Brighton’s 2019 season began on a fine, warm evening. The going was good to firm (firm in places). Punters who followed the market had a particularly enjoyable time of it.
The winner of the first race made all the running, a tactic that frequently pays dividends here. This was the eight-year-old Diamond Lady (4/1), whose enthusiasm had been rekindled by trainer William Stone giving her a good long break in the winter. Shane Kelly made the most of her favourable draw, getting her quickly away from the 6f start and kicking on out of the dip to gain a clear advantage that she never looked like relinquishing. Diamond Lady broke the track record despite easing up at the end, which allowed Real Estate to close to within two and a quarter lengths.
In the two-year-olds’ race over 5f, Paul Cole’s Charlemaine (9/4) came on for his first outing at Saint Cloud in France. Driven into the lead 150 yards out by Raul da Silva, he drew away from the debutant Beignet to win by a length and three quarters. The long shot Hypochondriac, who was outpaced early, ran on well at the end to be third.
The next was the first of two contests over 7f. Mamillius (2/1 fav) bounded into the lead approaching the final furlong en route to a length and three quarters success. The George Baker-trained four-year-old was scoring for the second time over course and distance. It was globetrotting jockey Pat Cosgrave’s first winner in this country this season. The slow-starting Dream Catching ran on to finish second; he can do better.
Creek Harbour went off like a scalded cat in the second 7f contest, but when he ran out of energy a furlong out it was De Little Engine (14/1) who took over. He’d run 26 times before, yet this was only his second on turf, and based on this effort it won’t be his last. Blessed To Empress was the runner-up, a length and a quarter away. Rossa Ryan rode the winner for Alexandra Dunn.
In the 1m2f handicap the William Stone stable completed its first ever double with The Jean Genie (6/4 fav). She was held up by Richard Kingscote until making her run with a furlong to go. The second favourite, Grapevine, tried to stick with the mare, but the effort of making up ground after a tardy start meant he could only get to within half a length. Roy Rocket ran perfectly well in fifth, and if the handicapper cuts him some slack he will be back in the winner’s enclosure this summer.
A classified stakes over 1m2f went to Contingency Fee (3/1 fav). Leading half a mile out, he came middle to stands side entering the straight, with Mongolia keeping him company. Other challengers were spread right across the course, and he looked sure to be collared. However, he plugged on dourly and was still a neck in front of Mongolia at the line. He had won at Southwell on Wednesday, then as now ridden by Grace McEntee for her father Phil.
The concluding race was over a mile. John Gallagher’s dual course and distance winner Junoesque (9/4 fav) overtook a tearaway leader entering the final furlong, and held off Khazix and the fast-finishing Duke Of North by a length and a quarter. Hector Crouch was the successful jockey.