Headway came from last to first for an exhilarating victory on his All-Weather debut in the £45,000 Listed 32Red Spring Cup (3.30pm) for three-year-olds at Lingfield Park on Saturday, March 3.
The William Haggas-trained colt, beaten a head in last season’s G2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, was sent off a well-supported 11/10 favourite for the seven-furlong Polytrack contest and was soon held up at the rear of the six runners field by James Doyle, on his first day of riding in the UK this year.
Headway had plenty of ground to make up as Rufus King (Mark Johnston/Joe Fanning) was kicked clear turning for home and enjoyed at least a five-length advantage, but the son of Havana Grey flew home down the centre of the course, collaring the long-time leader near the line before being eased for a cosy length victory in 1m 24.07s.
Rufus King’s stable companion Lake Volta (10/1, Franny Norton) was third, a further three and three quarter lengths back, with Albishr, Bengali Boys and Lansky completing the finishing order.
It was a third 32Red Spring Cup victory for Newmarket-based Haggas, who also won the race with subsequent G1 Al Quoz Sprint second Ertijaal (2014) and G2 runner-up Second Thought (2017), a leading contender for this year’s Sun Bets All-Weather Mile Championships on Good Friday.
Maureen Haggas, wife of William, commented about Headway, who is owned by the Royal Ascot Racing Club: “Turning in, I would have been very happy to finish second as he would have still run a really good race. He had not run for a long time and we just thought he might be a bit gassy.
“It is hard when you want to drop in, you can get left behind which is what happened. The horse has run a very impressive race to win.
“It was quite gobsmacking how he picked up because they had gone a nice pace.
“For a first run back, it was really pleasing.
“It is important for a horse to settle, especially when going up in trip. They need to relax and finish the race, which he did quite well!
“He didn’t seem to mind the track or the surface.
“I think that he would be worth trying at a mile – you never really know until you try, but I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t get the trip.
“There are plenty of options for him and it’s a nice start to the season.”
James Doyle said: “I was concerned coming down the hill, when I saw how easy Joe Fanning had the lead and how far clear he was.
“I would love to say that it all went to plan, but it didn’t – what did go to plan was how relaxed Headway was.
“He took me on a little bit going down to the start, so I was a bit mindful of that early on. He broke OK and I steadied him a tiny bit, but we ended up getting squeezed out of it, so he was just a bit behind the bridle for most of the race. I found myself further back than I wanted to be and just had to sit and suffer.
“Ryan Moore popped out (on Lansky) coming down the hill and pitched us out a bit, so I just had to bide my time. But when I pulled him out, he didn’t half quicken.
“I was really pleased with him and it was very impressive. I haven’t ridden many that have gone up the straight that quick.”
Elsewhere on Saturday’s card, from which the first four races were broadcast live on ITV1, the Robert Cowell-trained Encore D’Or, drawn on the inside in stall one, defied top-weight to win the five-furlong £19,000 Betway Handicap (2.55pm) for a second successive year.
The 2/1 joint-favourite, beaten a short-head over the same course and distance in the Listed Betway Hever Sprint Stakes on February 24, was settled in third as Brother Tiger and Boom The Groom led the seven runners.
Encore D’Or ran on strongly to take up the running for Ryan Moore just inside the final furlong and saw off the other joint-favourite Atletico (Roger Varian/Andrea Atzeni), who flew home from the rear after missing the break, for a neck success in 58.30s. The first two home finished a length and a half clear of George Dryden (7/1, Charlie Wallis/Jason Watson) in third.
Gary Coffey, racing manager of part-owner Newsells Park Stud, said: “It was a very pleasing run from Encore D’Or.
“Ryan thought that he would come on for last week’s run and he did.
“He got a nice lead coming down the hill and things worked out very nicely in the straight – he got a nice split up the inner and off he went.
“He is a big horse, which always helps when you are top-weight, but it is a tall enough order to give weight all round here. He has won a Listed race, so he is a classy horse, and we still like to think that maybe there is a little bit more improvement in him.”
Ryan Moore added: “Encore D’Or has a very smooth run round and it all went nicely. I was in front earlier than I would have liked but he has carried a big weight. He is a big, beautiful horse with plenty of talent and is well-suited to these surfaces.
“Being drawn in stall one is a big help. The second has come from stall seven, so it has probably made a difference.
“He is getting on a bit but ran some very good races last year and things didn’t work out for him out in Dubai. I felt that he came to win last week but it just didn’t quite happen for him.”
Encore D’Or, a six-year-old son of Oasis Dream, finished third in last year’s £150,000 Betway All-Weather Sprint Championships Conditions Stakes over six furlongs and is set to go for the race again on Good Friday, March 30, at Lingfield Park
Constantino (7/1), absent since finishing down the field on turf at Haydock Park in September, made a winning return from his break as he comfortably took the opening £11,500 Play For Free At sunbets.co.uk/vegas Handicap under Paul Hanagan.
The five-year-old, trained by Richard Fahey in North Yorkshire, travelled strongly behind the leaders for much of the mile contest before quickening between horses in the straight to hit the front approaching the final half-furlong.
Constantino stayed on well in the closing stages to score by half a length over 11/4 favourite Humbert (Hugo Palmer/James Doyle) in 1m 37.01s, with a further three quarters of a length back to Chevallier (8/1, Archie Watson/Luke Morris) in third.
Winning jockey Paul Hanagan commented: “Constantino did nothing wrong.
“He travelled all the way through and, when the split came, he wanted it. I liked the way that he put his head down and wanted it even more when he was challenged in the last furlong.
“He has been off for 154 days, so he was a little bit fresh, but he wasn’t over-racing and was able to take me into the gaps when it opened, which helps.
“He has run well fresh in the past and I think now we are just hoping for more consistency. He really knuckled down today and I can’t knock him at all.
“All credit to Lingfield and the staff for getting this meeting on. It was quite severe getting here and all week it has been the same – I think the travelling is the problem – but credit where it is due.
“I have not seen the snow as bad in Malton but I don’t think that we missed a single day at Richard’s, so all credit to his staff as well.”
Archie Watson consolidated his lead at the head of the Champion All-Weather Trainers’ table when gaining his 29th success of the All-Weather Championship season, thanks to Attain winning the Betway Casino Handicap over 12 furlongs under 7lb-claiming apprentice Pierre-Louis Jamin. The Lambourn trainer, now three clear of his nearest rival, explained that Jamin, who joined him in January, was having a first winner for the stable.
Today’s racing went ahead after dedicated work through the night from the Lingfield Park groundstaff.
Clerk of the course George Hill explained: “I just want to thank my staff. They worked through the night and then this morning they were gritting and clearing snow.
“It has been really good teamwork and everybody has pulled together. I am delighted that we were rewarded with excellent racing today.”