Roberts shines on Joey

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Former champion jockey Michael Roberts rode his first winner in this country since returning from Japan when Sir Joey won the Courage Best Handicap at Salisbury yesterday.

But there was almost a sting in the tail for the South African as he came perilously close to a whip ban for his efforts aboard the Pat Murphy- trained seven-year-old.

However, the stewards decided only to caution Roberts for using his stick twice in the forehand position, much to the relief of the rider who had steered Needle Gun to victory in the Gallinule Stakes in Ireland on Saturday.

"I only got back from Japan a week ago and it was nice to win on Needle Gun but this was great too as it's my first winner back here in England," said Roberts.

Murphy was full of praise for the ride Roberts gave the enigmatic Sir Joey, who will now head to Royal Ascot next week for the Wokingham Handicap.

Sir Joey now gets a 5lb penalty for the big Ascot sprint which brings his weight up to 8st 4lb. And Murphy is hoping it's fourth time lucky for the gelding who has contested the event three times in the past.

David Elsworth said Persian Punch could be a future star after the horse had beaten favourite Old Irish in the Bishopstone Stakes under Richard Quinn. "If I don't get too skint and can train him like a good horse I think he'll be a nice four-year-old. Richard said the penny had not dropped with him and he's still learning as he does not quicken, he lengthens," said Elsworth. "I thought if he won easily today I'd go to Ascot for the Queens Vase, but he's not ready for that yet and anyway it will come too quick."