We’re just a little hamstrung with him being a gelding as to what we do next, but he’s exciting.”

Bluestocking will have “unfinished business” to take care of when she returns to the track for her four-year-old season, with York’s Middleton Stakes or the Tattersalls Gold Cup possible early-season options.

Trained by Ralph Beckett, the Juddmonte-owned filly acquitted herself with real credit during her three-year-old campaign and although she failed to add to her Salisbury juvenile success, she finished outside the top three only once in six starts, rattling the crossbar in some of the biggest races of the season.

She had the misfortune of bumping into Aidan O’Brien’s Warm Heart on three occasions, including when placed at Royal Ascot, while it was another Ballydoyle filly, Savethelastdance, that thwarted her Irish Oaks bid in the dying strides.

The daughter of Camelot was last seen going down valiantly by a neck in the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes and connections are desperate to see if she can finally get her hands on a major middle-distance prize this term.

“Bluestocking is back and looks great. I’ve just seen her and we feel like we have a bit of unfinished business with her,” said Barry Mahon, European racing manager for Juddmonte.

“She’s gone close on a few occasions; her Irish Oaks run was obviously a big run and her Champions Day run was also huge.

“She looks great and she could start in the Middleton Stakes perhaps and there’s also the Tattersalls Gold Cup in Ireland – she likes the Curragh, so that’s a possibility – and we will aim her at all those high-class middle-distance fillies’ races throughout the year.

“I think she has got a little stronger from three to four and she’s grown, so I think there is definitely some more to come from her.”

Kimpton Down handler Beckett may be without Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe runner-up Westover this season, but he could be the man responsible for Juddmonte’s main Classic hopes in both the colts and fillies’ divisions.

Frankel colt Task Force found just Vandeek too good when second in the Middle Park Stakes as a two-year-old and is being prepared to head straight to Newmarket for the Qipco 2000 Guineas, where he is as short as 12-1 to emulate his sire.

Mahon continued: “Ralph says we have some lovely horses and I’m not sure we will have much for the trials – Ralph is indicating Task Force is going to go straight to the 2000 Guineas without going to a trial.

“Task Force is in great shape and I’ve just seen him and he looks to have wintered well. We’re very happy with him and if his work is good then he will go straight to Newmarket.”

Beckett and Juddmonte could also be represented in the following day’s Qipco 1000 Guineas by Oh So Sharp Stakes runner-up Skellet and Lingfield maiden winner Indelible, with both fillies pleasing their handler in the early parts of the spring.

Kingman filly Skellet is another who could head straight to Newmarket on the first weekend of May, with Indelible the most likely of the duo to take in one of the key trial races over the coming month.

“It’s a little bit of the same as Task Force with Skellet and we have two nice fillies there, as we also have a nice one called Indelible, who is a Shamardal out of Midday,” added Mahon.

“Indelible won her maiden nicely at the backend of last season and one or the other might run in a trial, with the other probably going straight to Newmarket.

“It’s just a case of working out over the next four weeks how they are training and see. They look well and Ralph is happy with where they are at.

“With every week that goes by, they will keep on improving and maybe if we were to run one, it might be Indelible who goes for a trial. But we’re not hung up on it either and if they both need a bit more time they can go straight to Classics from where they are.”

Art Power did it the hard way as he bravely denied Frankie Dettori and Kinross back-to-back victories in the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot.

Making his fifth appearance in this contest, Tim Easterby’s gallant grey was away quickly in the hands of David Allan and soon blazing a trail on the front-end.

Having tracked the pace aboard Kinross, Dettori was nudging his mount into contention two furlongs from home, with a repeat of last year’s race victory looking likely as the stamina of Ralph Beckett’s six-year-old took him to the front inside the final furlong.

However, Art Power refused to lie down and he showed supreme guts to fight back and land a British Champions Day shock at 40-1 and also provide his pilot with a first Group One on British soil.

Kinross could bring the house down on Champions Day when attempting to land back-to-back Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes victories in the hands of California-bound Frankie Dettori.

Ralph Beckett’s popular six-year-old has proven the most versatile of operators throughout his career and dropped back to six furlongs with aplomb to pick up this Group One prize 12 months ago.

He registered further notable triumphs at both Goodwood and York in the summer and having suffered a cruel defeat in defence of his Prix de la Foret crown, now attempts to regain the winning thread at a track he knows well.

The son of Kingman is reported to be in good order since his ParisLongchamp reversal and his Kimpton Down-based handler is keen to see him add to his big-race haul.

“Winning Group Ones wherever they are is nice, but he likes it at Ascot and he will like this ground,” said Beckett.

“He seems in really good shape so hopefully he will run well. Everything has gone very smoothly since France and he’s had no issues.”

It is Kinross’ fifth year in training with Beckett, but it is since switching to the ownership of Marc Chan in 2021 that Dettori has entered the Kinross story.

The duo have have been regular visitors to the winner’s enclosure in recent seasons and Beckett credits the Italian with helping extend Kinross’ years at the top table.

“He’s been a joy to train,” added the trainer.

“They may have a couple of more days together yet, but they understand each other and that is a key part of the horse’s longevity. Frankie knows when to push the buttons on him and that really helps.

“Everyone who has ridden him will tell you he is a joy to ride.”

The guarantee of testing conditions could spell third time lucky for Vadream in a race in which she has performed with credit in recent years.

Charlie Fellowes’ mud-lover has already found the scoresheet twice with the ground in her favour this term and has been primed for this day after a respectable tune-up at the track in the Bengough Stakes.

“She loves Ascot, is in great order and this has been the plan for some time,” said Fellowes.

“I thought her comeback run in the Bengough was absolutely spot-on and on ground that was probably a touch too quick for her. I’m delighted with where she is at the moment.”

Jane Chapple-Hyam’s Mill Stream came of age with a pair of victories at Deauville in the summer and will have the assistance of William Buick for just his second start at the highest level, while another contender set to appreciate conditions is Andrew Balding’s Sandrine.

Owned by Kirsten Rausing, the four-year-old achieved the enviable feat of Group-level victories at two, three and four when successful in the Park Stakes at Doncaster and has been seen to great effect since tried in headgear.

“Sandrine is right back to her best and she hasn’t had a hard season,” said Balding.

“The visor she’s worn at York and Doncaster the last twice has made a big difference, and six furlongs with a bit of give in the ground is ideal for her.”

Prix Maurice de Gheest runner-up Spycatcher was third behind Sandrine on Town Moor and is one of two in the race for Karl Burke alongside stablemate Swingalong, who also has smart sprinting form to her name – finishing third in the Commonwealth Cup, winning York’s Summer Stakes and most recently a respectable fourth in Haydock’s Betfair Sprint Cup.

A place ahead of Swingalong on Merseyside was George Boughey’s Believing who justified connections’ belief when supplemented for her first Group One assignment and is fancied to defy her outsider status once again.

“Believing is a bit of a dark horse, I think,” said Boughey.

“We all at home fancied her a bit more than the general public considering she went off at 66-1 at Haydock. I didn’t supplement her for £20,000 without thinking she had a live chance in a Group One.

“She’s very versatile ground-wise. At the start of the year I was hoping for rain before the Nell Gwyn and she just didn’t stay the seven furlongs, I think – she showed loads of pace.

“I think she comes here in as good a shape physically as I can possibly have her.”

Henry Candy’s Run To Freedom finished second to Kinross in this 12 months ago and again hit the frame in the July Cup earlier in the summer, with David Evans’ Ascot specialist Rohaan the mount of Ryan Moore attempting to better last year’s fourth.

Rohaan spent 224 days out with injury following that Champions Day run and having worked his way back to form throughout the campaign, returned to the scoresheet at his beloved Berkshire venue earlier this month.

“It’s took a long time to get him back from the injury he had and I think every race he has had this season he has got a bit more confidence,” said Evans.

“I think he’s nearly back to how he was last year and apart from Kinross the race looks wide open I think.

“He’s only really disappointed once which was in this race two years back when it was really gluey ground and he couldn’t get out of it.

“We’re looking forward to it and he won well last time which paid for his chance and we’ll enjoy the day out I think. We’ve got a good jockey on his back as well which is always a bonus.”

William Haggas’ Sense Of Duty, who was a sprinter on the up before a setback hindered her progress and kept her on the sidelines for over the year.

She returned to the track over five furlongs at Newbury next month and will now put her credentials to the test in her first taste of Group One action.

“If the weather forecast is correct it may be specialist ground, but we would rather that for her than it be on the quick side,” said Richard Brown, racing manager for owners St Albans Bloodstock.

“She’s a big, very powerful filly who almost looks like a colt. I think she will go through it no problem.

“It’s not the ground we would worry about, more the opposition.”

Time Lock and Bluestocking give owner-breeders Juddmonte a strong hand in the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes.

Time Lock has made steady progress throughout the season for the training partnership of Harry and Roger Charlton and appears to have hit form at just the right time with Qipco Champions Day in mind judged on an impressive Group Three victory at Newmarket three weeks ago.

The Ralph Beckett-trained Bluestocking finished third in the Ribblesdale Stakes, second in the Irish Oaks and fourth in the Yorkshire Oaks earlier in the season, but was unable to make the most of having her sights lowered when touched off by Al Qareem in a Listed event at Chester last time out.

Juddmonte’s racing manager Barry Mahon admits testing conditions at Ascot will not be ideal for either filly, but feels both merit their place at Ascot.

“They’re two lovely fillies, the ground is an obvious concern I suppose for both of them, but they have both shown they can handle it on occasions,” he said.

“Time Lock ran well on Goodwood on heavy ground when she finished third in the Lillie Langtry and obviously Bluestocking was second in the Irish Oaks on soft ground, so they have run well on soft before, it just depends how testing it is.

“It’s the end of the season, it’s a lovely place to finish up and it’s nice to have both of them in it with a chance.”

Time Lock would be a popular winner for Derby-winning trainer Roger Charlton as he prepares to fully hand over the licence to his son Harry at the end of the season.

“She is in great form and is on the right path, growing in confidence with her success. It looks very competitive with a big field but she’s in as good form as any of the others at the moment,” said Charlton junior.

“It’s hard to be too confident as the conditions aren’t ideal. We’d be going with more confidence if they weren’t looking at so much rain, as good ground would have been ideal, but she handles soft.”

The likely favourite for the Group One contest is John and Thady Gosden’s Free Wind, one of five rides on the day for Frankie Dettori on what is set to be his final competitive appearance in Britain.

The five-year-old was well held in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe three weeks ago, but her narrow defeat at the hands of Warm Heart in the Yorkshire Oaks in August arguably sets the standard.

“Free Wind found the ground a bit lively in the Arc. Frankie looked after her and that’s one of the great things about him, he’s very quick at knowing when they aren’t enjoying it,” said John Gosden.

“He wrapped up on her with 400 metres or so to go and that’s why I can entertain running her again here – she seems in good form.”

Aidan O’Brien saddles Jackie Oh, who was narrowly denied an Arc weekend victory when touched off by Blue Rose Cen in the Prix de l’Opera.

The daughter of Galileo will be tackling a mile and a half for the first time this weekend, but O’Brien does not expect the longer distance to be a problem.

“We always felt a mile and a half was within her compass and ease in the ground will definitely be a help to her. She’s very genuine and we’re really looking forward to her,” he said.

Valvano followed in some illustrious hoofprints as he made an impressive start to his career in the British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes at Nottingham.

The top-class King Of Steel made a successful debut in a division of the the extended one-mile contest 12 months ago, while his St Leger-winning stablemate Eldar Eldarov was in the winner’s circle in 2021.

And while Valvano has a long way to go to scale those heights, the son of Night Of Thunder looks certain to go on to better things judged on this facile success in the hands of Hector Crouch.

Plenty was expected of the Ralph Beckett-trained youngster as an 8-11 favourite, but those who took the cramped odds will have had few concerns as after moving to the lead entering the final furlong, Valvano fairly sprinted clear in the testing conditions to pull six lengths clear of his toiling rivals.

Beckett, who won a division of the race with subsequent Derby participant Artistic Star last year, said of his latest victor: “He’s a nice horse who loved the ground and it was a good effort.”

On whether he could run again this season, the trainer added: “We’ll see what happens next, he could.”

Crouch was clearly impressed by the performance, telling Racing TV: “He’s very raw. He made it look straightforward because he’s got a lot of natural ability, but he took a bit of managing and organising and he’s keen to get on with things.

“He ran a little bit green, but once we straightened up he’s very talented. Amongst all the greenness he’s very responsive and he’s keen to learn.

“I think he’s got a bit of a fiery streak in him and is not short of speed, so I wouldn’t be in a rush to step him up to a mile and a quarter in his immediate future, but I’m sure he will stay that far.”

Beckett completed a quickfire double with another newcomer in the following EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes, with Treasure carrying the King and Queen’s colours to a clear-cut win under Ben Curtis.

“She was immaculately behaved and has a great mind. She was a little bit behind the bridle, it’s tough going out there, but she learnt as we went around,” said the jockey.

“She loved the ground and the further she went, the better she went.”

George Boughey’s Mr Alan (3-1 joint-favourite) landed the Watch Irish Racing On Racing TV Handicap for the second year in succession, pipping Belhaven by a nose under William Buick.

Hollie Doyle enjoyed a double on the card, booting home William Stone’s Tipsy Tiger (15-2) in the Join Racing TV Now Nursery and the Jack Channon-trained Desperate Hero in the Watch On Racing TV Handicap.

Going The Distance could have a bright future having flourished in the mud to claim the British EBF Future Stayers Oath Novice Stakes on a wet afternoon at Nottingham.

Trained by Ralph Beckett, the son of Lope De Vega started his career by finishing third to David Menuisier’s Futurity Trophy-bound Devil’s Point at Ffos Las and then returned to the Welsh venue to open his account with a victory which was much more cosy than the winning distance of a neck would suggest.

Sent off the 11-8 favourite to add to his tally at Colwick Park, the Marc Chan-owned youngster took advantage of the late absence of the well-regarded Midair to hold off Hughie Morrison’s newcomer Surrey Fire at the finish.

“He knew his job today and I thought after Ffos Las (his first start) he would know his job,” said winning jockey Rossa Ryan.

“He was good (last time) when Laura (Pearson) rode him and he impressed me today, he’s just a good, honest horse. When I gave him the option to go, he stuck his head down and galloped and he doesn’t overdo things, he just jumps and travels at whatever momentum you want him at.

“He’s perfect really to ride and he’s done it well and I would say he looks like he has a bit to grow.

“I don’t think heavy ground is essential for him but he’s able to quicken on it. I imagine a trip next year won’t be a problem to him.”

The victory was part two of a double for the jockey who had earlier claimed the opening Trustatrader Apply Today EBF Novice Stakes aboard World Of Darcy for John Ryan.

Second in the National Stakes earlier in the season, the Soldier’s Call colt was in action over seven furlongs in the Tattersalls Stakes only two weeks ago, but thrived for the drop in class to register a confidence boosting success at 7-2.

The winning trainer said: “He’s only a small horse but his heart is in the right place and he can knuckle down in all sorts of ground. I don’t think he liked it really but was good enough to get through it.

“When we ran him over seven, Luke (Morris, jockey) said drop him back to six and get him some confidence because he had had a few hard days at work. Luke was right and Rossa gave him the perfect ride there.”

World Of Darcy holds an entry in York’s Rockingham Stakes on Saturday afternoon and that Listed event is one option connections will consider.

John Ryan added: “We’ve got a big entry at the weekend but we’ll look at that and see what the ground does. I think he won easily enough but the ground does drag it out of him and Rossa said he did empty out quick on that ground. But we’ll see how he recovers and make a decision tomorrow.”

Harry Eustace’s Divine Comedy (4-1) continued her rise through the ranks by picking up her third win of the season in the Trustatrader Fully Vetted Tradespeople Fillies’ Handicap, while there was a first success for the William Muir and Chris Grassick-trained Go Daddy (7-2), who showed plenty of heart to pick up the British Stallion Studs EBF Nursery Handicap.

“That was brilliant and we thought we had deserved a win earlier in the season,” said Grassick.

“William had selected him from the breeze-ups and did a fantastic job of going and securing the horse. He is busy buying new ones at the sales and will be delighted.

“Its a lovely story for the owners. They have been with William a very long time and this means a lot to them. They’ve had a lot of nice horses and lost a horse earlier this year. So to have a horse go and do this for them has really helped keep the dream alive for everybody and it will mean a lot to William. I’m sure he will have a tear in his eye at the sales.”

The ground deteriorating to heavy helped William Stone’s Dashing Roger (7-2 favourite) make all for a five-and-a-half-length triumph in the Trustatrader For Tradespeople You Can Trust Handicap.

“He’s just been waiting for this ground,” said Stone.

“He loves soft or heavy ground and it’s hard to find. If we can find the ground, he will keep running.”

David O’Meara’s Stressfree (100-30 favourite) built on a second at Ayr recently to open his UK account in the Trustatrader Approved And Reviewed Trades People Handicap, while the concluding Trustatrader You Can Trust Our Traders Apprentice Handicap went the way of the Olly Williams-trained Foursome (5-1).

Poniros could have an exciting future having rubberstamped a successful reunion between Ralph Beckett and owners Amo Racing with an impressive winning debut at Nottingham.

Horses in the purple silks of Kia Joorabchian’s racing operation were a regular sight under the Kimpton Down handler’s name previously, but trainer and owner split midway through the 2021 season with the horses dispersed to other stables.

Beckett remained absent from Amo Racing’s roster of trainers for the 2022 season, but saddling his first runner in over two years for the owners, he enjoyed a winning return to the ranks with the promising son of Golden Horn, who justified 7-4 favouritism in the Bet With The World On Saturday EBF Maiden Stakes.

Immediately sent forward by Hector Crouch, he displayed a professional attitude in testing conditions at Colwick Park and made all for a taking length-and-three-quarters victory over Jane Chapple-Hyam’s Salamanca.

“He’s a nice colt and has showed up well at home,” said Beckett.

“That will probably be him finished for the year, he is still quite a weak individual, but he is a horse we like and one for the future we think.

“He’s been very straightforward since he arrived with us – he went there knowing his job because he has been so straightforward.

“First-time winners are always nice.”

Prince Alex’s five-race winning-run and Meu Amor’s Listed Eternal Stakes success were the highlights of Beckett’s previous time among the Amo training ranks and the in-form trainer was delighted to kick off his second spell with an exciting winner for the owners.

“I enjoyed training for Kia when it was going well and hopefully this is a nice horse back with us again,” continued Beckett.

“We stayed friends throughout and it’s nice to have a nice horse for him again.”

Poniros’ jockey Hector Crouch was also impressed with the performance of the youngster, as he defied both inexperience and a notorious headwind to get on the scoresheet.

He said: “He’s a lovely horse. I didn’t want to make the running, but he jumped well and no one was there. There’s a fierce headwind so he’s done well under the circumstances to keep going and he showed a really good attitude.

“I’ve only sat on him once at home and we did a piece of work on the grass. He did everything the right way round and is likeable. He hasn’t done too much at home, he’s just a really nice type.

“He has the right attitude to stay and the pedigree as well and he’s a really likeable type.”

Angel Bleu bounced back to his best to lift the William Hill Celebration Mile at Goodwood.

A dual Group One-winning two-year-old in France a couple of seasons ago, Ralph Beckett’s grey has largely struggled since, although he did land a Listed prize at Haydock in May.

He was unable to make an impact in either the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot in June or the Summer Mile at the Berkshire track last month, but showed his true colours back in more demanding conditions on the Sussex Downs.

With heavy rain during the morning turning the ground soft, Hector Crouch tracked the favourite Epictetus into the straight aboard 9-2 shot Angel Bleu, but had to move around the market leader soon after as he faltered disappointingly.

Angel Bleu looked booked for minor honours at best after Charyn came from the rear to grab the lead, but the Beckett runner finished off strongly to get up and beat the rallying Knight by half a length, with Charyn beaten into third.

The trainer was also on the mark at York with Kinross and Newmarket with Lezoo.

“It’s always the old boys that get you out of trouble, I’m thrilled to bits because it didn’t really happen for him at three,” Beckett told ITV Racing.

“That rain was very helpful for him this morning.

“I think I’m right in saying that’s Hector’s biggest win (Group Two) so I’m pleased for him, too.”

The Karl Burke-trained Darnation displayed a willing attitude to secure top honours in the William Hill Prestige Fillies’ Stakes.

Third on her Haydock debut in early July, the daughter of Too Darn Hot opened her account with a 10-length success at Thirsk three weeks later to earn herself a step up to Pattern class.

Carla’s Way attempted to make all the running, but while she found plenty for pressure she was unable to resist the challenge of 5-2 favourite Darnation, who finished strongly to prevail by two lengths in the hands of Sam James.

Jimi Hendrix hit the right note at Royal Ascot to lead home a memorable one-two in the Royal Hunt Cup for trainer Ralph Beckett and owners Chelsea Thoroughbreds.

A maximum field of 30 went to post for what was as always a fiercely-competitive handicap and at the business end it was the Beckett duo on opposite sides of the track that had the contest at their mercy.

Eventual 25-1 runner-up Sonny Liston was travelling menacingly on the stands side in the hands of Ryan Moore and burst clear of his group to mount his challenge inside the final furlong, but he was unable to land a knockout blow as Rossa Ryan notched his second Royal Ascot winner when leading home those on the far side on the 22-1 scorer.

Beckett said: “What a performance. I actually gave Ryan the choice of the two. It’s great to get Sonny Liston back, he has to be ridden like that, we think.

“I always thought the winner had a day like this in him. He won the Spring Cup nicely enough, but ran poorly on the Rowley Mile last time out. I think we’ll avoid the Rowley Mile for now. I thought he’d win the Cambridgeshire last year, but that doesn’t matter now because he’s won today.

“You couldn’t make it up the same synidcate own the first two, they are very happy.

“It’s been a tough week up to now, it hasn’t been going great but to win a Hunt Cup takes a bit of doing, to finish first and second is very satisfying, and it’s great for Rossa, he gave him a peach.”

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