King’s Lynn books Royal Ascot ticket with Haydock victory
King’s Lynn will bid to provide the Queen with a Royal Ascot success next month after opening his account for the campaign in the Betway Achilles Stakes at Haydock
Andrew Balding’s four-year-old had been beaten less than a length on his first two starts of the season – most recently pushing the reopposing El Astronaute close at Chester three weeks ago.
Back on a straight track, it was a very different story, with El Astronaute under pressure from the halfway stage and ultimately well beaten, while in contrast 3-1 favourite King’s Lynn travelled smoothly in the hands of Oisin Murphy.
The Cable Bay gelding picked up well to grab the lead and had enough in reserve to get the better of Moss Gill by a neck.
Balding said: “He’s done very little wrong in all his starts and he’s still reasonably lightly raced for a horse of his age.
“He’s entitled to keep on improving, I hope. I’m very pleased with him.
“He’s still in the King’s Stand and the Wokingham (at Royal Ascot). He’ll have a penalty in the Wokingham, but those are the two objectives – it will be one or the other.
“It’s impossible to say which one he’ll go for at this stage. We’ll have to see what his official rating does.”
Murphy, battling a bout of toothache, was completing a double on the card, having earlier steered Quickthorn to a clear-cut success in the opening Heed Your Hunch At Betway Handicap.
The champion jockey missed his final three rides at Yarmouth on Friday, but returned to the saddle aboard Hughie Morrison’s 3-1 market leader in the opener on Merseyside.
Quickthorn travelled strongly for much of the mile-and-a-half contest before being driven eight and a half lengths clear, with Master The Stars beating Labeebb to the runner-up spot.
Murphy said afterwards: “I’m on Amoxicillin and plenty of painkillers. It’s just impossible to see a dentist at the moment unless you’ve got a proper hole in your head!”
We've given him time and he's potentially a very nice horse
Morrison decided not to make the long journey north, but was delighted with Quickthorn’s performance.
“It’s great when owners are patient enough to give a horse time to mature and strengthen up. Hopefully that patience is being rewarded with this horse now,” said the Summerdown-based trainer.
“He got jarred up on the very fast ground last spring, so we’ve given him time and he’s potentially a very nice horse.
“He’s homebred for Lord and Lady Blyth, which is great.
“We’ll see where we go, but I’d imagine we’d want a bit of juice in the ground.”
Punchbowl Flyer came out on top in a thrilling finish to the Betway Handicap.
Eve Johnson Houghton’s 18-1 shot was almost joined on the line by 4-1 favourite Bielsa on the line, but the judge confirmed Punchbowl Flyer had held on by a nose.
Winning jockey Charles Bishop said: “I was a bit worried going over the line that Silvestre (de Sousa, on Bielsa) might have got his head down before me, but thankfully we got there.
“The ground is good to soft. He’s not as happy on that as he is on heavy ground, but hopefully he’s improving.
“The owners talked about not running him, but with the ground drying up in the next couple of weeks they decided to take their chance. It’s a good job they did.”
Adrian Nicholls was thrilled to see Mo Celita win her fifth race on the spin in the Read Andrew Balding On Betway Insider Handicap.
Unplaced in two starts for Irish trainer Willie McCreery, the three-year-old completed a hat-trick in selling races on her first three starts for Nicholls, before making a winning handicap debut at Haydock a week ago.
Ridden by 5lb claimer Laura Coughlan, the 100-30 joint-favourite continued her remarkable progression with a two-and-a-quarter-length verdict over Night Narcissus.
“It’s unbelievable really. She’s stepping up in grade and winning with the same ease as the time before,” said Nicholls.
“She’s been a superstar. She’s a filly in form who takes her racing well. I’m chuffed to bits.”
If you'd said to me two months ago I'd be stood here now having won five in a row I'd have laughed.
He added: “A friend of mine in Ireland, Mark Gallagher, said a few horses were being shipped around. I had a look at her and said I’d have a go – and the rest is history. I won’t say how much she was, but she was cheap, hence why we ran her in a seller.
“She’s done nothing but improve. When we first got her she certainly wasn’t catching pigeons, so it must just be a confidence thing. If you’d said to me two months ago I’d be stood here now having won five in a row I’d have laughed.
“We were able to win three sellers without losing her because there was no crowds because of Covid. I was being a bit cheeky really, but you’ve got to take a chance in life else you’ll get nothing.
“There’s a race at York in June that she could run in and I might put her in the Jersey at Royal Ascot. There’s a few options with her.”
The concluding Betway Casino Handicap went to the Charlie Hills-trained Il Bandito (11-4), ridden by William Buick.