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Belardo clinches Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al-Thani with the winners of the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury Racecourse yesterday. Godolphin's Belardo, trained by Roger Varian and ridden by Andrea Atzeni, won the Group 1 race yesterday. PICTURES: Racingfotos

By Our Correspondent/Newbury, England

HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al-Thani crowned the winners of the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at the Newbury Racecourse in England yesterday.

The second edition of the annual event sponsored by Al Shaqab saw Godolphin's Belardo win the Group 1 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes.

Belardo's win in the main event was backed up by a remarkable performance from Log Out Island in the Carnarvon Stakes, and both horses now have realistic Group One targets at Royal Ascot next month.

The pair is trained outside the main Godolphin stables in Newmarket and Roger Varian's Belardo could prove to be the main domestic challenger to the outstanding North American-trained mare Tepin in the Queen Anne Stakes, the first race of the royal meeting on June 14.

Belardo is known to win on soft ground, as was evident in his win in the 2014 Dewhurst Stakes. The going was good here yesterday, however, and Belardo showed an impressive turn of foot to make up several lengths in the final furlong and a half.

Limato, the favourite, travelled best of all through the first seven furlongs but failed to get home on his first try at a mile. Euro Charline took over and got the better of Endless Drama inside the final furlong, but Belardo's strong finish carried him past the pair and a length clear at the line.

"He has put up some great performances since that Dewhurst win and he was due another big one," Varian said. "He has good acceleration, he gets a mile well and he's comfortable on this ground. He was half a length behind Solow at Ascot in October last year and that's arguably the best form going into this race. He will be in all the big mile races and hopefully this is just the start."

There were distant echoes of Frankel's performance in the 2,000 Guineas as Log Out Island shot 10 lengths clear of his field after a furlong of the Carnarvon Stakes, then maintained an advantage to the line to win by three-and-a-quarter lengths. Horses generally come back to their field after grabbing such a long early lead, but Log Out Island's stride never shortened and a useful field of opponents could not land a blow. It will be more difficult to repeat the trick in the Group One Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, but Log Out Island has at least shown himself worthy of a place in the field.

"He pulls a little bit, but James [Doyle] said he just let him run, and he loved it," Richard Hannon, Log Out Island's trainer, said. "When you see the furlongs ticking down, you think, he's got to stop in a minute, and then they start walking and end up finishing last, but it never happened. Ascot has to be the next logical step. If he's like that, he's going to go quite close."

In the first race of the day, the Olympic Glory Conditions Stakes, Mehmas, carrying the colours of Al Shaqab Racing, emerged triumphant. The two-year-old Mehmas is now unbeaten in two starts, as he had won on his seasonal debut at Chester on May 5.

Ridden by Frankie Dettori, the colt was very impressive, as he won by more than three lengths. He is now favourite for the Coventry Stakes (Gr2) which takes place in June at Royal Ascot. Experts declared him to be the most impressive 2-year-old seen so far this year in Britain. Richard Hannon, his trainer, said: "Luckily Sheikh Joaan bought one at the breeze-ups. He was very impressive today. If ours win first time out, generally they're pretty good as they improve quite a bit for the run. I'd say he goes for the Coventry (at Royal Ascot) now.

"I was really impressed with the way he travelled and I've only done a couple of bits of work with him. He's a nice moving horse and he's got a lovely attitude. He's got the lot and he's gone clear of a good field."

The Al Rayyan Stakes (Gr3) went to Astronereus, who was making his seasonal debut and winning his first Group. Astronereus is owned by John Connolly and Odile Griffith. "We were thinking he was a two-mile horse, something like the Goodwood Cup, and my heart is still set on going back to the Melbourne Cup but the ground might be a worry out there," said Connolly.

Qatar Racing's Imperial Aviator was an authoritative winner of the Al Zubarah London Gold Cup for Roger Charlton and Oisin Murphy.

Carrying the Qatar Racing silks for the first time, Imperial Aviator was always travelling strong in behind the leaders and picked up in impressive fashion for Oisin Murphy to claim a four-and-a-half-length victory over Cartago.

Qatar Racing & Equestrian Club general manager Nasser Sherida al-Kaabi expressed his gratitude to Al Shaqab Racing for sponsoring Al Shaqab Lockinge Day at Newbury.

"Sponsoring such type of races enhances the standing of Qatar's equestrian sport," said al-Kaabi after the races.

"It is one of the top-class racing events in the UK. In addition, HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al-Thani's presence and presentation of trophies to the winners of the main race demonstrate Qatar's commitment of horse racing in general.

"Al Shaqab Lockinge Day is a step forward on the way to Qatar Goodwood Festival, which will be held July in Goodwood, UK. The Festival will involve a large number of top-class and long-awaited races. We look forward to more victories by Qatar's equestrian sport in the near future in line with the immense support and attention we receive from the state."

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Publication:Gulf Times (Doha, Qatar)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 14, 2016
Words:984
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