Pipe calls the tune

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The Independent Online
FIRST impressions are usually the best. The 2,000 Guineas form, which had seemed so shaky in the weeks immediately after the race, is now looking as good as it appeared at the time. Third-placed Bahri won the St James's Palace Stakes as he pleased at Royal Ascot and here yesterday Pipe Major, fourth in the Classic, returned to Newmarket to take the Van Geest Criterion Stakes by a cosy half-length.

The colt, trained at Middleham by Pat Haslam, clearly appreciated the step down in class and distance after his Dante Stakes fourth, and under a positive ride from Jason Weaver always had the better of his final-furlong tussle with Prince of India. The pair drew five lengths clear of Stylish Ways and Mistle Cat.

Pipe Major, a son of Tirol, is likely to appear next in the Beeswing Stakes at Newcastle later this month before stepping up to a mile again. Haslam said: "He really wants more than seven furlongs, but I want to find him some winning opportunities before taking on the best again. He always tries so hard to compete and he found it tough in the Guineas and the Dante. It's like training a greyhound - sometimes you've got to let them kill a rabbit."

The Ewar Stud Empress Stakes often throws up a useful filly, and whatever yesterday's winner Maid For The Hills proves to own in terms of class she will surely have few equals in the courage department. The daughter of Indian Ridge looked beaten as React and Persian Secret went by her in the final furlong but as Pat Eddery got to work she stuck her head down and ran on again to wear down her rivals for a neck victory.

Saxon Maid, behind the subsequent Royal Ascot winner Beauchamp Hero in both her previous runs this year, returned to winning ways in the Fred Archer Stakes. Sheikh Mohammed's filly had a dour battle with Magical Retreat, but asserted in the final furlong to score by a length and will step up to Group level next time.

At Newcastle Bold Gait turned in a tremendous weight-carrying performance to take the weekend's first "Derby" - the Pitmen's version, the Northumber- land Plate - by four lengths. The first two in the market, Latahaab and Pedraza, came off the final turn in the two-mile handicap together, but could do no more up the straight and Bold Gait, trained like his top-class close relative Royal Gait by James Fanshawe, made light of his 9st 10lb burden to stretch clear of Trans Siberia and George Dillingham.