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John Porter Stakes: Newbury return pencilled in for St Leger runner-up Arrest with Laurel lined up for Royal Ascot

Arrest landed the Group Three Geoffrey Freer at Newbury in August last year on the way to finishing second in the St Leger at Doncaster; Listed winner Laurel back in training with Royal Ascot on the agenda this year

Arrest and Frankie Dettori win the Chester Vase
Image: Arrest and Frankie Dettori win the Chester Vase

Newbury's John Porter Stakes has been identified as a possible starting point for Arrest, with connections confident last year's St Leger runner-up can become a high-class middle-distance operator this term.

John and Thady Gosden's son of Frankel was sent off the 4/1 favourite for the Derby in 2023 after an impressive three-year-old debut when claiming the Chester Vase.

Although he failed to handle the Epsom undulations on lightning fast summer ground, he showed his true colours towards the end of the campaign where he came close to both correcting his Classic record and providing Frankie Dettori with a swansong success at Doncaster.

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Finalists - are you ready?

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The four-year-old colt is now poised to return to Newbury - the scene of his Group Three Geoffrey Freer Stakes victory last season - with the Arrest team hoping the mile-and-a-half John Porter on April 20 is the first step of a season that will encompass plenty of high-ranking targets.

"He was consistent all year apart from the Derby, which I think was our own fault," said Barry Mahon, European racing manager for owners Juddmonte. "John, Thady and myself got wrapped up a little bit in it being the Derby and we probably shouldn't have run as the ground was a bit quick and the track obviously didn't suit.

"He showed his true form on his next couple of starts and has wintered very well. John and Thady were very happy with him when speaking to them last week and the current plan, all being well, is to start in the John Porter.

"I think we will start off at middle distances and see how we go and if he shows us in the middle of the summer he wants a bit further, then we will try it. But I think he has shown enough class at a mile and a half to suggest he can be competitive in those top mile-and-a-half races throughout the year."

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Frankie Dettori poses with the Chester Vase trophy
Image: Frankie Dettori poses with the Chester Vase trophy after victory on Arrest

Listed star Laurel back with Royal Ascot on the agenda

Juddmonte also have high hopes for the Gosden-trained Laurel as she returns to training after an interrupted campaign last year.

The five-year-old impressed when winning Kempton's Snowdrop Stakes last April which teed-up a shot at the Lockinge the following month and although that tough assignment proved a step too far, she was amongst the leading contenders for Royal Ascot's Duke of Cambridge Stakes before injury curtailed her season.

Fonteyn gets past Laurel and Grande Dame to win the Sun Chariot Stakes
Image: Fonteyn gets past Laurel (left) and Grande Dame to win the Sun Chariot Stakes

An appearance in that Royal Ascot Group Two will be Laurel's main aim in the early part of 2024, with connections keen to get the daughter of Kingman to the summer showpiece in peak condition.

"Laurel is back in training and John and Thady are happy with her," continued Mahon. "She's just having a slow preparation with a view to getting her to Royal Ascot later in the year, so we will probably just give her a prep run at the end of May or the beginning of June and then it will be straight to Royal Ascot if all is well with her.

"She is in good shape and seems to have got over her little injury, so with a bit of luck, if she stays injury free she could be an exciting prospect for the year."

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