Reigning All-Weather Sprint champion Diligent Harry made a successful comeback in the Listed BetUK Kachy Stakes at Lingfield Park on Sunday.
Having his first start since September, Clive Cox’s six-year-old was not found wanting for fitness as he held off last year’s winner Annaf by a length, taking his excellent all-weather record to six wins and three placed efforts from 10 starts.
On the same card, the Charlie Johnston-trained Dear My Friend continued his faultless start to 2024 with an all-the-way win in the Listed BetMGM Tandridge Stakes.
The former Derby contender looks revitalised since returning from wind surgery and a gelding operation, with last weekend’s success following another comfortable victory at Newcastle’s AWC Trials Day.
Johnston’s assistant Jock Bennett said: “We are very pleased with that. We left it up to Joe [Fanning], as we would have preferred a lead, but it did not look like there was any pace and there is no better man from the front.
“I could tell on the bend that it looked like we had the rest of the field beaten. Joe said Dear My Friend came around the bend on the wrong leg, so he has done well to win as impressively as he did.
“He has always had ability and we probably tried to stretch his stamina at one stage. Now that he has been gelded, hopefully we are going to get a more consistent type of horse this year. He is going to be racing on the big days for these guys [Middleham Park Racing], which is great for the syndicate.”
Elsewhere, Storm Catcher provided leading Easter Classic hopeful Penzance with a form boost as he captured the class two feature at Wolverhampton on Saturday night.
Simon Pearce’s stable star was runner-up to Penzance on his two previous starts, including going down by a short-head on AWC Trials Day, and the duo are set to meet again on Good Friday.
Storm Catcher, who was a smooth winner of a Racing League handicap at Newcastle in August, has been raised 2lb to 99 for his latest success.
Pearce said: “Storm Catcher has been bouncing since Wolverhampton. He is having a couple of easy days on the walker and then we will get him out again to see where we are.
“I think he prefers Newcastle because the long straight gives him time to find top gear, and that was my concern heading into Saturday night, but Jack [Mitchell] timed it right.
“I need to discuss with the owners whether or not we run again before the Easter Classic. There is a race at Lingfield we could look at but I would be minded to keep him fresh and bouncing.
“I fancied us against Penzance last time, when he gave us a slight nudge in the closing stages. I am hoping Penzance will go up a bit in the handicap, given we have boosted the form, but you never know what the handicapper will do. I would be happy to take him on again as our fella seems to be thriving at the moment.”