Cardsharp holds all the aces

Cardsharp booked his place at Royal Ascot with a terrific performance in the Brian Yeardley Continental Two-Year-Old Trophy at Beverley on Saturday (June 10).

Trained by Mark Johnston and ridden by Joe Fanning, the 6-4 favourite made most of the running to claim the £25,000 conditions stakes by two and a quarter lengths from stablemate Rufus King.

Prince Of Lir and The Last Lion, last year’s respective first two home in the Brian Yeardley, ended up finishing in that order in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Cardsharp, whose trainer was also responsible for subsequent Group One winner The Last Lion, could now attempt to follow in those esteemed hoofprints at the Berkshire track later this month.

Deirdre Johnston, assistant trainer and wife of the Middleham handler, said: “He’s a big, lovely horse and that was fantastic. He took a lot of pulling up and Joe said five (furlongs) or six would be fine. After that, he’ll probably be entered in the Norfolk, Windsor Castle and Coventry Stakes and we’ll see which race is the most suitable for him. The second horse probably wants another furlong and we’ll discuss it with the owner about Royal Ascot.”

Prince Of Lir was trained in Newmarket by Robert Cowell and owned by the Cool Silk Partnership, and the same combination struck again on the big stage with Hilary Needler Trophy heroine Chica La Habana. Like last season’s Brian Yeardley winner, the daughter of Havana Gold (6-1) arrived at Beverley unraced yet belied her inexperience to take the prestigious five-furlong dash by three-quarters of a length from Maggies Angel. The Cool Silk Partnership consists of Scunthorpe United chairman Peter Swann and his mother-in-law Barbara Wilkinson.

Chica La Habana could also be under consideration for the Royal fixture, with the Queen Mary Stakes a natural next port of call for any Hilary Needler winner. Jockey Adam Beschizza said: "She'll come on a stone for that run as the penny kept dropping during the race. She's been working well at home but we hadn't really given her a racecourse gallop or anything like that.
I wouldn't like to say if she was a Queen Mary horse – Royal Ascot would be a big step up – but she'll improve a lot for that."