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Lofty ambitions for Shartash after shining again at Haydock

Lofty ambitions for Shartash after shining again at Haydock
Lofty ambitions for Shartash after shining again at Haydock

Archie Watson is eyeing a step up to Group One level at Royal Ascot for Shartash after he made it two from two for the stable in the Pertemps Network Spring Trophy at Haydock.

The four-year-old was a high-class juvenile for Johnny Murtagh a couple of seasons ago, striking Group Two gold in the Railway Stakes before running with credit in the Phoenix Stakes, the National Stakes and the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere before the end of the campaign.

But having failed to build on that promise last term, the son of Invincible Spirit was sold by the Aga Khan for €150,000 last September to resume his career in Britain with Watson.

Having been gelded during the off-season, Shartash made a successful start for his new connection in a small-field conditions event at Thirsk last month and he was a 6-1 shot to follow up in Listed company on Merseyside.

Ridden by Joshua Bryan, Watson’s charge cruised to the front two furlongs from home and was always doing enough to see off the challenge of admirable veteran Pogo by a neck.

“He’s a proper horse and we’re delighted, I’m very grateful to John and Max Wright (of owners Weldspec Glasgow Limited) for sending him to us,” said Watson.

“I think he was good value for €150,000 at the Arqana Sale and I think a winter on his back, but also gelding him, has been the key to him.

“We actually left him a colt over the winter because he was a good boy, but he was getting batted out of the way at home by 75-rated horses and I said to John ‘we need to geld this horse’.

“He wasn’t naughty in any way, but I’ve never seen more of a transformation in a horse – as soon as he’d been gelded, he started galloping with the Group horses like a Group horse and he’s shown it today.

“I think he can be versatile between six and seven furlongs, but I thought there he looked like a sprinter. If you stop that race at the furlong pole, he wins by three lengths and the miler has just got back at him to give him a fight.

“We’ll go straight to the (Queen Elizabeth II) Jubilee now and all those six and seven-furlong Group Ones this year he’ll be going for – the Prix Maurice de Gheest, the Foret, Champions Day at Ascot, those kind of races.”

The Richard Fahey-trained Silent Move (28-1) led from pillar to post in the Pertemps Network Handicap.

The Thirsk novice winner disappointed on his reappearance at Musselburgh, but bounced back under a well-judged ride from Connor Murtagh, who recently returned from a productive winter in Australia.

“On paper, it looked like there was a lot of pace in the race, but I started to get an easy time up front and I just started to build it up from four furlongs out,” said Murtagh.

“I had about 20 winners from 200 rides in five months (in Australia), it was a good spell but I got a little bit homesick and I thought I’d come back and chase the sun round this side of the world!”

Mereside Diva plundered the Pertemps Handicap for the training partnership of David and Nicola Barron.

Tackling seven furlongs for the first time, the 11-2 chance bagged her fourth career victory with a one-length verdict over Wreck It Ryley in the hands of Callum Rodriguez.

Nicola Barron said: “We were thinking she’d improve for a step up to seven, but until you’ve done it, you don’t know, do you? Thankfully, she’s done it well.

“We don’t really have any plans, as it was all hinging on whether she stayed seven furlongs or not, she’s also been running on bad ground, but that’s been by accident really because of the weather.

“Whether it was the seven furlongs or the better ground, everything has come together today, so we’ll see where the year takes us.”

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