Duncan extends Gosden streak
The excellent form of John Gosden's stable shows no sign of abating and his Duncan put himself in line for some of the top staying prizes with victory in the Yorkshire Cup yesterday.
Along with Duncan's narrow defeat of Blue Bajan at York, the trainer was also taking the main prize down south as stablemate Izzi Top triumphed in the big race at Newbury.
In theory, Izzi Top's success in the Swettenham Stud Fillies' Trial was Gosden's second in three days in an Epsom Oaks rehearsal. Like Joviality in the Musidora Stakes on Wednesday, however, Izzi Top was all out to hold a stubborn rival in Dancing Rain. And, again like Joviality, she does not sound especially likely to try the longer distance at Epsom.
"I'm keen to talk the jockey (Dane O'Neill) and see what he felt about stamina limitations," Gosden said. "But she's a nice filly. She didn't handle the ground at Newmarket last time, found it too quick running into the Dip."
As for Duncan, he responded to an artful ride from the front by William Buick to hold on by half a length in the Yorkshire Cup, and may now take a big step up in distance -- and class -- in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.
"I think gelding him has probably helped," Buick said. "He has got his mind on one thing now. He's really turned a corner."
Gosden assented: "He's a bit of a character, but he has a ton of talent. It's been a little difficult to get it out of him at times, but he's got in a bit of a groove recently. He was a little effervescent, and fresh, and I'm sure with that out of his system, he'll be able to go further. William said he had trouble pulling up."
There were, admittedly, one or two hard-luck stories -- Henry Cecil's Native Ruler, for instance, was hamstrung by what emerged as a sprint to the line -- but Duncan was relinquishing weight to all seven of his rivals.
Royal ambitions were also aired by connections of Theyskens' Theory, which excelled on her seasonal debut in the sportingbet.com Fillies' Stakes.
Brian Meehan's three-year-old was one of the major players in the juvenile ranks last term, and has made immeasurable progress judged by this three-and-a-quarter-length romp.
Jockey Martin Dwyer said of the 15/8 favourite: "She will go to Ascot now for the Coronation Stakes and, hopefully, we can win a Group One with her this season."
Ascot looks an increasingly likely destination for Miss Work Of Art, which preserved her unbeaten record as the 6/5 favourite for the EBF Shirocco Fillies' Stakes.
Robin O'Ryan, assistant to trainer Richard Fahey, reported: "She might go Ascot -- there's the Albany and Queen Mary -- but it's not set in stone."
Fahey's team later rubber-stamped their vitality when Tepmokea (9/1), also ridden by Paul Hanagan, won the sportingbet.com Jorvik Stakes.
Mick Easterby is an ever-present at his local track, and oversaw a double when Thirteen Shivers and Hoof It combined to give the trainer a 135/1 brace.
The latter is owned by golfer Lee Westwood and his manager Chubby Chandler, and the 7/1 shot breezed clear under Kieren Fallon to initiate a possible assault at the Wokingham at Royal Ascot.
Meanwhile, others to shine at Newbury included Elzaam which took the other Listed race, the Carnarvon Stakes, by six lengths.
Roger Varian had elected to return last year's Coventry Stakes runner-up to six furlongs after an ordinary run in the European Free Handicap, and the result was fairly spectacular.
Varian said: "The Free Handicap was a funny race, but we had to try as he had a 2000 Guineas entry.
"He has so much speed we had a feeling this might suit and he seems a happier horse without headgear. He is in the Golden Jubilee at Royal Ascot, but it's only a tentative entry."
Richard Hannon has introduced Canford Cliffs, Strong Suit and Major Cadeaux to racing in the Health Care Maiden Stakes, but his pair had to settle for second and third behind the Alan Jarvis-trained Wise Venture.
Both Poole Harbour and Trumpet Major ran with great promise, but finished a neck adrift as the strong-finishing 40/1 shot Wise Venture and Jim Crowley took top honours.
"Jim said he was the best-behaved two-year-old he has ever ridden," said Jarvis. "There's plenty to come, but we won't be too hard on him as he's a bit special."
Crowley completed a double when flying through late aboard Jonjo O'Neill's Mauritino.
Hannon and Richard Hughes made the scoresheet when 11/4 favourite Census skipped two and a quarter lengths clear in the Scope Handicap.
Census belongs to Highclere Thoroughbred Racing and can count Elizabeth Hurley as one of his owners.
"It depends what the handicapper does, but the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot could be a race for him," said Hannon.
"You would hope he wouldn't go up more than 5lb for that, otherwise we might have to look somewhere else." (© Independent News Service)