Silvestre De Sousa and EPSOM ICON en route to victory in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes
A super day for West Ilsley as EPSOM ICON prevailed on the downs, CZABO stormed home in Deauville and DIVINE proved her class at the Curragh.
First up was EPSOM ICON to fulfil the dreams of her syndicate and particularly Steve Pearce, a local lad who named the filly after his favourite course. Winning her maiden there in her juvenile campaign was momentous enough but as the television cameras crowded around Steve after Group 3 success yesterday, it was clear to see how much it meant to him.
It was a very special moment.
This year's renewal of the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes was seen as a case of Sayana against the rest with the four year old French filly an overwhelming odds on favourite. The sole three year old to line up, EPSOM ICON recieved twelve pounds from her elder rivals and Silvestre De Sousa kept things very simple throught the extended mile contest.
Sat in midfield, he was always in a position to capitalise and SDS did just that as the always prominent Loaves And Fishes and Merry Me began to tire coming down the hill. Silvestre was always there abouts and EPSOM ICON was driven out to lead a furlong from home and stayed on strongly to record a convincing victory by three and a half lengths.
It was a great moment and a satisfying day for Mick, who is now left to contemplate where we head next.
"That was a huge buzz and I'm delighted for Steve and his family. This filly does everything you ask of her and is so uncomplicated. Well named too! Because she's so straight forward both mentally and physically she's able to cope with the demands of Epsom and it couldn't have worked out any better.
"She was a Listed winner at two and now she's a Group 3 winner. There's no obvious next step for her right at this moment but Steve will be down in the week and we'll have a chat about the next move."
Over in Deauville, Norman Court Stud's CZABO gained her first black type by taking the Listed Prix des Lilas over a mile under an in-form Maxim Guyon who recorded a five timer on the day.
CZABO took the Esher Cup at Sandown back in April and was fourth in the Irish Guineas a fortnight ago and has long been a filly that Mick has been certain is capable of black type.
Another favourite was turned over in the form of Come Alive as CZABO won convincingly by a length and a quarter to the delight of the Boss.
"That was great and I knew it was only a matter of time until this filly was taking stakes prizes. She was very talented at two but just needed time and when there is a bit of dig in the ground she's very good.
"She's in the Coronation at Ascot and although that's a huge step up from yesterday's company, if there's any rain about we'll have to look at it.
"To win a Group 3 with EPSOM ICON and then a Listed race with CZABO in one afternoon was very satisfying - two fillies by Sixties Icon, bred at Norman Court and both of their dams were trained here - that was great.
"Most importantly, it underlines how good Sixties Icon is as a stallion. He improves every mare he covers."
Whilst EPSOM ICON and CZABO are in their formative years, Khalid Ai-Mudhaf and Mohammad Al Qatami's five year old DIVINE is now in her pomp and bounced back from a setback at Nottingham last time out to take the six furlong Group 3 Ballyogan Stakes under Ronan Whelan.
The daughter of Dark Angel banged her head in the stalls when anticipating the break in a Listed contest at the start of May and there were obvious concerns that her season might suffer as a result.
There were certainly no signs of that yesterday evening however as DIVINE cruised along in midfield and was asked to quicken approaching the furlong pole. The filly shot through and was soon clear, running out the winner by almost four lengths.
Mick was delighted.
"That'll do - she absolutely murdered them and it just goes to show what a class act she can be. Banging her head at Nottingham obviously wasn't a great moment and there were worries about what that could have done to her mentally, but she's such a great filly to deal with. She's a real star and we'll have a look at what there is for her now. Possibly the Wokingham, I'm not sure. I'll have to speak to Khalid and Mohammad and when the picture gets clearer we'll hatch a plan."
A smashing day all round then. Three runners in three different countries, with three different jockeys with exactly the same result: Stakes success.
Carlsberg don't make race entries.........
Billy Parish's MOBSTA (Yellow & Black) winning the Greenlands Stakes under Pat Smullen
A thrilling performance from MOBSTA saw the four year old son of Bushranger take the honours and become a Group 2 winner under Pat Smullen at The Curragh on Saturday afternoon.
The six furlong Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes had a strong look to it with Gordon Lord Byron and Don't Touch both in opposition but it was Billy Parish's MOBSTA and Flight Risk who were in the firing line for the final two furlongs with MOBSTA refusing to give in, eventually prevailing by a head with Dick Wittington a length back in third.
Only a four year old, MOBSTA has long been an individual of great promise and his seasonal reappearance in the Listed Cammidge Stakes at Doncaster made the Boss convinced that he might have an emerging star at West Ilsley.
That certainly seems to be the case now and it's left to the trainer to map a path towards cementing MOBSTA's reputation as a sprinter of note in 2016.
"We've always thought a lot of this lad and although we've had to wait for him at certain stages, Saturday has proved that he's now making giant strides.
"He loves soft ground and he certainly got that on Saturday and most important of all, he loves racing and never gives in. Mentally he's bombproof and one of the most relaxed colts to deal with I can remember.
"We'll wait and see now but he'll have to be in all the big six furlong races from now on. We've got him in the July Cup with the Prix Maurice de Gheest another option. We know what ground he wants so we won't waste runs on rattling ground but an autumn campaign is the way forward with the sprint on Champions Day and the Abbaye being the ultimate goals."
Margaret Forsyth's ROCKLIFFE - A winner under Silvestre De Sousa at Bath on Wednesday
It's been a busy time but it's worth reflecting on ROCKLIFFE's victory under Silvestre De Sousa on Wednesday afternoon. To say his route towards the winners enclosure has been a circuitous one is something of an understatement but he finally broke his maiden tag at the twelfth time of asking.
ROCKLIFFE has been a strange horse to get to grips with - talented at home and often showing glimpses of real quality against proven opposition at the track, yet never coming through in the grand scheme of things.
That was all put to bed on Wednesday however as he took the Class 6 mile and a quarter handicap for three year olds. Granted, against our expectations he was slow away but SDS scraped the paint throughout to produce ROCKLIFFE with a withering run up the hill to eventually prevail by a length and a quarter from Bigger And Better whilst his trainer looked on bemused and baffled that things had taken so long to come to fruition.
"I was determined not to give up with this horse because I'd have been gutted if he'd left us and won for someone else! He's baffled me at times because he does have ability. The problem has been that you never know when he'll produce it.
"He led Bossy Guest round the seven furlong gallop before his last run at Bath at the end of last month and Bossy couldn't get to him. I though he was a good thing that day and then he ran a stinker. I just couldn't believe it.
"He likes soft ground and he'll stay all day. This is not a forlorn hope as a racehorse, he's just a slow burner. I even sent him over to Hen's last week to school him so we probably have to give a bit of credit to her for that!
"He's come down to a mark of 55 and from what we've seen at home, that was more than workable on Wednesday, it's just a case of ROCKLIFFE helping us to help him.
"We're all hoping that the corner has finally been turned."
We visited the Summer Ground first thing with a mixture of older horses and some two year old colts. There are also some more backward juveniles who were filmed later this morning on the Winter Ground.
It's all on the Gallops Page
Mervyn Stewkesbury's JULE IN THE CROWN (Maroon cap, Centre) - A winner at Windsor last night
A fine display from Mervyn Stewkesbury's JULE IN THE CROWN saw the daughter of Harbour Watch become her sire's first winner from his first crop by taking the five furlong novice fillies' stakes under Silvestre De Sousa at Windsor last night.
Always a natural at home, JULE IN THE CROWN was a convincing two length winner over newcomer Barroche last night with a decent yardstick in Tiggaliscious a further length and a quarter back in third. The time was better than the juvenile conditions race immediately afterwards and Mick is relieved that a talented filly built on her debut at Ascot ten days ago.
"That was good to see because she's been a standout at home from day one. We are starting to know where we are going with our two year old fillies now after last night and Zig Zag Girl at Ripon on Sunday.
"It's always a guess to know how good they are as a bunch until you've lined up against other peoples' and that has instilled a bit of confidence. She was backed off the boards on her debut which I'd always preach against with our first time out two year olds and there was plenty of interest in her again last night.
"All I care about is how they improve in their first three runs and she needs to step up again now. She got very wound up going to post last night which is a concern because she needs to cut that out if we are to be ambitious in the near future with Ascot on the horizon.
"The National Stakes is next week at Sandown and we'll look at that before turning our attentions to the Royal meeting but, most importantly, we'll see how the filly responds to last night first.
"She's clearly got a quirk that so many good fillies have, but we can do without the scenes going to post last night. The fact that she did it so well underlines her potential but she needs to conserve her energy if she is to show her best against stiffer opposition."
Jon & Julia Aisbitt's STAR BLAZE & Silvestre De Sousa take the mile maiden at Newmarket on Saturday
A winner at HQ on Saturday and a romp at Ripon saw Jon & Julia Aisbitt's homebred STAR BLAZE and the Boss's ZIG ZAG GIRST return to the winner's enclosure for the first time, both under Silvestre De Sousa.
The three year old colt STAR BLAZE has taken plenty of time to come to hand, unsurprisingly really because he's a big, raw imposing type who has always shown us enough to suggest that he's set for a successful career.
The son of Shamardal made his debut at Windsor last month - an occasion that seemed to completely pass him by. In fairness, his debut was supposed to take place at Newbury's abandoned Greenham meeting but our hand was forced and Windsor's turning track was far from ideal for him, although with hindsight it probably taught him plenty.
On a more galloping track on Saturday, STAR BLAZE looked far more at ease when taking the mile maiden contest and although outpaced in the middle of the contest, he finally came good as he hit the rising ground to wear down Torch and Ethiraas in fine style to confirm to Mick that a step up in trip will lead to even more improvement.
"That was great and although he looked to be going nowhere at halfway, we know that he'd get further than a mile and he showed that to be very much the case. In many ways that worked out perfectly because he's a very willing ally and would have enjoyed that on Saturday.
"We've made a start and he's got bags of potential. Silvestre is convinced he'll get a mile and a half and you couldn't argue with him at this moment in time. It's also brilliant for Jon and Julia to have bred their first winner. He's out of Gallic Star who we trained and she got a mile and a half and he's inherited plenty of her talent."
At Ripon yesterday, ZIG ZAG GIRL continued our fine record in the six furlong juvenile seller event by flying home f ully ten lengths ahead of her nearest rival. It was an impressive performance from the daughter of Sixties Icon and, although Mick didn't want to lose her, she eventually left our care in the subsequent auction to go to Scott Dixon's yard for £16,000.
"I didn't want to let her go but that price represents good value and we have the mare, so it's certainly not the end of the line in that sense. She'll win again as she's got a great attitude and is clearly a slow burner. It took her a few runs to get to grips with the job in hand but, typical of Sixties Icon she'll get better with time and the Dixons should have a lot of fun with her. I wish them well."
Norman Court Stud's VISAGE BLANC en route to victory at Salisbury yesterday afternoon
A super day saw two fillies break their maiden tags and an improving two year old colt further his claims to raise his sights as the season develops - all round it was a satisfying day at the races.
We've had plenty of grumbles and bad luck in the last week, with Fingal's Cave, Divine and Volunteer Point all missing out on races that looked there for the taking but things always level themselves out and it started yesterday at Salisbury as Norman Court Stud's VISAGE BLANC took the ten furlong three year old fillies handicap in convincing fashion.
The daughter of Champs Elysees has always had a superb attitude and after a slow start she recorded her first career win at the fifth attempt under John Egan. She was prominent throught yesterday's contest and in a race where it paid to be prominent she stayed on all the way to the line to prevail over a solid yardstick in Zeehan by two lengths.
It was as eyecathcing a performance as the filly herself who is nattily named by Norman Court Stud. To say she was a standout foal is something of an understatement. Mick was delighted.
"This filly is a sweetheart. She tries all day for you and is incredibly genuine. She does everything at home; she's done a lot of work with the babies and has led them all the way through their preparation this winter. She did that because she has a great temperament and easy work like that has certainly paid dividends.
"She's thrived as the weather has improved of late and after just needing the run on her reappearance at Nottingham last month she did that very nicely yesterday.
"She'll get a trip in time and could be an improver as the season goes on. I think she's a smasher."
On the evening card at Newmarket, Lord Ilsley Racing's SAYESSE stepped up on his win at Brighton to take the novice auction stakes under George Baker. It's difficult to say what we have with SAYESSE because he remains a burly sort who is yet to look anything like the finished article but he certainly travels in his races and showed last night how he relishes a scrap.
He held off newcomer Mutoondresdashorse inside the final furlong last night to win by a short head but George was always confident, stating that SAYESSE knew his job and was always doing enough. Mick was pleased enough to start planning for even bigger and better things.
"Right, he's clearly very useful although the form of the race will underline how good in the coming weeks. He's raw and he's quite slobby still but he's sound, tough and hungry in every sense of the word.
"George was impressed and said that he's one of those horses that you'll never get to the bottom of becauise he's able to travel and then grind it out. He certainly has a very impressive attitude to the job.
"The new juvenile race system gives us plenty of options but I would be tempted to look at something like the Woodcote on Derby Day. He's exactly the type of horse who could handle that sort of occasion."
Last, but by no means least was SUMMER ICON who finally got her head in front at the tenth time of asking in the seven furlong fillies maiden. It's become something of a saga with SUMMER ICON who is clearly very talented, although at times quirky, but Silvestre De Sousa didn't mess about last night and the daughter of Sixties Icon pulled a long way clear in the company of Ryan Moore's Delve before emerging the winner by a head.
As Mick concedes, it was a victory that was long overdue.
"Job done in one sense and the ten grand bonus was most welcome. Training a 90 rated maiden is a frustrating experience but now we can look ahead and possibly take our time. She has always shown us plenty at home but she often did too much too soon in her races and never did herself justice.
"I want her to get a mile plus and she will in time but at the moment, over seven, she's got the chance to settle a little more. She has bags of ability as I've said and we'll be looking for a bit of black type now. I certainly think she's good enough."
Turning to our York runners, Mick was happy enough with both Harlequeen's fourth in the Musidora on Wednesday and Harrison's midfield finish in yesterday's Dante.
"HARLEQUEEN ran well enough but she doesn't help herself. The winner looks exceptional but I feel that the further our filly goes the better. They went hard and then slowed it up in the middle before sprinting for home on Wednesday and Harlequeen was all over the shop, keen and throwing her head about. She stayed on to just miss out on a place but she does need to learn her trade.
"She just needs experience and we'll take her to the 'Breakfast with the Stars' morning at Epsom and send her round the track. That doesn't mean she'll definitely line up in the Oaks but any experience will do her no harm.
"She'll most probably be one for the Ribblesdale at Ascot but we'll have a chat about that in a week or so.
"As for HARRISON in the Dante, I think it's fair to say that the Derby is now off the list of options but I was very pleased with him yesterday. He put himself right in the firing line with two furlongs to go and just plugged on. Silvestre said that he took a massive blow with him which surprised me but he is a big horse who is also still learning.
"It sounds silly to be happy when he's beaten eight lengths but he's come a hell of a long way. We'll go handicapping and look at Royal Ascot before stepping him up in trip later in the year."
It's all on the Gallops Page.
Lord Ilsley Racing's SAYESSE - A winner under Charlie Bishop yesterday
Two at Brighton and one at Nottingham with a few hard luck stories thrown in for good measure sums it all up at times. Three winners and still a grumble about Knight of the Air and Sarmadee filling the runner up berths.
Not to worry, there was delight for the members of Lord Ilsley Racing as they were at Brighton in numbers to roar home their two year old SAYESSE who took the novice auction stakes in convincing fashion under Charlie Bishop.
The son of first season sire Sayif made his debut less than three weeks ago at a very boggy Leicester and clearly he was sharper for it, with the switch to yesterday's fast conditions at Brighton clearly helping as he bounded clear by almost four lengths.
Mick was delighted for everyone involved.
"He's alright this colt and will give the syndicate a lot of fun because he's a big, raw boned individual who will improve all year. He's by no means just an early two year old runner because he's got plenty of size about him and carries an awful lot of condition for a juvenile who has taken all the work we've thrown at him in his stride.
"He looks like a nursery type and we don't have to rush him now although, as I've said, we've no worries about him running up light and we'll target anything suitable that comes along."
Only ten minutes later it was the turn of Gill and Dave Hedley's SIRI to enter the winner's enclosure as she won a fiercely contested duel at Nottingham to prevail by a nose under Silvestre De Sousa.
It was classic Silvestre who had to show all of his tenacity and strength in the three year old median auction maiden to hold off the challenge of High Draw for the best part of two furlongs.
Mick was chuffed that a talented filly has broken her maiden at the third time of asking having finished second on debut last season before trainer error saw her defeated on her seasonal reappearance last month.
"I ran her over a mile and a half to get her beat didn't I? Silly of me but it looked a weak race but hopefully Gill has forgiven me now!
"She's a good filly although she does have a fiery side to her. She basically throws a tantrum from time to time when she sees the stalls and that will take a lot of time and patience from Keith and the team at home. Jon Dennis deserves a medal for getting her in yesterday and it was just as well that he did.
"She'll hopefully get a mile and a quarter and she'll hopefully get her act together at the gate. From there - who knows how good she can be?"
Finally it was the rapid frame of Billy Parish's KING CRIMSON who blazed down the hill at Brighton to put the extended five furlong Class 4 handicap to bed without sighting the opposition.
KING CRIMSON, in his familiar front running style saw them all off under Charlie Bishop to delight the Boss and confirm that a return to a faster surface is exactly what he wanted.
"He's a very handy horse when things come right for him. He was probably a little out of his depth at Newmarket last time and just fell apart on very soft ground but a track like Brighton is perfect if he gets his own way.
"He'll be duelling with the handicapper throughout the year obviously but he'll win again because he's a real enthusiast and loves the job."
Norman Court Stud's CZABO & Silvestre De Sousa streaks clear of Midhmaar yesterday afternoon
A rampant performance from Norman Court Stud's CZABO saw the daughter of Sixties Icon emerge as a serious prospect in the three year old filly division as she beat the colts to take the Esher Cup under Silvestre De Sousa yesterday afternoon.
It was a terrific display on only CZABO's third career start and one that left everyone at West Ilsley hoping that we might have something special to look forward to with the Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Coronation Stakes now on the radar.
It's still early days obviously but the manner of her two and a quarter length success against Midhmaar with the rest left way behind was impressive and left Mick pondering his next move.
"That was great and I'll admit that I was a bit twitchy before the race because I realised that she was one of our major talents for this summer. I knew she was one of our best but that means nothing until they are tested against other people's horses and she passed that test with flying colours yesterday.
"OK, so she's only won a handicap off of a mark of 85, but the manner in which she did it was decisive and visually impressive. Silvestre said she gave him a terrific feel and we can look forward now.
"There's a Listed fillies race at York that we took with Laugh Out Loud a few years back and if we show up well there we'll head to the Curragh for the Guineas and then on to the Coronation.
"That sounds like a doddle doesn't it?! Ha ha, that's the ideal plan though and considering the improvement to come after her seasonal reappearance, I feel as though that's the level she belongs at.
"I'm delighted for everyone at Norman Court Stud and we've shown yet again what a talented stallion Sixties Icon is. He's improved all of our mares and it doesn't matter what trip they performed at - all he does is improve the mares. Look at SIXTIES SUE, she ran a cracker in the five furlong sprint yesterday and has plenty of talent and an incredible appetite for racing.
"Then you have HARRISON who ran a cracker in the last race yesterday to finish third and, giving weight away to both Stargazer and Lovell, I can honestly say that I was delighted with him.
"He's very talented and had a good blow afterwards but we're going to head for the Dante with him now. He deserves a shot at a race like that and we'll dream a little longer that he could be a middle distance horse with which we can take on the big boys this season.