Hanagan makes Magic City disappear

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The Independent Online

If this didn't give them a taste for the game, nothing will. Quite apart from free entry to the Queen's own racecourse, the benedictions shared by 26,595 people here yesterday extended to an immaculate spring afternoon and, for those disposed to take an interest, some pretty serious stuff on the track itself.

Any tempted to resume their reconnaissance at the royal meeting, indeed, may well recognise one or two key protagonists in June. True, even those previously innocent of his merciless good cheer had probably heard enough of Derek Thompson by the end of the afternoon. But then it was the tree of knowledge that started all the trouble in Eden.

The first lesson learned was that even lifelong aficionados of the sport will often have their expectations dumbfounded. Magic City was sent off at 1-4 for the opener, having made a dazzling debut at Newbury, but was turned over by the Yorkshire filly, Miss Work Of Art. In fairness, Magic City retains every right to confirm himself one of the fastest young colts around. The fact is that he had only had a dozen days to get over his exertions at Newbury, and might well last longer next time. Not that his connections were making excuses, instead suggesting that the winner must be pretty smart in her own right.

Her trainer, Richard Fahey, had contrived to miss the race after electing to travel south by train. But the man well ahead of schedule is his stable jockey, Paul Hanagan, who has begun his title defence in runaway fashion. Miss Work Of Art, in fact, had been his first winner of the campaign four weeks previously; here she became his 28th.

Having shared so many breakthroughs over the past year, Fahey and Hanagan now hope to win their first Classic when Barefoot Lady, winner of the Nell Gwyn Stakes on her reappearance, lines up for the Qipco 1,000 Guineas on Sunday. "She has been absolutely bouncing since the Nell Gwyn," Hanagan said. "And she has a lovely temperament, always tries her heart out."

Her opponents at Newmarket include I Love Me, whose bizarre christening did not seem quite so unwarranted after three starts last autumn. The good form of her stable was evinced by a really impressive listed success for Side Glance, in the famous colours bequeathed to Kingsclere by Paul Mellon. Andrew Balding, who said that Side Glance had been "rusty" on his reappearance at Leicester, may now send him overseas in search of bigger pots. I Love Me meanwhile had completed her preparations in pleasing fashion earlier. Balding rates her his best candidate for the race, and reckons she will be suited by Newmarket's fast ground.

The dry spring has also conspired in favour of Askar Tau, who won the only Group race on the card, the Totepool Sagaro Stakes, under a ride of characteristic restraint from George Baker. Marcus Tregoning, whose stable has hit its stride nicely this time round, will bring Askar Tau back to the Gold Cup at the royal meeting, for which Totesport offer 16-1 from 25-1.

As a son of Montjeu, Askar Tau was making a timely tribute to his grandsire, Sadler's Wells, who had died the previous evening at the age of 30. Pensioned from stallion duties three years ago, Sadler's Wells had become an authentic colossus of the breed, winning 14 sires' championships in Britain and Ireland and becoming the bedrock of Coolmore's bloodstock empire.

As the greatest European conduit of the Nothern Dancer bloodlines, he produced champions as varied as Salsabil, High Chaparral, Yeats and Istabraq. His legacy is already guaranteed by sons such as Montjeu and Galileo, whose unbeaten son, Frankel, bids to reiterate the supremacy of his genes in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas on Saturday. The few feasible rivals to Frankel include Native Khan, whose supporters were disappointed in seeking some kind of encouragement here from Libranno, runner-up to that colt on in the Craven Stakes.

Dropped in trip for a listed sprint, Libranno was swamped by three others in the closing stages – Perfect Tribute arriving latest but fastest. Her jockey, Luke Morris, flourished on the all-weather last winter and is behind only Hanagan in the early table, with 15 winners.

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Peaceful Soul (5.10 Bath) Significant that connections have persevered with this well-bred filly, who showed promise in qualifying for a rating during a fitful career to date. Steps up in trip for handicap debut.

Next best

Grey Boy (2.10 Bath) Veteran has lower turf mark for a reason but has been in such good form on the all-weather – albeit stamina gave out over a longer trip last time – that he can surely remain competitive in this grade.

One to watch

After three spins in maidens, Iceblast (Mick Easterby) was unlucky not to strike in his first handicap at Musselburgh on Sunday, trapped on the rail before rallying to force a photo.