By Simon Jackson.
Western Hymn boosted his Investec Derby hopes with an impressive victory in the Group 3 bet365 Classic Trial at Sandown and will now tackle the Betfred Dante Stakes at York.
The John Gosden-trained colt travelled off the pace for the bulk of the 10 furlong contest before being set alight by William Buick to score by a length and three quarters.
The impressive victory on rain-softened ground was the third in as many starts for the colt who is a 12-1 shot for the Derby on June 7.
“Today was by far the hardest task he’d encountered, but I thought he did it well,” Buick said.
“We’ll see where we are with him. He looked about a bit a furlong and a half out when he hit the front and that’s a long way from home in that kind of ground.
“He’d not been on anything like that ground before and today was as much about giving him the experience as anything else.
“I don’t think a mile and a half will be any problem. He’s never done anything but finish his races off well,” the jockey told Racing UK.
Gosden added: “I nearly took him out because of the ground, but I much prefer to let them have a run when I can and I was clear with William beforehand that I didn’t want him to have a hard race.
“He looked around in front, but I don’t mind that. He’s still quite babyish. He’s got a turn of foot but you can’t show a turn of foot in these kinds of conditions.
“I was pleased with his attitude and how he stayed so he has passed the test.
“The two Derby trials in England are the Guineas and the Dante, so he’ll go to the Dante and answer some more questions there. These three-year-old races come hard and fast in the spring and you’ve got to get on with it.”
The race was one of three Group contests on the seven race card, which was headed by the Group 2 bet365 Mile, won by the Andrew Balding-trained Tullius, who revelled on the soft ground for Jimmy Fortune.
“He’s a very good horse when he gets the conditions. He loves the ground and loved the track,” Fortune said.
“They went a good gallop, he cruised round there and won with a fair bit in hand. My only fear was getting to the front too early.
“It’s a very good training performance. He ran an absolute blinder in the Lincoln off a big weight. He’s fit and he’s well and in top form.”
The other Group 3 race of the day, the bet365 Gordon Richards Stakes, went to the Lady Cecil-trained Noble Mission, who led from the outset for James Doyle to score by nine lengths.
Doyle said: “Looking at the race, there didn’t seem to be anything that wanted to lead.
“After riding in the first I thought the ground was very testing and that would play to our strengths. We don’t want to get too carried away, but he’s done it nicely. Whether it will work again we’re not sure.
“He’s been called a few names in the past, but he’s bounced out and led there. He’s kept galloping all the way to the line, so it’s hard to fault him.”
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