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Horse Racing - Racing: O'Meara eyes Ascot with Lady M

With just days to go until The Derby Festival at Epsom, the weekend just gone was something of a more sedate one for racing fans, but there were still some possible Royal Ascot clues.

It was also a weekend of sadness, with racing bidding farewell to riding great Lester Piggott. Here's our look back at the weekend's racing stories.

Lady back in the groove at Beverley

Trainer David O'Meara was delighted to see Star of Lady M back on track at Beverley as she won the Hilary Needler Trophy under William Buick.

Star of Lady M had been beaten at Chester earlier this month in a disappointing run, but her trainer was sure that setback owed plenty to the quirky nature of the Roodee track.

His runner was good enough to peg back long-time leader Primrose Ridge close home for a three-quarters of a length verdict at Beverley, and could now be headed to Royal Ascot in a few weeks' time, where she's 25/1 to win the Queen Mary Stakes on 15th June.

"Chester was a disaster – she hated the track. She got very lit up and hung right all the way," said O'Meara.

"I'm delighted that she was back to her best and five furlongs clearly suits her well, so I have no desire to step her up in trip at present.

"I didn't have anything in particular in mind but I'll talk things over with the owner and I guess he might like to go to Royal Ascot with her."

Raasel still on the rise

The Listed Achilles Stakes at Haydock on Saturday went the way of Raasel, providing yet more success for owners the Horse Watchers with their bargain buy.

The ex-Shadwell inmate cost just 10,000 gns in 2020 but has rewarded his current connections with a flurry of wins and more than £110,000 in prize money.

A six-time handicap winner for trainer Mick Appleby, Raasel was upped into Listed company at Haydock and took the class-rise in his stride, picking off proven Group 1 performer Dragon Symbol late on with a degree of comfort to score.

Raasel could have top-level aspirations himself in Britain or France later in the summer.

Matthew Taylor, a key part of the Horse Watcher set-up, said: "He was an absolute bargain really. When this horse was a two-year-old, I thought he was a potential Group horse. He didn't run at three and he obviously had his problems.

"He's obviously stepped forward again today. I suspect handicaps will be out of the question now. I suppose we're looking at the good programme of five-furlong races.

"I'd like to think we could go to the Nunthorpe or the Abbaye with him - you don't get many ten grand horses that win more than the odd race so that's very nice."

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Statuette sets out Albany stall

Aidan O'Brien's juvenile team looks impressive and none more so than Statuette, who looks Royal Ascot-bound after an impressive win at Navan on Saturday.

Statuette's sire is the unbeaten Triple Crown winner Justify and she looks to have inherited plenty talent given the manner in which she powered clear under Ryan Moore. It was enough to earn her a quote of 11/4 for the Albany Stakes at Ascot on 17th June.

She had three-lengths in hand over main market rival Olivia Maralda at the line, but Moore's filly was really powering away by that point.

Afterwards, the winning rider revealed that nobody at Ballydoyle would have been shocked by the performance.

"She was a standout physically and she did that really nicely," Moore said. "She's by Justify out of Immortal Verse, so she's got an incredible pedigree.

"I'd like to think, looking at the size of her, that she'll continue to progress throughout the season. She's a filly Aidan liked and I'm very happy with what she's done."

Lester's passing leaves racing in mourning

Tributes came from far and wide on Sunday following the death of legendary rider Lester Piggott at the age of 86.

Piggott's career in the saddle spanned a mammoth five decades and he was the poster-boy of racing in Britain for much of that time, riding a phenomenal 4,493 domestic winners.

He won the Epsom Derby a record nine times, including on 1970 Triple Crown winner Nijinsky. Piggott rode his first winner at the age of 12 and he famously returned from retirement and a spell in prison to win the Breeders' Cup Mile on Royal Academy at the age of 54 in 1990, while his tally of British Classic wins stood at 30.

Many in racing, from Frankie Dettori to Aidan O'Brien and Sir Michael Stoute paid their tributes Piggott, while his old weighing room adversary Willie Carson had no doubts over his status in the game.

"He was magical on top of a horse. He had an empathy for the animal and knew what a horse was thinking. He knew what a horse wanted, be it tough, soft, holding up or using his stride, and he always seemed to get it right," Carson said.

"Most jockeys were better off for his endeavours as we all had to up our game because of him.

"Lester walked about with an aura about him and he always was in charge. Everyone looked up to him and watched him. He was also a very caring man. If a jockey sustained an injury and ended up in hospital, he would be one of the few to turn up and visit them.

"We had battles galore over the years and I look back with such fond memories."

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