Angel on Cup trail
Angel Gabrial booked his place on Dr Marwan Koukash's Chester Cup team with a determined display in the At The Races Sky 415 Handicap at Ripon.
Having only recently joined Richard Fahey from Ian Williams, the five-year-old was having his first run over two miles having seemingly failed to get home over two furlongs less at Musselburgh last time out.
However, switched off at the back by David Nolan, winning his second big pot of the year in the Koukash silks after scooping the Spring Mile on Brae Hill, he quickened up impressively inside the final furlong to defeat Ed Dunlop's Mubaraza by a neck at odds of 14-1.
Nolan said: "I wasn't sure if he would get the trip but we tried different tactics today.
"He got to the front too soon at Musselburgh so we switched him right off.
"It's possible the step up in trip has brought about plenty of improvement."
Robin O'Ryan, Fahey's assistant, said: "It will be the Chester Cup for him now."
Perhaps the classiest horse on show was William Haggas' Battalion (7-4 favourite), who scooted away with the RiponBET Patent Handicap Stakes by two and a half lengths.
Connections indicated afterwards that if the ground is soft enough, he could take up his entry in the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket next week.
"He could run there as he hasn't had much of a race today," said Bruce Raymond, racing manager for the owner Sheikh Juma Dalmook Al Maktoum.
"He's done very well from three to four but he's quite delicate. He was just a shell of a horse last season.
"The key to him is a bit of dig in the ground. He may be a Cup horse next year."
Haggas and jockey Graham Gibbons went on to complete a double as 6-5 favourite Satellite clinched the RiponBET Forecast Maiden Stakes.
Fast Shot (10-1) will return to Ripon for the Great St Wilfrid after following up a recent win at Pontefract in the Visit attheraces.com/punchestown Handicap.
The six-year-old, once more ridden by 7lb apprentice Rachel Richardson, won a £20,000 event last time out and added this £25,000 prize to his haul.
After earning a reputation as a nearly horse, he has now found the winning habit and held off Barkston Ash by a neck on the far side, with Hillbilly Boy and Clear Spring third and fourth respectively on the near side.
"He's always been a good horse but I always thought he had too much weight," said winning trainer Tim Easterby.
"He's very consistent and we'll look at the Great St Wilfrid and Ayr Gold Cup for him."
Richardson said: "He's so well at the minute, I was able to take a pull."
Kevin Ryan's Trail Blaze (15-2) is a tough horse to pass when in the mood and he was certainly on a going day in the RiponBET Our Profits Stay In Racing Handicap.
Ridden by Shane Gray in the absence of the trainer's daughter Amy, who is once again on the sidelines injured, he made just about every yard of the running.
Winless in 2013, he had blown away the cobwebs in the Irish Lincolnshire and held off Ginger Jack by a neck.
"Amy told me the best way to ride him," said Gray.
"I joined Kevin at the end of last season and it was quiet through the winter but hopefully I can kick on now.
"I think he needed his first run and the ground was a bit tacky."
Connections of Sarista endured an agonising wait of over five minutes before David Barron's "pocket rocket" was called the winner of the RiponBet Yankee Maiden Auction Stakes.
Robert Winston admitted afterwards he thought he had been caught on the line by Realtra, but the judge ruled in favour of the 11-10 favourite Sarista by a nose.
"I think she became a bit unbalanced close home which is why the other filly nearly caught her," said Barron.
"She'd burned them all off bar one and they were seven lengths clear. She's a real pocket rocket.
"There's not much of her and to be honest, we'd have settled for a dead-heat there."
Mark Walford's Lorimer's Lot (12-1), owned by former Leeds United legend Peter Lorimer, appreciated the drop to five furlongs in the RiponBet Place6 Handicap Stakes.