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Last Updated: 12/05/10 5:54pm
Prime Defender wins at York.
A race-fit Prime Defender caught some coveted sprinting prospects on the hop in the Duke Of York Blue Square Stakes.
While trainer Barry Hills is particularly familiar with the Knavesmire's Group Two - the first of his seven wins in the event's current guise came in 1974 - Prime Defender had never enjoyed a Pattern-level victory despite a string of sterling efforts in defeat.
Now six, the chestnut was fresh from running in Dubai as well as domestically and had won a conditions race at Haydock only last Saturday.
Despite the trainer's record, Prime Defender was 20-1 as he had Gimcrack winner Showcasing, the smart Main Aim and Aidan O'Brien's Australian recruit Starspangledbanner to contend with.
While they all held their chances and finished second, third and fifth respectively, Robert Winston stole a decisive advantage at the furlong pole and kept half a length in hand at the post.
"He knows more about the game than all of us," said Hills.
"He had run in 19 Group races without winning but he's a good horse when he's right, you've just got to catch him on the right day."
Hills' son and assistant Charlie elaborated: "This horse is a bit of an unsung hero as he's been around a long time but never quite got his head in front in one of these big races.
"He always goes well after a quick run back, I think that's the thing with him. He's in the Golden Jubilee, that's the obvious race, although it will be very difficult."
Hills senior has been impressed with the dedication of Winston, and added: "Whenever I ask him to come down for work days he comes. He has his feet on the ground and you have got to show some loyalty to people and open some doors for them."
Winston added: "I don't get many chances in Group races so I wanted to take my opportunity.
"He really put his head out and I was trying not to give him a smack as I think he curls up a little bit.
"I just gave him a little back hander in the last half-furlong but he is a horse I have a lot of faith in and on his day he's a very good sprinter."
Showcasing, 4-1 joint-favourite with Starspangledbanner, made a most eyecatching reappearance.
Trainer John Gosden said: "When I saw he was drawn 11 at York I was pleased, but then I found out the stalls were on the other side and that is not where you want to be.
"He's a three-year-old taking on the older horses, he had the worst of the draw and was two lengths adrift after a couple of furlongs.
"He's run a great race for a three-year-old and will head straight to Royal Ascot for the Golden Jubilee."
Boylesports and VC Bet are most generous at 33-1 about the winner for the Royal Ascot Group One, which is where Main Aim may go too.