Andrew Balding's Coltrane lays down Ascot marker ahead of Gold Cup

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Andrew Balding's Coltrane turned the tables on his Champions Day conqueror Trueshan with a dominant display in the Longines Sagaro Stakes at Ascot. Just touched off by Alan King's Trueshan in the Long Distance Cup, having won the Doncaster Cup a month previously, Coltrane (11-4) is now one of the leading contenders for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot after landing this notable trial. Having missed over a year between October 2020 and November 2021, it took a while for him to resume the progress he had shown at three. However, last season it all clicked and he progressed from finishing second on his reappearance in the Chester Cup off 95 to winning the Ascot Stakes before locking horns with Trueshan et al in the Cup races. Trueshan had something to prove, having been beaten by Rajinsky at Nottingham last month, and while he gained revenge on that rival, he had to settle for fourth this time. Hollie Doyle raised the pace aboard Trueshan half a mile from home, but Oisin Murphy was able to easily track her before quickening clear to win by four and three-quarter lengths. Wise Eagle ran a massive career best in second, with El Habeeb taking third. Betfair make the winner the 5-1 second-favourite for the Gold Cup behind Aidan O'Brien's Emily Dickinson at 7-2. Balding said: "He looked very good when he won the Melrose (at three), and he hasn't really looked back. "To come back here in June is the plan and he's very versatile ground-wise and he's a course and distance winner." Murphy, riding his first Pattern-race winner in the UK since returning from a 14-month suspension, added: "It's fantastic to ride so many winners for Andrew, including a few better races like on Good Friday. "This horse has very lucky owners (Janice and Mick Mariscotti) who have 10 horses with him. Coltrane is in the form of his life, and Andrew has done a terrific job getting him to his best." Trueshan could also contest the Gold Cup next month, but King is eyeing a possible switch in code.

He said: "It's ground dependent, but we'll train him for the Gold Cup. There's a strong possibility you might see him over hurdles in the autumn. "The Northumberland Plate, the Goodwood Cup and Ascot in October were all tough races, and I hope they haven't left their mark on him. "I brought him back to win here, and we had to come, but it was always going to be tough to beat Coltrane. "His next race will tell us an awful lot, but whatever happens he's been the most wonderful servant."

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