Ferdoos pips Vita Nova in thriller

Two very smart fillies fought out the finish to the Listed EBF New Approach Grosvenor Casinos Pinnacle Stakes at Haydock on Saturday.

Roger Varian's Ferdoos and Henry Cecil's Vita Nova had only lost one race in six between them and they pulled nicely clear of last year's Oaks runner-up Meeznah.

The pair had it to themselves inside the final furlong, and when Neil Callan hit Ferdoos (4-1) with the whip and she veered across the track it appeared her chance had gone. To her credit she got back on an even keel and stuck to her task well to collar Vita Nova and win by a neck.

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"She's a very nice horse but for a four-year-old she is very babyish," said Varian. "She is in a Group Three in Ireland (Noblesse Stakes) but we might wait and go for the Lancashire Oaks here and then look at races like the Lillie Langtry and the Park Hill later on. As the season goes on it is easier to plan for her."

Eve Johnson Houghton just about held herself together after The Cheka provided the trainer with her first Group-race win in the Timeform Jury Stakes. A promising two-year-old in 2008, his career has been held up by a series of injuries but he had shown solid form in his two previous runs this season, finishing second to Lolly For Dolly in Ireland and Side Glance at Windsor. The favourite Regal Parade emerged as the only serious challenger but could get no closer than a length and a quarter to the 6-1 winner, ridden by Tom Queally.

"I'm so chuffed, he really deserved that," said Johnson Houghton. "He's had so many problems but I kept on telling anybody that would listen he was a good horse. He may go to France next for the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville over six and a half furlongs as seven-furlong races are so hard to find.I've held the licence since 2007 and he's my first Group winner."

Queally then doubled up in the Play Poker At gcasino.com Handicap on Jeremy Noseda's 7-4 favourite Western Aristocrat who remains unbeaten after two starts and would have been an unlucky loser having had traffic problems. Jamie Spencer won the first two races on Activate (9-4) and Show Rainbow (5-2 joint-favourite).

Michael Bell's Activate was following up two wins at the end of last season in the Bet At bluesq.com Stakes and is now on course for Newcastle's big race.

Ian Smith, Bell's travelling head lad, said: "He'll be going for the Northumberland Plate now, hopefully. He was on the cusp of getting in before that so that should just give him the few pounds he needed to get in."

Mick Channon's Show Rainbow has been busy lately but had enough to just prevail in a blanket finish for the Blue Square Sandy Lane Stakes.

"She's very tough and honest, and she only ran against older fillies here seven days ago," said Spencer."She felt a bit flat and didn't really travel, but she's durable and was fourth in the Nell Gwyn."Shumoos (17-2) is likely to be heading to Royal Ascot after running out the most impressive winner of the day in the British Stallion Studs EBF Blue Square Maiden. Brian Meehan's filly quickened up in the manner of a seriously high-class youngster, leaving some well-regarded newcomers five lengths and more in her wake.

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"That was very impressive and Shane (Kelly) thinks she is an Ascot filly," said Meehan's assistant Patrick McEwan. "The boss thinks an awful lot of her and a performance like that sends a shiver down your spine."

Yesterday, Fame And Glory continued his march towards the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot with a workmanlike display in the Seamus & Rosemary McGrath Memorial Saval Beg Stakes at Leopardstown.

The son of Montjeu already has four Group One victories to his name, with the 2009 Irish Derby and last season's Coronation Cup his most notable triumphs to date.

Trainer Aidan O'Brien showed with his remarkable four-time Gold Cup hero Yeats that he is capable of turning top drawer middle-distance horses into smart stayers and Fame And Glory is the clear favourite to follow in his illustrious former stable companion's hoof prints on 16 June.

Sent off the 3-10 favourite for this first try at a mile and six furlongs, the entire travelled noticeably well throughout and jockey Spencer cut a confident figure in the saddle turning for home.

It looked as though he could pick up pacesetter Nebula Storm and returning Gold Cup hero Rite Of Passage whenever he wished, but while he wore down that pair, Vivacious Vivienne finished with a rare rattle down the outside. Spencer had to get serious with his mount in the final strides and they managed to hold on by half a length.

Ahmed Ajtebi ended with something of a score-draw from the two legs of Nottingham's three-year-old maiden as Gracefield made up for an odds-on defeat for Paoletta.

Ajtebi and Godolphin would have had strong hopes for Paoletta getting off the mark in division one of the Timmy - Wheelgate - Baaaaaaa 15th August Maiden Fillies' Stakes after a good run behind Nahrain at Windsor a fortnight ago. But the 2-5 favourite found Roger Charlton's Thistle Bird (14-1) just a short-head too good after an interesting skirmish.