Sheer Rocks (11-2) booked his ticket for Royal Ascot with a comfortable two-length success in the mile and a half Rio Ferdinand Foundation Northern Dancer Handicap.
Eve Johnson Houghton, saddling her second winner of The Derby Festival after Bobsleigh victory in yesterday’s Woodcote Stakes said: “I thought he (Harry Davies) might have gone too soon, but there was nothing else coming so we were all right. This horse has matured through the winter and thrived, and I’m thrilled for the owners. We aim for Saturday winners for them, and that’s two this year from Sheer Rocks.
“He’s just a nice horse, and he’s very well balanced. Last year he went a bit weak and gangly on me and we tried to do too much as he’d won twice at two and we thought he was a really good horse. He probably is a good horse, but they pay for it (that early success) from two to three.
“The whole point of running here was to hopefully get him up a bit for one of the Royal Ascot handicaps, and I think it will probably be the Duke Of Edinburgh, but we could drop him back for the Wolferton as he travels so well. He’s unbelievably versatile.”
Winning rider Harry Davies added: “The horse is improving, he’s done really well over the winter and he looked to be a horse on the up, especially after his win at Ascot (on reappearance last month). He’s done it very easily today and beaten some quite nice horses, so it’s all guns blazing now for Royal Ascot.
“These are the days that you pinpoint in the calendar to do well on and to get on the right horses always helps. I’m just very thankful for the opportunity. You’re focusing on the riding of course, but the noise of the crowd today certainly helps you along and it was a great thrill. I’d love to come back and have a ride in the Derby one day! It will come with time.”
The 2023 Derby Festival concluded with the JRA Tokyo Trophy Handicap over six furlongs, which went the way of Badri (10-1). Trained by Ruth Carr, the six year old came home the neck winner under Hollie Doyle.
The success brought back fond memories for the winning trainer, who commented: “We were thinking he was just an all-weather horse. We ran him at Beverley as we thought a stiff five would suit. He romped home that day and he wasn’t disgraced in any way at York. Those York sprints are very competitive. It didn’t look like he was coming down the hill the best but he was doing his best work at the end where it mattered most.
“My horses are just in better form than last year. We tried him on the grass last year and he didn’t really look like he suited it but my horses are running much better this year and that is sometimes how it goes. We were thinking about the Gosforth Park Cup up as he is unbeaten over five furlongs at Newcastle and there is also a big five-furlong handicap at Ascot in July and also had that in mind thinking that a stiff five at Ascot would suit him. Those were the two races I had in mind.
“This has been a lucky day for us what with Sovereign Debt winning the Diomed Stakes (2017). Sovereign Debt is doing well in retirement. He is showing and he is winning classes. We need to promote this sort of stuff we do after racing especially with a horse that has won on Derby Day that has gone on to another life and who is doing well in that.”
Hollie Doyle added: “He jumped okay, but I was on my head and he wasn’t really coming down the hill very well. I just tried to keep him balanced and they went too quick and so came back to me. I didn’t want to get him into any trouble as he was in a good rhythm, and I got there too soon really.
“It’s been a tough couple of days as it’s hard to ride winners here, but it’s great to win a JRA (Japan Racing Association) race as they are great sponsors.”