Master The World was awarded the £100,000 G3 Betway Winter Derby (3.15pm) in the stewards’ room following a dramatic renewal of the 10-furlong Polytrack Fast-Track Qualifier at Lingfield Park on Saturday, February 24.
The seven-year-old, trained by David Elsworth in Newmarket and ridden by Sean Levey, finished a head second, but was promoted the winner after a stewards’ enquiry judged the first-past-the-post Mr Owen caused serious interference to the runner-up.
It was a second Fast-Track Qualifier victory over course and distance success this season for Master The World, who had previously secured his free and guaranteed place in the £200,000 Betway Easter Classic back here on Good Friday, March 30, with victory in the Listed Betway Churchill Stakes in November.
An eventful race today saw both grey Master The World (16/1) and Mr Owen (8/1) held up towards the rear of the strong 10-strong field as Listed Betway Winter Derby Trial Stakes winner Utmost (4/1, John Gosden/Robert Havlin) attempted to make all of the running again.
Utmost was headed entering the final half-furlong as Qatar Racing-owned Mr Owen (David Simcock/Jamie Spencer) ran on strongly to take up the running, only to veer sharply right, hamper and bump Master The World in the closing stages.
Mr Owen ran on and passed the post a head in front of Master The World in 2m 2.73s, with the first two coming home a length and a quarter ahead of third Battle Of Marathon (33/1, John Ryan/Josephine Gordon).
Last year’s Betway Winter Derby victor Convey (11/2, Sir Michael Stoute/Joe Fanning) finished fourth, while 2/1 favourite Clear Skies, a rare British All-Weather runner for Ireland’s champion Flat trainer Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Ryan Moore, raced in third and held every chance in the straight before being eased to trail home last of the 10 runners.
Kevin Quinn, who part owns Master The World along with Chris Benham, commented: “Master The World came from nowhere and would have won but for the bump.
“He will come back for the Betway Easter Classic on Finals Day and would have a live chance based on that performance.
“Sean Levey gets on so well with him and having the right jockey on board massively helps. Sean wasn’t on board last time and, because they have such a good connection, we probably shouldn’t have run him. It is important to maintain those relationships when a horse and jockey get on so well.
“He is a great horse and Sean is a genius in the saddle. He’s a top jockey and David Elsworth will continue to pick Sean where he can. The team have done a great job with him and credit where credit is due.
“Master The World did brilliantly for us last year, winning the Betfred Mile at Goodwood, and it was the same sort of race as today – he was mid-division and flew home. This is his biggest victory and we are delighted to be a part of it.
“That is a great way to start the year as we have plenty more irons in the fire and we will be out in force hopefully with more horses.”
Master The World’s other part-owner Chris Benham said: “We adore the sport as owners and Master The World has been such a stalwart for us so we will continue investing in the sport and we would love another horse like this.
“He has been a bit unlucky this season. He has always got a race in him and we would have been happy with a place, but Sean said there would be pace on that’s how it ended up. He finished really strongly and it was a great performance.
“We were a bit concerned early on about how far back he was, but it worked out perfectly.
“Once he finds his stride, he lengthens so well and he’s just a great horse – we are just so pleased. This is why we want to be involved in the sport. It’s nice to take part, but it’s even better when you win.”
Mr Owen’s trainer David Simcock explained: “He spooked at a shadow close home or else he would have kept straight.”
Jamie Spencer, who partnered six-year-old Mr Owen, had his whip in the correct right hand, but the horse still veered right.
The stewards’ report revealed that the interference had improved Mr Owen’s placing, as Master The World lost significant momentum when taken off his intended line after Mr Owen hung quickly right-handed, following which Master The World rallied and was beaten by only a diminishing head. The interference was found to be accidental as Mr Owen had hung quickly right-handed before being corrected by Spencer.
Another enquiry was held to consider interference inside the final furlong between the eighth Gabrial ridden by Paul Hanagan, and Clear Skies. The interference was found to be accidental as Gabrial had shifted left-handed despite the rider’s best efforts, causing Clear Skies to be left short of room and checked by Moore.
The performance of Clear Skies was considered by the stewards, with an O’Brien representative reporting that the filly was unsuited by the downhill section of the track, running into a tight bend.
Following the race, Richard Kingscote said that ninth home Autocratic was denied a clear run on more than one occasion, while Adam Kirby on board seventh Khalidi, also to the stewards he was denied a clear run.
Earlier on Saturday’s excellent card, Gracious John (8/1) bounced back to form as he made all for a game and narrow victory in the five-furlong £45,000 Listed Betway Hever Sprint (2.05pm).
The David Evans-trained five-year-old, second to Kimberella in last year’s Betway All-Weather Sprint Championships on Good Friday, had failed to beat a rival in his previous two starts, but showed good speed from the gates to lead the eight-strong field under Fran Berry.
Gracious John kicked clear in the straight and found more when strongly challenged in the closing stages by 4/1 chance Encore D’Or (Robert Cowell/Ryan Moore) to prevail by a short-head in 58.59s. Tomily (7/1, Richard Hannon/Hollie Doyle) stayed on down the inside rail to take third, a further half-length in arrears.
Trainer David Evans said: “It was a good performance from Gracious John, but I’m slightly surprised as I thought he would win more easily. He was well in at the weights and battled on well to win.
“If he can be in that sort of form on Finals Day, then he would have to have a huge chance going there, so we will definitely target Good Friday. Hopefully, he will be just as good back over six furlongs as he would have every chance.
“He jumped nicely out of the stalls this time which really helped him as last time, he just stumbled out and couldn’t get a position on the rail, so just went wider and wider – that was a much better performance.”
Fran Berry, the winning rider, added: “Gracious John was on song today. The last two times he went to the start, he was lifeless and never took hold of the bridle, but today he was pulling hard to the start, so that gave me hope.
“He broke well and got to the rail and he showed a lot of heart in the last furlong to get there. He is a free horse and I was trying to keep him quiet today. His old spark was back.”
Six-year-old Goring gained a fourth successive course and distance win for trainer Eve Johnson-Houghton with a thrilling swooping victory in the mile £19,000 Play Starburst Slot At sunbets.co.uk/vegas Handicap (3.50pm).
The 11/4 favourite was covered up in mid-division by Charles Bishop and quickened well after being switched out in the straight to collar Mr Scaramanga (14/1, Simon Dow/Tom Marquand) and Sea Fox (8/1, David/Evans/Edward Greatrex) on the line, with a nose and short-head separating the trio.
Bishop commented: “We carried on pushing to the line and Goring is a very willing partner. It probably wasn’t ideal that I challenged on the fence as he likes a bit of room, but he is improving and improving.
“All credit to Eve, as she keeps turning him out and he keeps winning. For a horse who has won off 80 a couple of months ago and will now probably be rated nearly 100, that’s a lot of improvement. I have won on him three times and it’s a big team effort. Well done to Eve, and Gary Stevens is a great owner.”