Rocket zooms in

INDIAN ROCKET lived up to his name as he broke the two-year-old course record here yesterday with a decisive victory in the Mill Reef Stakes. The progressive colt, notching his third successive win, left his rivals struggling as he powered clear under Richard Hills a quarter of a mile out, beating Proud Native by two and a half lengths with the favourite Seebe a neck third.

The winner gave John Dunlop his second successive victory in the Group Two event, and although he is not regarded in the same league as his stablemate Bahhare, he earned a tilt at next month's Group One Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket.

Indian Rocket, a son of Indian Ridge, runs in the colours of an associate of Hamdan Al Maktoum. Earlier Hills set up an ambitious plan for another of the Dubai team's horses, Kutta, when he forced a dead-heat with Ballynakelly in the Autumn Cup Handicap.

The Melbourne Cup is now on the cards for the four-year-old, who needed every yard of the extended mile and five furlongs to get his head level with Ballynakelly's as the pair drew well clear in the final furlong. Hills said: "I thought I'd win it outright, but the other horse is such a tough beggar he wouldn't give in." Kutta, a soft-ground specialist, was having only his second run of the season, and the Sheikh's racing manager, Angus Gold, said: "It would be an ambitious plan to step up from a handicap like this to a race like that, but if the ground came up soft we'd have a sporting go at it."

Ballynakelly, trained by Reg Akehurst, staked his claim for the Cesarewitch Handicap - for which he is now a 10-1 shot with Coral. In the previous race Game Ploy, brought up from Pontypridd by Derek Haydn Jones, became one of the favourites for the first leg of the Autumn Double, the Cambridgeshire Handicap, after strolling to an impressive three-length victory in the Courage Handicap. Coral were sufficiently impressed to install him as market leader at 8-1 from 33-1.

At Ayr, Coastal Bluff became the first top-weight for 21 years to take the Ayr Gold Cup Handicap when he scorched up the stands rails for a clear- cut victory and landed a substantial gamble. Punters latched onto David Barron's grey, as massive an individual as his predecessor Roman Warrior, after he turned the Stewards Cup Handicap into a procession and hardly had a moment's worry as Jimmy Fortune sent the 3-1 favourite a length and a half clear of bottom-weight Mr Bergerac, to whom he was conceding 21lb, and Prince Babar. A rueful William Hill representative, David Hood, said: "He was everyone's banker. Christmas has come early for punters this time."

Yesterday's Group One action was at The Curragh, where Oscar Schindler galloped into Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe reckoning - he is now 16-1 in most lists - with a consummately easy victory in the Irish St Leger. The big Kevin Prendergast-trained chestnut cruised alongside hard-ridden Key Change two furlongs out and hardly had to be asked to go clear as the filly held British raiders Sacrement and Posidonas off for the minor honours.

Desert King made it a double for the home side in the National Stakes for two-year-olds as Walter Swinburn conjured a tremendous burst of speed from the colt inside the final furlong, narrowly thwarting Geoff Lewis's Referendum and giving Aiden O'Brien his first top-level victory.

In France, Running Flame overturned the odds-on Carling in the Group Three La Coupe de Maisons-Laffitte. The British challengers Musetta and Beneficial held every chance until fading to finish fourth and fifth respectively in the 10-furlong contest. Carling, winner of last year's French Oaks, is still a possible for next month's Dubai Champion Stakes at Newmarket.

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