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'She's top drawer' - Alcohol Free cut to 10-1 for 1,000 Guineas after trial win

Alcohol Free (purple silks): winner of the Fred Darling Stakes
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Alcohol Free rubber-stamped her name as a leading contender for next month's Qipco 1,000 Guineas with a determined victory in the Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Stakes at Newbury.

Sent off the 9-4 favourite, she was the only runner in the 17-strong field boasting winning form at the top level. However, her trainer Andrew Balding was less confident about her chances on her first start since her Group 1 breakthrough in the Cheveley Park Stakes in September, with the expectation she would significantly improve for the run.

Dubai Duty Free Stakes result & replay

If there is more to come then Alcohol Free's connections have plenty to get excited about for the season. She settled well under Oisin Murphy and quickened powerfully into the lead two furlongs out. The challengers came, no more so than the Martyn Meade-trained Statement, but Alcohol Free continued to fight and was named the winner by a short head after a photo-finish.

Paddy Power clipped her price into 10-1 (from 12) for the May 2 Classic, where she will look to become the first winner of the race registered as the Fred Darling to follow up in the 1,000 Guineas since Wince in 1999. Connections believe the mile distance will not be a problem.

Balding, who was enjoying a first win in the race, said: "We'd been saying in the last week if she ran a nice race and finished third we'd be happy. We expect her to improve a whole load as she's backward in her coat and hasn't done a huge amount of work at home. It's really encouraging that she's got it.

"She stayed the seven furlongs well there and it wasn't easy for her. She was down the wing but showed really good acceleration. She settled well and Oisin Murphy is in no doubt that she'd stay an extra furlong."

Alcohol Free held on to win by a short-head from Statement

The team are particularly excited about her Classic claims considering she runs in the silks of Jeff Smith, one of Balding's most loyal owners. The daughter of No Nay Never, who cost just €40,000, is thought of as a top-class prospect for the season ahead.

"She's got a massive engine which is what you need in a racehorse," Balding added. "She always did everything very easily at home, but it was only really obvious when she came here and had her first race. Bar the run at Sailsbury, she's unbeaten and she was unlucky that day. She's top drawer."

Statement put in a huge effort on her first test at Group level and the daughter of Lawman is now 20-1 (from 66) for the Newmarket Classic, while 50-1 shot Vadream finished powerfully up the stands' side to finish third on just her second start for Charlie Fellowes.

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She settled well and Oisin Murphy is in no doubt that she'd stay an extra furlong
E.W. Terms