The front-running First Conquest narrowly denied the promising Lead Artist in a thrilling renewal of the bet365 Wood Ditton Maiden Stakes at Newmarket.

The one-mile contest for unraced three-year-olds has been won by a whole host of high-class performers over the years, including 12 months ago when subsequent Dante third and Derby runner Passenger made a winning debut for Sir Michael Stoute.

Representing the formidable combination of Charlie Appleby and William Buick, First Conquest was unsurprisingly prominent in the market for this year’s renewal at 4-1 and having dictated affairs from the off, had most of his rivals in trouble racing out of the dip.

Lead Artist and Earl Of Rochester, two sons of Dubawi trained by John and Thady Gosden, came from the chasing pack to throw down a challenge with the former emerging as the biggest threat in the Juddmonte silks, but First Conquest dug in to prevail by a nose.

As a gelding this year’s Wood Ditton winner does not have Classic aspirations, with Appleby eyeing a more low-key campaign.

He said: “He’s been schooled up there at home and is from a family we have known. He worked with a nicer horse that ran well earlier in the week as well so we were confident, barring greenness. He hit the lids and was very professional throughout.

“At the moment I hope he will be a nice, progressive handicapper and stepping up in trip in time he can be a proper mile-and-a-quarter type of horse.

“The thing about the Wood Ditton is years ago when you’d win it you would have to throw them in at the deep end, but now with the change of the programme we can give these horses a chance and let them develop in their own manner.”

Late-night commuters at an Australian train station had a surprise travel companion last Friday as a loose horse ended up on the platform.

An unknown person broke into the premises of trainer Annabel Neasham, who is based at Warwick Farm in Sydney, unlocking some of the stable doors which allowed the horse to escape.

The unnamed runner ended up on the platform at Warwick Farm train station, with New South Wales Premier Chris Minns sharing a video of the incident on Wednesday, which shows the horse walking up and down as a train arrives while passengers jumped out of the way.

The horse was eventually caught by a staff member and transported back home.

In a post on X, Minns said: “Wet tracker.

“Didn’t realise I needed to say but – horses aren’t allowed on our trains, sorry folks.

“I can confirm the horse has returned home, safe and sound.”

Neasham, who was born in Britain and is best known for her handling of ex-Sir Michael Stoute runner Zaaki, has been contacted Racing NSW stewards regarding the incident.

A statement from the authority said: “Ms Neasham explained that on the evening of Friday, April 5 an unknown person gained access to one of her stable barns in the Warwick Farm stabling precinct.

“It was ascertained that the unknown person released three racehorses and a stable pony with one of the stated racehorses leaving the vicinity of her stable complex.

“Ms Neasham added that as soon as she became aware that there was a loose horse from her stable complex, she immediately contacted local police who attended soon after and the horse was able to be recaptured without sustaining any injury or damaging any property.

“Further, Ms Neasham explained that the stable barn which was accessed accommodates horses which are in the early stages of their respective preparations and therefore did not contain any horses which were entered for or scheduled to race.

“Ms Neasham will be formally interviewed by the stewards at a time to be fixed regarding the incident.”

Connections of Bay Bridge are unconcerned about conditions at Ascot ahead of the defence of his Qipco Champion Stakes crown on Saturday.

Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, the five-year-old produced a career best to end the unbeaten run of Baaeed in the Group One feature last season and returns to British Champions Day looking for a repeat of that half-length victory which came in the hands of Richard Kingscote.

That success came on ground described as good to soft, but having also finished second at Royal Ascot on good to firm ground last year, Bay Bridge appears to have few going concerns ahead of a race which may be switched to the Berkshire venue’s inner track if forecast rain turns conditions heavy on the round course.

“If he can go back and defend his crown, that would be wonderful,” said John O’Connor of Ballylinch Stud, who own the horse in partnership with James Wigan.

“At the moment the intention is to run as far as I know, but all of those final decisions will come down to Sir Michael Stoute. All I know is he was happy with him when I last spoke to him and the intention is to go to Ascot on Saturday.

“He has good form on varying ground at Ascot. He’s run well there on summer ground as well and he was maybe a little bit unlucky when touched off in the Prince of Wales’s last year.

“I don’t know myself which track they will race on, but we will just turn up on whatever track we’re told to turn up on I guess.”

A proven performer at the highest level, Bay Bridge has been a regular in some of the hottest 10-furlong contests but made a brief foray up to a mile and a half for a crack at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

The son of New Bay finished a creditable sixth behind Ace Impact in Europe’s richest middle-distance contest, with an urge to hold an early position taking its toll in the closing stages of that contest.

However, he is reported to have returned from the French capital in fine shape and now returns to his optimum distance for this Champions Day appearance.

“He appears to have come out of the Arc well and he ran very well there. For the moment we’re heading directly to Ascot, hopefully still in good form,” added O’Connor.

“In terms of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, he probably did a little too much too early. You obviously need to hold your position in a race with that many runners, but he probably did a little bit too much and it probably cost him a little bit in the straight. Nonetheless he ran a really good race.”

On returning to 10 furlongs, O’Connor said: “It looks like that (is his best distance) and his highest ratings are at that trip, so hopefully dropping him back will be beneficial to him.”

Regal Reality will try for a second win in the Tattersalls Sovereign Stakes at Salisbury, three years after his first success in the race.

Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, the eight-year-old showed he was as good as ever when winning the Diomed Stakes at Epsom on Derby day under Ryan Moore.

Richard Kingscote takes over in the saddle on this occasion, just as he did three years ago, but Regal Reality must shoulder a 3lb penalty for his Epsom success.

The consistent Chichester has his first outing for Charlie Johnston.

With Stoute in his early days, he joined Dalgleish for 30,000 guineas in October 2020 and won on his first start for new connections the following April.

Just touched off at Newcastle on All-Weather Finals Day, his last outing for Dalgleish saw him win a Listed race at York.

Kevin Stott takes the rides and said: “He’s very straightforward, easy to ride and always tries his heart out. I personally think he is good enough to win a Group race and the mile at Salisbury looks ideal.”

Mighty Ulysses represents John and Thady Gosden, who claimed the prize two years ago with Megallan.

A Listed winner last year, Mighty Ulysses was off for almost a year after finishing down the field as the beaten favourite in the Strensall Stakes at York last August.

He made his comeback recently in the Summer Mile at Ascot, where he was fifth to Master Of The Seas.

Owner Saeed Suhail’s racing manager Bruce Raymond said: “I suppose having been off for so long his comeback at Ascot was satisfactory.

“We’ve always thought he’s quite a nice horse and I know John is heading there.

“He’s got cheekpieces on for the first time, so John must think that is something that he needs, but I’m expecting him to improve a good bit from Ascot given that was his first run for so long.”

Roger Varian’s Embesto, who lost his unbeaten record behind Stoute’s Nostrum at Newmarket, Charlie Hills’ Pogo and Roger Teal’s Dancing Magic complete the field.

Sir Michael Stoute has confirmed he will wait for easier ground before unleashing Bay Bridge.

The master trainer has also not ruled out a possible tilt at the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes for Derby winner Desert Crown.

Bay Bridge was fourth to Vadeni when favourite for last season’s Coral-Eclipse and while he held an entry for Saturday’s renewal, connections decided to forgo the opportunity.

The son of New Bay earned top-class honours when taking the scalps of both 2021 Derby victor Adayar and the previously unbeaten multiple Group One winner Baaeed in the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October.

However, he has run three times this term at the top level and fallen short, although he was a half-length runner-up to Luxembourg in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh, before finishing seven lengths behind runaway winner Mostahdaf in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Stoute will pick his moment for the James Wigan and Ballylinch Stud-owned Bay Bridge, once there is sufficient cut underfoot.

He said: “There are no plans for Bay Bridge, we want some nice in the juice in the ground for him.”

Meanwhile, Desert Crown is cantering again ahead of a possible run in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Last year’s impressive winner of Epsom’s blue riband suffered a minor ankle injury thereafter and missed the remainder of the season.

On his belated return, following a 355-day lay-off, he was touched off by Hukum in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown in May.

He looked impressive in his work a few days before his intended run in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, but following a routine piece of work, he was scratched from the race after he was found to be lame.

“The hitch he had was very minor and when they investigated there was nothing,” said Bruce Raymond, racing manager to Saeed Suhail, who owns the colt.

“He missed a few days, unfortunately at the wrong time. He was just a bit lame, they go lame, don’t they?

“I just know that he is cantering and in full exercise. I would be hopeful, but can’t tell you when he’ll run, as I don’t know. I would be hopeful it would be the King George, but that decision will be up to Sir Michael.

“I very much like what I’ve been seeing from him when cantering. He looked a bigger, stronger horse at Sandown. I don’t think there is anything to worry about at all.”

Stoute remains non-committal about Desert Crown’s next target, although he holds engagements in the Ascot middle-distance showpiece – for which he is a best-priced 10-1 chance – York’s Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion Stakes.

Stoute added: “No, we haven’t got any plans for him yet. He is back cantering. He is on the move again.

“We are not going to make any plans yet. We’re not going to do anything yet, we’ll wait until we get him in strong work, but I don’t know yet when that will be.”

Impressive Wood Ditton scorer Passenger is entrusted with upholding Sir Michael Stoute’s fine record in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York.

Stoute has won the premier Betfred Derby trial seven times throughout his illustrious career and last year sent out Desert Crown to triumph on the Knavesmire before subsequently marching on to Epsom glory.

Now it is the turn of Passenger to stake his Classic claims, and having seen the rain scupper his intended outing at Chester last week, the Ulysses colt was supplemented into this Group Two event at a cost of £14,000.

“Passenger was a non-runner at Chester because of soft ground, but should have the perfect ground for him in the Dante,” said Alan Cooper, racing manager for owner the Niarchos family.

“It will be a big step up from the Wood Ditton, with the Dante being just his second start, and we will learn a bit more about him for the experience.

“It’s a stepping stone and we’ll see how he takes it, and Sir Michael will then make a plan afterwards. The hope is he is confirms the potential of the Wood Ditton and we can take it from there.”

John Gosden has won this three times in the past 10 years – including with Epsom hero Golden Horn – and alongside son Thady, will put Epictetus’ Derby credentials to the test following his success in the Blue Riband Trial last month.

“He won over a mile and a quarter in the Blue Riband on his last start and he steps up in trip this time. Hopefully the track and trip will suit him,” said Thady Gosden.

“He’s come out of Epsom really well and fingers crossed he will run a nice race again.”

James Ferguson’s Canberra Legend also has a victory in a key trial to his name, having taken the Feilden Stakes in fine style and the Kremlin Cottage handler is hoping this will give an indication as to how high he should aim the unbeaten son of Australia.

“He was impressive enough in the Feilden and has done everything right so far. He’s ticked all the boxes and his last piece of work was exactly what we wanted,” said Ferguson.

“We’re going there full of confidence, but with the understanding that it is another massive step up. It’s one of the top Derby trials and we’re up against some very good horses.

“Winning a Feilden at Newmarket gives us the confidence we have a good horse on our hands and this is about finding out about how good if everything goes right – whether it is Epsom, Ascot or France.”

Another heading to the Knavesmire with a perfect record is Aidan’s O’Brien’s Continuous, who won a Group Three in France on his final start at two and will bid to give his handler a fifth Dante as he reappears in the hands of Ryan Moore.

“This looks the most significant Derby trial so far in terms of depth,” Moore told Betfair.

“You can obviously make a case for a few given their unexposed profiles and I suppose none more so than Passenger, who impressed me when winning the Wood Ditton and comes here after being taken out of the Dee Stakes last week because of the ground.

“My colt Continuous is also unbeaten, as is the Feilden winner Canberra Legend, and he comes here in good shape, having showed a lot of ability and a very willing attitude when winning both of his races at two.

“He wouldn’t have the stamina-laden pedigree of some, but the way he won his Group Three in France over a mile in testing ground suggests this trip is well worth trying. I think he is decent, but we shall see. Ideally, he would prefer a bit of dig but good ground on a flat track like York should be fine.”

John Murphy’s Ballysax scorer White Birch is another making the trip from Ireland, having seen his Leopardstown form upheld by the runner-up at the Dublin track recently.

“He’s in super form. We couldn’t be happier with him and we’re looking forward to it,” said George Murphy, assistant to his father.

“This is a bigger test again and it will be good to see what White Birch can now do. It looks a very hot race on paper and everyone is going there thinking they have the winner. Hopefully he is good enough, but he is in good shape and we think he will run a big race.”

Charlie Appleby won the Dante with Hurricane Lane in 2021 and having seen Military Order fly to the top of the Derby betting when scoring at Lingfield on Saturday, now looks to add a second string to his Epsom bow with Flying Honours, who ended a fine juvenile campaign by winning the Zetland Stakes in October.

“Flying Honours was meant to run at Sandown last month, but the meeting was abandoned, so we took him for a racecourse gallop at Newmarket instead,” the Moulton Paddocks handler told

“We were very pleased with how that went and he goes into this in great order.

“We know that he gets this trip, having won the Zetland on his final two-year-old start, and feel that he has the scope to improve again as we step him up over further. It looks a competitive renewal of the Dante and whoever wins will be a leading player for the Derby.”

Andrew Balding’s The Foxes accounted for Flying Honours when claiming the Royal Lodge at two and made an encouraging return when second in the Craven Stakes last month. The Churchill colt could be suited by the step up to 10 furlongs, as could Roger Teal’s consistent Dancing Magic, who was a place behind in third at Newmarket.

A mile and a quarter could also play to the strengths of the King Of Steel, who created a taking impression on debut at Nottingham last year and was then been deemed good enough to take his chance in a Doncaster Group One shortly after.

He has since joined Roger Varian ahead of his Classic season and the Carlburg Stables handler believes he is giving all the right signals in his work at home.

He said. “He was impressive on his first start last year then he ran in the Group One at Doncaster.

“He has trained like a good horse all spring and we’re looking forward to running him.

“He’s a big horse but light on his feet and we’ll see how he measures up in the Dante, which will give us some direction whether he is an Epsom horse or a horse for one of those races at Royal Ascot.”

Burradon Stakes scorer Dear My Friend and Feilden third Killybegs Warrior both represent Charlie Johnston, while Karl Burke’s Liberty Lane completes the line-up, having chased home Waipiro at Newmarket.

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