OISIN MURPHY hit the ground running on Kick On as he begins his quest to match last year’s big race successes.
The horse could line up in the French 2000 Guineas after a battling win in Newmarket’s Feilden Stakes.
In the Group One at Doncaster over a mile he finished out nicely. I wanted to run him here and it was a good performance.Trainer John Gosden
Like last season’s horse of the year Roaring Lion, who took Murphy’s career to new heights thanks to four Group One triumphs, Kick On is trained by John Gosden and owned by Sheikh Fahad of Qatar Racing.
Just sixth in last year’s Group One Futurity Stakes at Doncaster, Murphy seemed keen to grab the rail and was able to dictate matters on the 2-1 shot.
With Aidan O’Brien’s Western Australia a disappointing fifth, and the Karl Burke-trained Kadar under pressure from some way out, it was left to Richard Hannon’s lightly-raced Walkinthesand to throw down a challenge.
However, Murphy’s mount had a neck in hand and Gosden, the reigning champion trainer, is already considering bigger prizes.
Gosden said: “In the Group One at Doncaster over a mile he finished out nicely. I wanted to run him here and it was a good performance.
“The jockey is talking about the French 2000 Guineas and we will possibly look at that with him.”
Meanwhile, the aforementioned Hannon was more than satisfied with Walkinthesand’s effort.
“He is in the Dante and French Derby and things like that. He was just a bit out on his own and it appears today you want to be next to that rail,” said the trainer.
Today’s Classic trial at Newmarket sees the Godolphin-owned Zakouski bid to provide trainer Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick with a second successive victory in this informative contest.
They won last year’s renewal with Masar, who went on to finish third in the 2000 Guineas before landing the Epsom Derby.
Zakouski created a big impression when making a successful racecourse debut at Kempton in November.
He faces stiff opposition from Royal Marine, also owned by Godolphin, who was a Group One winner last year for the aforementioned Murphy and trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
But an upbeat Appleby said Zakouski is ready for the test.
“He’s fit and well – and like a lot of horses who have won their maiden, he’s now got to go and take the next step,” reported the trainer.
“Saeed’s horse is the one we all have to beat. He brings Group One form into the race, and we’ve all got to raise our game to get to his level.
“I see our horse is priced up as favourite, and for whatever reason there seems to be a lot of momentum behind him.
“We think he’s a nice horse who has developed well from two to three, and it was a good performance at Kempton.
“We like him and think he’s up to running in a race like this. We’ll see where we stand afterwards.”
Meanwhile, Kevin Ryan’s top-class sprinter Brando is bidding for a third successive win in the Abernant Stakes at Newmarket.
The Hambleton trainer has used today’s Group Three as the starting point for the last two years for Brando, who also won a handicap at this meeting in 2016.
A real money-spinner for connections, having also won an Ayr Gold Cup and the Group One Prix Maurice de Gheest in France, he just failed to add to his laurels last season when second in the Haydock Sprint Cup to The Tin Man.
“It’s a good starting point for him – it’s worked the last two years, so let’s hope it can work again,” said Ryan. “We’ve been happy with him at home, so we’re looking forward to running him.
“He comes to hand early each year – and he just likes Newmarket, which is why we’ve started him off there for the last three years. We’ve started the season in decent form. Starting him here has worked well in the past, so we’ve done nothing different to the past few years.”