O'Sullivan's Aashiq shows heart of a champion on his return to competition
In other circumstances, the Paul O'Sullivan-trained Aashiq might well have run half an hour earlier yesterday in the Classic Mile rather than the Class Three Dyer Handicap (1,400m), but the trainer was pleased about the way things fell.
'I think it's a good year to not have a Derby horse frankly after watching the way Beauty Flash won,' O'Sullivan smiled, remembering the day last June when Aashiq locked horns with the Derby favourite and came off second best, but was far from disgraced. 'The way he looked winning today, I wouldn't want to bump into him.'
Aashiq (Jeff Lloyd) had established himself as a young horse on the rise before hitting a speed bump with a heart irregularity when he resumed for the season in October and O'Sullivan was forced to turn him out.
'My vet, Michael Hurley, said we would just take our time, do everything by the book and try to make sure that when Aashiq did come back, that we got it right,' O'Sullivan said.
'We've had the cardiograph on him at nights and done it all slowly and full credit to my owners because they've been patient enough to wait for the horse and they've got the right reward today. It's great to see the horse back - one of those wins that is more a relief than a thrill.'
A son of Viking Ruler, Aashiq has now won twice over 1,400m from seven starts, and was allowed to coast in front before spreading the field out over a long way in the final stages.
'He's got a high cruising speed that makes you think that he will run a mile in the future,' O'Sullivan said. 'Some of the Viking Ruler horses can get over a bit of ground, though being out of a Rory's Jester mare might limit that.'
Lloyd said Aashiq showed no sign of the keen-going habits, which had characterised him as a three- year-old.
'I'd seen on his videos that he raced a bit keen last season so I was pleased when he came back to me today,' he said. 'He's got that natural early speed which makes him a joy to ride and 1,400m is ideal for that sort of horse, but I do agree he should get a mile.'
It was part of a double for Lloyd, who had won the Class Four up the straight on Supreme Taiji on a day when riding honours were spread around, with Weichong Marwing also taking a double and the Jockey Challenge on a countback over Douglas Whyte.
'Supreme Taiji is just a big baby and doing it on raw talent at this stage,' he said after leading all the way. 'He's got all that speed but I expect that he will get over further so it's good sign that he can win at 1,000m.'