Walker and Osborne continue their purple patch with another winner on the opening day of flat racing at Epsom

By Peter Moore at Epsom Tuesday 23rd April 2024

The opening day of Epsom’s Spring Meeting was a rewarding day for both trainer Andrew Balding and jockey Oisin Murphy with the pair teaming up for a double on the card with Bellum Justum and Portsmouth.

Bellum Justum was a surprise winner in the Betfred Blue Riband Trial run over 1m 2f with the colt sent off at 9-1 in the six runner race.

The bulk of the money was on the Aidan O’Brien trained Chief Little Rock ridden by Ryan Moore. Sent off the odds on favourite once headed over a furlong out kept on but never looked catching Bellum Justum.

The partnership of Balding and Murphy who are in fine form at the moment took the finale when Portsmouth went in at 4-1 to win by three and a quarter lengths from Dashinwhitesargent.

Night On earth showed what pace he has got by winning the opener on the card The Betfred Handicap Stakes over 5f for Ian Williams with Richard Kingscote in the saddle.

The Ian Williams-trained six-year-old flew out of the stalls and made his way right across the track to the stands’ rail before continuing to rattle along out in front.

Nothing got into it from the back from there with Night On Earth seeing off the Karl Burke-trained Looking For Lynda – who had tried to keep tabs on the leader the whole way – by a length and a quarter going away.

“He’s got a lot of early pace and he put that to good use,” Williams said. “He was drawn wide today and he’s managed to get across early – he really does have a lot of speed.

“We had worries about Epsom. We weren’t too sure about how he’d manage it, but he’s always struck us as a horse who might do well in the Dash and I think he coped with it better than we expected. Chester will be the next stop and then we’ll hopefully come back for the Dash.”

Night On Earth was winless in his first 15 starts after joining Williams, but the six year old has been consistent since the turn of the year, although on previous visits to the Epsom track he has struggled.

William Jarvis may have retired last year, but he had a helping hand in the winner of the City & Suburban handicap with his former horse Crystal Delight winning on his stable debut for the ex-trainers godson Harry Eustace.

Jarvis said: “I suggested to Richard Banks [owner] that he send this horse to my godson Harry Eustace, who I’m very fond of, and he’s clearly doing a good job.

“That was very impressive. He won a bit too far – five and a half lengths is quite far to win a prestigious handicap like that. He’s a very talented horse and I hope he can win another nice handicap for them.”

There was more family delight when Gary Moore teamed up with his son Ryan to capture the Great Metropolitan Handicap on Champagne Piaff who drew clear of his 12 rivals to win by five and a half lengths.

Gary Moore said: “He was impressive; we ran him because he had a fitness advantage after having a run. All the credit must go to Jamie [ Moore’s son], as the horse had an injury and he’s spent a lot of time getting him back, and Ashley [Head, owner] has been very patient. 

“If the ground is okay he could come back here for a handicap on Derby Day.”

In form jockey Saffie Osborne made it 11 winners in the past 14 days when making all on Into Battle in the 1m novice stakes.

Winning trainer Ed Walker  who is also riding high on a purple patch at the moment, said: “He’s such a good-looking horse and his work has been decent, but I wasn’t expecting that. 

“I expect the handicapper will take a dim view, but I’m sure there’s plenty more to come.”