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Beat The Bank on course for Lockinge after Sandown win

26 Apr 2019

Andrew Balding believes prolific miler will head to Newbury in much better form than last year.

Beat The Bank was a game winner on his return at Sandown Picture:

Beat The Bank is set for a tilt at the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on May 18 after winning the bet365 Mile on his return at Sandown on Friday.

The five-year-old made it eight wins from nine starts outside of Group 1 company by outbattling two other candidates for Newbury feature, Sharja Bridge and Regal Reality, and claim his fifth Group race win for King Power Racing at Sandown.

Trainer Andrew Balding is yet to win the Lockinge, the £350,000 mile feature race of Newbury’s richest Flat raceday, although his father Ian captured it twice with Silly Season in 1966 and Selkirk in 1992 from the family base in Kingsclere.

Balding Jr said: “Beat The Bank  is really tough. He can look like he’s beat but keeps finding. At some stage he will try a mile and quarter but he will probably go to the Lockinge next and we will take it from there.

“Last year’s Lockinge (when Beat The Bank was 12th) was his first run of the year and he wasn’t firing then. We are really happy with him this spring. He deserves to win a Group 1 at this stage. He is a special horse and one of the first horses they [King Power] had. The chairman was particularly fond of him.”

Beat The Bank would bid to become the first horse since Paco Boy in 2010 to win the Bet365 Mile and follow up in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes, where Roger Varian, trainer of Sharja Bridge, would not rule out his horse turning the tables following his half-length defeat.

“He probably hasn’t done too much wrong,” he said. “He was outbattled a little bit. We are talking about a horse that won a handicap at the end of last season, a listed race at Doncaster, very well and this was a step up again. The winner had won three Group 2 races.”

Varian, who won the Lockinge in 2016 with Belardo, added: “I don’t know why but I think he is better on a flat track. He’s got beat here, he’s got beaten at Pontefract and been beaten at Newmarket, all uphill finishes. A straight mile, a strong pace should suit him.

“He probably deserves to line up in a Lockinge Stakes. Belardo was only fourth in this race [bet365 Mile]. We are disappointed but we are not dejected.”

Another horse who could be heading to Newbury for Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes day is leading middle-distance performer Crystal Ocean.

He won the Group 3 Al Rayyan Stakes at Newbury last year on the way to success in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and could bid for a repeat win this year after capturing the Group 3 Bet365 Gordon Richards Stakes for the second time.

His trainer Sir Michael Stoute said: “He won much more comfortably this time so that was pleasing. He could go back to Newbury but we will also consider the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh. It would be either or.”