Stoute has Carlton House in proper order ahead of Derby
Derby favourite Carlton House did everything expected of him when he completed his last bit of serious work before the Epsom Classic yesterday, prompting a flurry of ante-post adjustments in anticipation of a nationwide gamble on the queen's colt.
He is already 6/4, which is plenty short enough, but both trainer Michael Stoute and jockey Ryan Moore remain amazingly cool and confident about the Dante Stakes winner -- and bookmakers are taking precautions by shortening his price.
"It's spooky," admitted John Warren, the queen's bloodstock adviser, almost refusing to acknowledge that preparation has been so trouble-free.
"We were sitting at breakfast after the gallop and there was simply not much to say. He worked very well and beforehand, his physical presence was impressive. He was big, imposing and carried himself beautifully."
Stoute described the workout, over seven furlongs on Newmarket's Watered Gallop in the company of his lead horse, as "very satisfactory".
Stoute also warned punters that Workforce, his 2010 Derby and Arc winner, would be a little rusty for his seasonal debut in tonight's Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown Park.
"He'll need it," Stoute volunteered. "He had a late finish to the season last year and although he didn't run at the Breeders' Cup, he was trained for it and travelled there. But it's now time to get him out and running."
Stoute wisely avoided an early-season clash with So You Think in last Sunday's Tattersalls Gold Cup at The Curragh and clearly had respect for the Aidan O'Brien-trained horse, but, more importantly, he was always looking for a gentle reintroduction for his colt.
It is a boost for Sandown to have such a high-profile horse running in the Brigadier Gerard, although Stoute has sent his stars to this race before, albeit unsuccessfully.
Derby winner North Light failed to sparkle in 2005 and was retired after only one run that year, while St Leger and dual Breeders' Cup winner Conduit was touched off in 2009.
Meanwhile, Sublimity had to settle for fourth as the former Champion Hurdle hero bowed out at Punchestown last night.
Reunited with his old partner Philip Carberry, the Robbie Hennessy-trained 11-year-old's trademark turn of foot was missing at the business end of the Motivate Challenge, supported by Failte Ireland, Hurdle. Despite running on to the line, he found the younger horses too good, and will now enjoy retirement.
The race went to 9/1 chance Action Master, another winner for the prolific Dessie Hughes-Bryan Cooper partnership, which proved three lengths too strong for Won In The Dark.
One-time Stoute inmate Sublimity shot to prominence when defeating previous winners Brave Inca and Hardy Eustace in the 2007 Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, when trained by John Carr.
Little over a year later, Hennessy took out a training licence and Sublimity became the fledgling trainer's first winner when striking in the 2008 December Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Hughes and jockey Cooper were already on the scoresheet at that point thanks to Great Value (9/2) in the Harbour View Construction Maiden Hurdle, while the 'Tote Trifecta Rollover' Handicap Hurdle went the way of Edward O'Grady's Kitty's Lord.
Archie Boy (5/2 favourite) regained the winning thread in the conditions chase under Davy Russell. Paul Flynn's nine-year-old finished two places behind Aran Concerto when fourth at Killarney earlier this month but disputed the lead with that reopposing rival over this shorter trip.
He seized the initiative outright rounding the turn and bounded up the straight to inflict a three-and-a-half-length defeat on Skip Two. Russell followed up on Dazzling Susie in the mares' maiden hurdle. The 11/10 market leader looked set for second when Jacksonslady surged, but she responded to all of Russell's urgings to win by half a length.
Lion Na Bearnai ran out a gallant winner of the Conyngham Cup (QR) Handicap Chase. The 10/1 shot, with Matt O'Connor aboard, grimly fended off Optimum Force by a neck, although the latter lost second in the stewards' room as a result of some scrimmaging.