Hills sweet on Nafaqa
A review of the early action from Newbury, where Nafaqa was made to work in the opening maiden contest.
Nafaqa confirmed his ultra-promising Royal Ascot debut by winning the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing EBF Stallions Maiden Stakes.
Legendary trainer Barry Hills had been overseeing a small crop of Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum's horses for a little while, but took out a licence again after the death of his son John.
Hills knows when he sees a good one, and 8/11 favourite Nafaqa had stayed on in quite remarkable fashion to take fourth in the Chesham Stakes and did it from the front here to score by half a length from Marshall Jennings.
"It's a learning curve and I think he'll be better when he has something to aim at," said Hills.
"We've had him in the stalls a couple of times since Ascot. We'll talk to Sheikh Hamdan but the Solario Stakes at Sandown is a possibility, or York (Acomb Stakes).
"The last horse I ran first time in the Chesham was Auction House, who went on to win the Champagne."
There was a big shake-up in the market for the Al Basti Equiworld EBF Stallions Maiden Fillies' Stakes when hot favourite Sulaalaat was withdrawn after banging her head, promping a deduction of 45p in the pound to bets placed before her withdrawal.
It allowed the James Tate-trained Taaqah (7/2), a £200,000 yearling who finished a decent third on her debut at Leicester, to stay on well down the near side under Ryan Moore and beat Zifena by a length and a half.
"It was a big help when the favourite was out," said Bruce Raymond, racing manager for owner Sheikh Juma Dalmook Al Maktoum.
"She'll do better with another furlong, and could strengthen up a little bit but it's nice she has won as she cost a lot of money."
There's usually a winner for Richard Hannon and Richard Hughes on afternoons at Newbury and it came in the Al Basti Equiworld TBA Fillies' Handicap.
The Barnett family's grey Cay Dancer (11/4) has been a model of consistency this season and scored by three-quarters of a length under a hands-and-heels ride.
"She always looked like she was going to win," said Hannon. "You'd hope she could pick up one or two more.
"It's credit to the owner's racing manager Will Edmeades. He spotted this was a Bobis race and that there was a nice bonus for winning."