Flame set to go flat out again as Penitent looks ready to step up in class

John Quinn is planning to return his Triumph Hurdle hero Countrywide Flame to the Flat before the end of the current campaign.

The four-year-old ran out a determined winner of the juvenile championship at the Cheltenham Festival before running a close second to Alan King’s highly-rated Grumeti at Aintree last month.

The son of Haafhd also has four wins on the level to his credit and dual-purpose trainer Quinn hopes to return him to the Flat game before gearing him up for one of the major Champion Hurdle trials in the autumn.

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“Countrywide Flame is fine and he’s having a little holiday now,” said Malton-based Quinn, who saddles Red Duke in Saturday’s 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

“The plan is to bring him back and run him on the Flat in the second half of the season if all goes well.

“After that, we’ll get him ready to go back over hurdles and he’ll probably start off in either the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle or the Bula (International Hurdle) at Cheltenham. He’ll run in one of those and we can make a plan from there.”

Meanwhile, Penitent is likely to have his sights raised to Group One level for his next outing after making the perfect start to his career with Quinn’s North Yorkshire training rival David O’Meara.

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Bought for 40,000 guineas out of William Haggas’s yard, the former Lincoln winner has taken his form to a new level for the Nawton handler which culminated with a battling victory in last Friday’s Sandown Mile.

Now owned by the Barton-upon-Humber based Middleham Park Racing, one option is for Penitent to return to the Esher track in early July for the prestigious Coral-Eclipse Stakes.

Won three years ago by the brilliant Sea The Stars, this year’s 71 entries include Sir Henry Cecil’s wonder horse Frankel.

“We put him in the Eclipse on Tuesday morning. We’d not considered it until 11.55am but I made a quick call to David and he said ‘why not?’,” said Middleham Park racing manager Nick Bradley.

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“He might not get 10 furlongs – if anything he’s likely to go back down in trip – but we’ll see.

“He’s in the Lockinge but I’d say at this stage it’s more likely that he’ll go to France for the Prix d’Ispahan. The winner of that gets an invite to the Arlington Million so that would be nice.

“Whenever we buy a horse we have a plan and we thought we’d be looking at Listed races or Group Threes at best, but we’re within our rights to be looking at Group Ones now. It just shows how good a trainer David is.

“I went up there on Monday morning to check on the horse and the combined total of all his 70-odd horses is about £500,000, so we’re delighted that we’ve backed him with a really good horse.”

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Margot Did, last season’s Grade One Nunthorpe Stakes heroine at York under Hayley Turner, is set to reappear in Saturday’s Palace House Stakes at Newmarket – one of the main support races to the 2000 Guineas.

The four-year-old filly is attempting to get back to winning ways after two slightly disappointing efforts in Meydan, the most recent of which came in the Group One Al Quoz Sprint on March 31.

Trainer Michael Bell feels the likelihood of testing conditions will play to the sprinter’s strengths. He said: “We think she is better with a bit of cut in the ground and the form book suggests that as well, so we are very happy with the condition of the track at Newmarket.

“We were a little bit disappointed with her performances in Dubai but she was only beaten by just over four lengths in both races and the ground was exceptionally quick.

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“We know she is better with a bit of cut and she has returned in great form. She is effective on the track at Ascot, which is unique, so I wouldn’t worry too much about running her there in the King’s Stand Stakes. But, if the ground was fast in other races, we may be inclined to swerve it.”

Margot Did is likely to face stiff competition from Hamish McGonagall, who was three-quarters of a length behind her at York, while Wetherby trainer Robin Bastiman is likely to saddle dual Nunthorpe Stakes winner Borderlescott. Masamah is an intriguing entry for Hambleton trainer Kevin Ryan.

Richard Hughes, runner-up to Paul Hanagan in the 2010 Flat title race, recorded his first winner of the season aboard Richard Hannon’s two-year-old Lyric Ace at Kempton.

It was a welcome fillip for Hughes, who only returned on Tuesday from his 50-day suspension imposed in India after failing in various appeals to have the ban lifted. He later completed a double on Gusto.

Lingfield stages an extra all-weather card today following the abandonment of turf fixtures at Leicester and Folkestone due to waterlogging.