A year after he proved unequal to the weight of patriotic expectation at Epsom, Carlton House last night did his duty on his return to action on the Betfair card at Sandown. His owner begins her Diamond Jubilee tomorrow by attending the Investec Derby as usual, and while Carlton House could manage only third when favourite for that race 12 months ago, his comeback in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes suggested that he could yet make the grade in elite company.
Unraced since the Irish Derby, where he finished fourth, the colt took the eye beforehand and was duly sent off at odds-on to outclass just five rivals. And while he proved very fresh and free through the race, he retained enough energy to break clear after Ryan Moore found himself short of room in the straight.
Sagramor organised a strong finish up the hill, but Carlton House had by then readily opened up by a couple of lengths, in the process consolidating the impression from his two Derby runs that this 10 furlongs trip might suit him best. Sure enough, Sir Michael Stoute will now train him for the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Moore also pronounced himself very happy. "He was fresh early but they weren't going quick," the jockey said. "He got the gap and went through it – he always tries his hardest. That was only his sixth race, so you'd like to think he'll keep on improving."
Ascot is also on the agenda for a number of others who impressed. Sir Prancealot thrashed several other juvenile winners in a Listed race over five furlongs, opening up by four and a half lengths after meeting traffic. Richard Hannon Jnr, assistant trainer to his father, indicated that the colt could go for either the Norfolk Stakes or, over a sixth furlong, the Coventry. "He'll have a favourite's chance, whichever he runs in," he said. "He's very decent, the best two-year-old I've seen this season."
But the star of the show last night was Frankie Dettori, who has endured some vexing headlines as a result of his absence from the Epsom Classics this year. He reminded Sheikh Mohammed, who had arrived ahead of the Derby meeting, of his big-race cool when restraining Opinion Poll until the final stages of the Henry II Stakes; and then, surplus to his employer's requirements, he produced Cogito to get up on the line in a sprint finish to the Heron Stakes.
That colt carries the same Paul Reddam colours as I'll Have Another, who will seek the first US Triple Crown since 1978 in New York tomorrow week. A winner on debut at the Craven meeting, Cogito showed bright acceleration off a steady pace here and looks an eligible type for the St James's Palace Stakes at the royal meeting.
"We've always felt he was a stakes horse," Brian Meehan confirmed. "With a horse like this, there's no point hiding him away and I'd love to have a crack at it. Obviously, I have to speak to the owners, but I hope they'll be thinking the same way as me."