RICHARD FAHEY has signalled the Group One Coral-Eclipse Stakes as the high-profile target for his middle distance star Forest Ranger.
A notable winner at Newmarket last month, the gelding confirmed his Eclipse credentials with an impressive victory in the Huxley Stakes at Chester.
Tony Hamilton’s mount kicked clear on the turn for home and surged clear from the well-regarded favourite Eminent who faltered and trailed home last.
Malton-based Fahey confirmed that Forest Ranger will bypass Royal Ascot next month and head for the Eclipse at Sandown, a 10-furlong Group One race when the three-year-old Classic generation get the first chance to challenge older horses like Forest Ranger.
“He definitely galloped right to the line, so we are delighted,” said the elated trainer.
“He’s a big unit – he was probably a bit weak last year. He’s become a man and he’s progressing. We’ll skip Ascot.
“That turned into a great race for us, I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I saw the favourite throwing out distress signals and Tony still hadn’t moved I began to get excited. I purposefully didn’t enter him for Ascot, I thought we’d give that a miss. As a Group Two winner now he’ll be harder to place. There won’t be many options for him.
“I’m getting more confident in the horse now. He does pick up at the end of his races, which is the sign of a half-decent horse.”
The win surprised the aforementioned Hamilton who was surprised at how Forest Ranger handled Chester’s tight twists and turns.
Hamilton said: “I didn’t think he’d really handle the track. I thought it would be a bit tight for a big horse like him, but he’s loved it.
“We’ve gone a nice gallop and he just goes the one gallop the whole way. He’s a massive horse who will only get better with age.”
Eminent’s jockey Oisin Murphy said: “I wasn’t comfortable from four (furlongs) down. This is a very good horse. He gave me a very nice feel at home and he didn’t perform, but they’re not machines and sometimes they disappoint. Hopefully we can get to the bottom of it.”
The veterinary officer at Chester said that Eminent, trained by Martyn Meade, was found to have a “fibrillating heart”.
Earlier Baraweez enjoyed a charmed run down the outside to run out a ready winner of the Earl Grosvenor Handicap at Chester.
Brian Ellison’s eight-year-old came from way off the pace to land the spoils under apprentice Phil Dennis.
And there was further local success when Look My Way was a game winner of the inaugural Chester Plate.
Jason Hart set sail for home before the final turn on Malton trainer John Quinn’s four-year-old after Mixboy and Eye Of The Storm had cut out most of the running.
Sean Quinn, the successful trainer’s son and assistant, said: “He’s a very tough horse. The longer we’ve had him, the more we’ve got to know him, and Jason rode him to his strengths.
“He’s already done very well for us, and he isn’t exposed over hurdles, so we’ll go back down that route at some point.
“He’s been on the go a while so I imagine we’ll give him a break now.”
Kew Gardens bids to provide Aidan O’Brien with a fifth victory in today’s Betfred Derby Trial at Lingfield.
The Ballydoyle handler has claimed this Listed prize four times in the last decade and Kew Gardens is a hot favourite to add to his tally.
The Galileo colt ran well in Group races won by esteemed stable companions Saxon Warrior and Nelson last season and is expected to strip fitter for his comeback third in the Feilden Stakes at Newmarket last month to Mark Johnston’s Mildenberger.
“He ran at Newmarket early on and is in good shape,” said O’Brien.
“Because the ground has been so bad in Ireland, our horses are improving massively for their first runs. When they ran first time they were just ready to start.”
O’Brien already has a formidable hand in next month’s Epsom Derby, with 2000 Guineas hero Saxon Warrior heading the ante-post market. He is also triple-handed in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown tomorrow courtesy of Nelson, Delano Roosevelt and The Pentagon.
Changes to the Flat fixture list to alleviate burnout have been welcomed by leading Yorkshire jockey PJ McDonald.
All floodlit fixtures next year will finish no later than 8.30pm while there will be a six-day break for all Flat racing after Doncaster’s traditional season-ending meeting in November. No Flat meetings will be planned for a five-day period in March towards the end of the all-weather season.
“You shouldn’t under-estimate the benefits of a couple of short breaks and the early finishes,” said McDonald, a board member of the Professional Jockeys Association.
“They may seem like small initiatives that won’t make much difference but I can tell you they’ll be of significant help to jockeys and also to stable staff.”