Racing: A perfect start as nerves overcome

Nap: Regal Philosopher (Newcastle 3.20) NB: Pepperdine (4.55 Newcastle)
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GARY STEVENS got his stint in Britain off to a perfect start with victory aboard the Ben Hanbury-trained Asef Alhind in the opening race at Sandown last night, a modest claiming event.

Settling the 6-4 favourite in third place, Stevens kicked his mount to the front just before two furlongs out and held the challenge of No Extras by a length and a quarter.

"What a way to start," he said. "Obviously there were butterflies a little bit. Even though it was a cheaper race, a lot was expected of the horse."

Stevens' second ride, Theseus, started as the 7-4 favourite but was beaten by the Frankie-Dettori-ridden Compton Amica, a stablemate of the Derby contender Compton Admiral.

Zaajer, whose Classic credentials were given a fillip by Mukhalif's win in Sunday's Derby Italiano, may yet take his chance in the Epsom original on Saturday rather than the French version at Chantilly 24 hours later.

Rain at Epsom has encouraged hopes that the Ed Dunlop-trained colt, who beat Mukhalif by a length and a half in the Glasgow Stakes at York last time, could line up on Saturday. Angus Gold, racing manager to Hamdan Al Maktoum, the colt's owner, said: "He just wants a bit of ease in the ground and if it firms up he will not run." Zaajer's Derby odds range from 20-1 to 40-1 (with Stanley).

Aidan O'Brien has ruled out High King from the premier Classic and is more likely to run Tchaikovsky in the Prix du Jockey-Club instead.

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