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Ascot shows how it’s done

By Chris McGrath

If this didn't give them a taste for the game, nothing will. Quite apart from free entry to the Queen's own racecourse, the benedictions shared by 26,595 people here yesterday extended to an immaculate spring afternoon and, for those disposed to take an interest, some pretty serious stuff on the track itself.

Any tempted to resume their reconnaissance at the royal meeting, indeed, may well recognise one or two key protagonists in June.

True, even those previously innocent of his merciless good cheer had probably heard enough of Derek Thompson by the end of the afternoon. But then it was the tree of knowledge that started all the trouble in Eden.

The first lesson learned was that even lifelong aficionados of the sport will often have their expectations dumfounded.

Magic City was sent off at 1-4 for the opener, having made a dazzling debut at Newbury, but was turned over by the Yorkshire filly Miss Work Of Art.

In fairness, Magic City retains every right to confirm himself one of the fastest young colts around. The fact is that he had only had a dozen days to get over his exertions at Newbury, and might well last longer next time.

Not that his connections were making excuses, instead suggesting that the winner must be pretty smart in her own right.

Her trainer, Richard Fahey, had contrived to miss the race after electing to travel south by train. But the man well ahead of schedule is his stable jockey Paul Hanagan who has begun his title defence in runaway fashion.

Miss Work Of Art, in fact, had been his first winner of the campaign four weeks previously — here she became his 28th.

Having shared so many breakthroughs over the past year, Fahey and Hanagan now hope to win their first Classic when Barefoot Lady, winner of the Nell Gwyn Stakes on her reappearance, lines up for the Qipco 1,000 Guineas on Sunday.

“She has been absolutely bouncing since the Nell Gwyn,” Hanagan said. “And she has a lovely temperament, always tries her heart out.”

The dry spring has conspired in favour of Askar Tau, who won the only Group race on the card, the Totepool Sagaro Stakes.

As a son of Montjeu, Askar Tau was making a timely tribute to his grandsire, Sadler's Wells, who had died the previous evening at the age of 30.

Pensioned from stallion duties three years ago, Sadler's Wells had become an authentic colossus of the breed.

As the greatest European conduit of the Northern Dancer bloodlines, he produced champions as varied as Salsabil, High Chaparral, Yeats and Istabraq.

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