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Howden Challenge Cup: Atrium lunges late to deny Popmaster in Ascot thriller as Al Qareem wins Cumberland Lodge

Atrium (25/1) beat Popmaster and Pearle D'or to win Howden Challenge Cup at Ascot; Al Qareem battles to victory over Israr in Cumberland Lodge Stakes; Annaf strikes late to win Bengough Stakes for Mick Appleby and Rossa Ryan

Atrium (near) just gets a nose in front of Popmaster in the Howden Challenge Cup at Ascot
Image: Atrium (near) just gets a nose in front of Popmaster in the Howden Challenge Cup at Ascot

Atrium pounced late to deny Popmaster in a thrilling finish to the Howden Challenge Cup at Ascot on Saturday.

Jockey Harry Davies weaved his way through the nearside group in the £180,000 handicap and found himself on the heels of Tom Marquand aboard Popmaster.

Charlie Fellowes' 25/1 shot looked to have just got a nose in front at the line, confirmed by the photo finish after a nervy wait for the winning connections.

Frankie's final Ascot farewell!
Frankie's final Ascot farewell!

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"He was very gutsy in the finish and to be honest I didn't think I had it, so I'm delighted," Davies said. "The whole team agreed that he was a nice horse on his day and I got a lovely tow in.

"He relaxed well and I just really wanted to ride him to finish up the hill. I thought I could fill him full of confidence and take him through horses and he really enjoyed that."

Al Qareem toughs it out in Cumberland Lodge

Al Qareem could have earned a shot at the Prix Royal-Oak having rallied bravely to make it two from two for the season in the Jim Barry Cumberland Lodge Stakes.

Karl Burke's four-year-old was a progressive performer last term, entering the winner's enclosure on three occasions, and having been off the track since taking a shot at the Dubai Gold Cup in the spring, denied the useful Bluestocking in gutsy fashion on his return at Chester last month.

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The 100/30 second-favourite here in the hands of Clifford Lee, it was a similar story to his Roodee triumph in this Group Three event and having looked booked for second place when passed by John and Thady Gosden's Israr, Al Qareem's stamina came into play as he fought back in the closing stages to edge to the front in the shadow of the post.

"We're delighted to see him win again," said Nick Bradley of owners Nick Bradley Racing. "I think we got it tactically spot on when Cliff sat second. When he's led before he has been a bit free so I think Claymore going on has helped us and made it a right stamina test.

Al Qareem (white silks) beats Israr in the Cumberland Lodge Stakes
Image: Al Qareem (white silks) beats Israr in the Cumberland Lodge Stakes

"The other horse passed us showing more speed, but then stamina kicked in and as soon as I saw Israr not go away I thought Al Qareem would come back based on what he did at Chester.

"We are probably running him over his minimum trip at the moment. I'm delighted and delighted for all his owners as well. He's just a tough, hardy stayer."

The strong-staying son of Awtaad was a Group Two winner at ParisLongchamp in the Qatar Prix Chaudenay last autumn and could now be given the chance to better last year's fifth-placed finish in the French St Leger on his next start.

"He has two options and one is the St Simon Stakes at Newbury on October 28," added Bradley. "That's a mile-and-a-half Group Three again and I'm not going to say it's a penalty kick, but it is the easier option.

"Otherwise we go for the Group One Prix Royal-Oak which is nearly two miles at Longchamp. Entries for that are next week. I need to speak with Karl, but I think we'll enter for both and then decide during that week."

Annaf strikes late for Appleby

Annaf (nose band) comes through to win the Bengough Stakes at Ascot
Image: Annaf (nose band) comes through to win the Bengough Stakes at Ascot

Annaf continued his fine season when edging out Commanche Falls in a thrilling finish to the John Guest Racing Bengough Stakes.

Mick Appleby's four-year-old has been a consistent player on the sprinting scene this season, finishing third at this track in the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.

He gained a deserved success when dropped into handicap company for the Portland at Doncaster last month and quickly added his tally when returned to Group company in this Group Three assignment.

Ridden again by Rossa Ryan, the 5/2 favourite was expertly manoeuvred into a position to challenge and stuck on resolutely in the closing stages to hunt down Michael Dods' in-form Commanche Falls and win by short head.

Emaraaty Ana got back to winning ways for the first time since September 2021 as Neil Callan steered Kevin Ryan's seven-year-old to victory in the Blue Eagle Rous Stakes.

Emaraaty Ana gets back to winning ways at Ascot
Image: Emaraaty Ana gets back to winning ways at Ascot

The former Sprint Cup star had gone close dropped to Listed company in his two previous starts and was ridden with plenty of confidence by Callan, who delivered his mount with a late effort to beat Korker and Nymphadora.

Callan told Sky Sports Racing: "His class has shone through today. He was too good for that lot.

"I've been a bit frustrated with this horse because I had big plans for him to win a Group One this year at some stage. He has lost anything, he's actually got faster with age.

"The cheekpieces have sharpened him up and hopefully that's a confidence booster."

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The Breeders' Cup is back!

Stars from around the world head to Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup and it's all live on Sky Sports Racing on November 3-4

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