Waldkonig confirmed himself as a top-class prospect for the season ahead as handled the step up in class to win the bet365 Gordon Richard Stakes at Sandown for John and Thady Gosden.
A half-brother to 2019 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Waldgeist, the Kingman colt was sent off odds-on to be stablemate Mishriff this time last year – with subsequent events proving he was up against one of the best horses in the world.
Having won a handicap at Pontefract off a mark off 101 on his seasonal return, he was the 6-4 favourite to beat a field who all had solid Group-race form to their name.
Settled in second by Frankie Dettori as Extra Elusive set the pace, Waldgeist hit the front well over a furlong out.
The only runner to make any significant ground from the rear was the veteran Desert Encounter, but he never looked like catching the winner and went down by a length and a quarter.
Extra Elusive stuck on for third, but Thunderous and Highest Ground, first and second in last year’s Dante, both disappointed.
Gosden said: “We had some very bad trouble with a deeply-infected tooth with this horse which required two operations to get it out, as it was so deep.
“He was very ill, but has come back well to win on fast ground at Pontefract and on well-watered ground today.”
He went on: “He’s come through everything and is a relatively fresh horse and when you look back at his form, such as his third behind Mishriff at Newmarket, it is pretty hard to knock.”
Betfair gave the winner an 8-1 quote for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, but a return to Sandown could be on the agenda.
Looking to future plans, Gosden said: “The options will be over a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half, including the big one here in July (Eclipse).
“Frankie said he thinks he’ll get further, while his breeder told me right from the start he would be a better horse at four or five.”
Naamoos takes dramatic Esher Cup
Naamoos put up a fine weight-carrying performance to land an eventful bet365 Esher Cup for trainer Mark Johnston and jockey Ben Curtis at Sandown.
The 11-2 chance travelled up powerfully and was about to assume control when Ryan Moore’s mount Rifleman veered dramatically left and ejected the jockey, who thankfully emerged unscathed.
The incident left Naamoos in full command, and the son of Wootton Bassett pulled clear up the final hill to score by six lengths from Buxted Too, with Without Revenge four and three-quarters further back.
Johnston was on hand for the success in this historic handicap, but he admitted plans for the winner will have to go on hold while an injury he sustained early in the contest is assessed and treated.
He explained: “Our horse has a cut on his left-hind that Ben thinks happened a furlong after the start. Touch wood it’s only a skin wound, and he’s walked in sound. The trouble with it is that it’s a V-shaped flap that will receive no blood supply from above. It might be a while before it settles down.”
Johnston hinted that the upwardly-mobile Curtis would get a good share of the rides from Kingsley House this year, though Franny Norton and Joe Fanning are not signalling their retirements are in any way imminent either.
He added: “Ben has no retainers and we said if he gives us priority we will give him the same. But there’s no hint of Franny or Joe giving up. They are a part of the operation but can’t go on forever, and we need to look at youth.”
The Richard Hannon-trained Nelson Gay (9-4 favourite) turned the opening bet365 Handicap into a procession as he raced eight lengths clear of Fantasy Master.
Hughes is mindful his charge will be greeted with a reaction from the assessor and said: “He’s in at Goodwood next week and we may go there before the handicapper grabs him. We worked him with a two-year-old the other day to keep him happy.
“He’s owned by Ron Gander and my in-laws Richard and Jo Hannon.”