YORKSHIRE-trained Muteela stretched her perfect record to four with a game victory in the Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot.
Mark Johnston’s filly, who won at Beverley earlier this season, took another step up in class – as well as a rise in the weights – in her stride. Jumped out in front by Paul Hanagan, who is brimming with confidence after his victory in the Epsom Oaks on Taghrooda, she had an uncomplicated ride from the front.
The challengers were queuing up to have a pop at the market leader entering the final furlong, but Muteela stuck her head down determinedly to fend off the fast-finishing Queen Catrine, who did not enjoy a clear passage under Jamie Spencer – a short head separateing the first two.
Hanagan said: “To be honest, I wasn’t that confident we’d won, because the second horse was quite a way from me. Jamie said ‘well done’ when we were pulling up, so that was enough for me.”
Johnston added: “She’s very fast and there would be a slight debate about whether we should go back to seven furlongs, but there are so many opportunities at a mile and we’ve had this race in mind for quite a long time, so it’s great to do it.
“We thought when she has run before that she needed every inch of a mile, but the dam injects so much speed.
“I entered her in the Falmouth Stakes yesterday. As she has won over that course and distance, it would be very tempting.”
The win completed a double for owner Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum whose Mustajeeb took the opener.
Meanwhile, Middleham-based Johnston, whose stable stalwart Sir Graham Wade was put down after suffering a leg injury at Royal Ascot on Tuesday, is backing Mukhmal to win today’s Norfolk Stakes, a five furlong sprint for two-year-olds.
Mukhmal, who will be ridden by Hanagan, showed good speed to win on his debut at Musselburgh but his next performance at Chester was even more eyecatching.
Having been drawn on the outer in the Lily Agnes, he blasted out and was able to grab the rail beforebeing able to kick on again.
It cannot be stressed enough how hard it is to win a sprint from an outside draw at Chester; the horse’s pace can only be a plus when he takes on Aidan O’Brien’s The Great War.