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Doncaster: Music back on track.

Distant Music, the horse who had trainer Barry Hills and jockey-son Michael dreaming of Classic glory throughout the winter only to disappoint this spring, returned to something like his best at Doncaster yesterday when landing the GNER White Rose Park Stakes, writes Matt Chapman.

And now that he is once again in full bloom, the son of Distant View may step back into Group 1 company for his next start, possibly in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.

In a season the Hills family will be keen to forget, there was no hiding the relief on the trainer's face as Distant Music outbattled Valentino in the Group 3 event to win by a neck, with front-running Cape Town three-quarters of a length away in third. Swallow Flight was fourth and Barathea Guest last.

Hills sr said: "I've trained for 31 years, but that's as big a relief as I've had for a long time. Things haven't been easy, and just because you've 2,300 winners it doesn't make life any easier."

Distant Music, who sports the colours of Khalid Abdullah, was a red-hot winter favourite for the Sagitta 2,000 Guineas, having shown a blinding turn of speed to land both the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster and the Group 1 Dewhurst at Newmarket.

But those dreams started to fade when he was touched off by Barathea Guest in the Greenham, and they were in tatters after the colt could finish only eighth behind King's Best in the Classic. Yesterday's outing was his first since that race in May.

Hills continued: "He looks fuller and rounder and he's heavier now too, as he was 460kg in the Champagne Stakes and he's 468kg today. We couldn't keep weight on him earlier in the season.

"He's beaten good, consistent horses today and I'd have thought he's run up to a mark of about 120.

"When the tide turns, lots of things can happen, and there is no reason why he won't come on for this race.

"I think he might get a mile and a quarter, but I'll discuss plans with the owner. I think he will probably run in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes next, but we are keen for him to stay in training as a four-year-old, so that may enter our calculations."

Teddy Beckett, racing manager to Abdullah, said: "There has been nothing physically wrong with Distant Music, but he just wasn't right and it was a question of giving him as much time as he needed to come back to form. Barry Hills has done a marvellous job with him."

Distant Music burst into contention at the furlong pole and then got the better of Valentino-who had his tongue tied down-as the latter, not for the first time, caved in when push came to shove.

Major disappointment of the race was Barathea Guest who, according to jockey Craig Williams, simply found the ground too fast.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Chapman, Matt
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Sep 8, 2000
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