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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Melbourne in mind after Magic Circle blows away rivals and enters big time

Magic Circle and Fran Berry storm clear of their rivals in the Henry II Stakes
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If Ian Williams pulled a rabbit from the hat when Magic Circle bolted up in the Chester Cup this month, he had an entire zoo leaping from it at Sandown as the same horse repeated the trick with an imperious display in the Group 3 Matchbook Henry II Stakes.

The only thing that dampened the celebrations was the absence of owner Marwan Koukash, who was close to stripping off after his win at Chester and God only knows what state he was in back at home.

"He'll still be chewing on his Cheshire cheese and could be running around his front room naked," joked Williams.  

The absence of Magic Circle's exuberant owner Marwan Koukash meant celebrations in the winner's circle were more subdued than at Chester this month

There was no joking about future targets for the winner, however, with a trip to Australia top of the wishlist and a supplementary entry for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot not entirely ruled out.    

"What he's achieved today has really announced him as a stayer on the big scene," said the trainer. "I don't know about Ascot – all those things we'll have to discuss.

"Melbourne was the priority, but on tonight's performance he looks a far better stayer than we could have imagined he was, so we need to sit back and take stock." 

Koukash later tweeted: "This is a fantastic performance by Magic Circle. We will consider the Gold Cup."

Stoute does it again

Poet's Word handed Sir Michael Stoute a record ninth win in the Group 3 Matchbook Brigadier Gerard Stakes, although whether it will be the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot or the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes remains to be seen.

Rattling the woodwork at the highest level last season, Poet's Word proved a cut above his rivals under Ryan Moore, with Paddy Power offering 6-1 for the Prince of Wales's over 1m2f and 10-1 for the Hardwicke over two furlongs further.

"He's a very straightforward horse and I expect him to improve," said Moore. "He's got a good record and has been unfortunate to be second in a few big ones.

"He's been second in Group 1s at a mile-two and a mile and a half, so he's lovely and straightforward and hopefully he'll have his day."

In Stoute's absence, assistant trainer James Horton played a straight bat with regards to his Ascot target with the final decision seemingly down to the boss.  

Vintage Brut stakes Norfolk claim

All roads lead to Royal Ascot and the Norfolk Stakes for Vintage Brut after he maintained his unbeaten record in a frenetic Matchbook National Stakes, but the question now is whose colours will he be running in. 

The Lovely Bubbly Racing syndicate were the ones celebrating here but owner-breeder Michael John O’Brien, who heads the partnership, revealed a temptation to sell the rapid son of Dick Turpin at the Goffs London Sale on the eve of the royal meeting.

"We had plenty of offers after the race at Thirsk but we wanted a Listed race for the mare [Traditionelle] and we've got that now," said O'Brien.

"We'll go for the Norfolk at Ascot but we're also considering putting him in the boutique sale the night before."

Results, replays and analysis 

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Melbourne was the priority but on tonight's performance he looks a far better stayer than we could have imagined he was

Key data

Magic Circle
E.W. Terms
Sky bet