Pont Neuf is racing's Jekyll and Hyde. At home, he is calmness itself but on the racecourse, that's a different story.

He contemptuously dumped Charles Bishop in the paddock on his winning debut at Kempton last month, so in a bid to cap his excitable nature, he was cantered and then had a lad sit on him before departing his Blewbury yard for Salisbury.

"He comes to the course and his eyes are on stalks," said Eve Johnson Houghton. "Everything is happening a bit quick for him but we are doing everything we can to get it right." 

Despite there being only six runners, Bishop was forced to switch to his right to avoid congestion in the five furlong dash, but once clear, came with a withering run to snatch the spoils from Kassaya to whom he was conceding 9lbs.

Salisbury Journal: Pont Neuf by Francesca Altoft

"He's learning as he winning. It's difficult to win with a penalty on this ground but he needed his experience to win on it. He's tough and just wants to win," said the trainer who is tempted to run the two-year-old in the valuable National Stakes at Sandown later this month rather than Royal Ascot.

The City Bowl has a unique claim in the racing calendar, being the first named race in the sport's history. First contested in 1654 on what was then described as the 'old plain,' it has been won by such luminaries as Gimcrack and Eclipse whose reputation was such he scared off the opposition and enjoyed a walk over.

It was initially run over two miles but as the event slowly lost prestige, so it has been tried on a series of distances. Now compressed to a handicap, it has reverted to 14 furlongs, but whatever the accomplishment of previous winners, few could have won more easily than this year's victor, Kyle of Lochalsh.

Finley March set a decent gallop on Ocean Heights, then the tempo dropped midway, and winning rider Billy Louchnane found himself further back than he wanted as the pace suddenly quickened. However, he made significant headway three out, led two out and drew clear.

It left trainer Hughie Morrison a little perplexed. He had always considered the four-year-old handled soft ground well until he ran no sort of race in similar conditions at Sandown last year. However, his fears that he might under perform again proved unfounded.  

"He will get two miles," said Morrison who hopes the horse will not be balloted out of the Ascot Stakes at the royal meeting.

As the rain continued to fall and conditions became increasingly arduous, the finishing line could not have come quick enough for Master Builder who clung on in a photo finish to land the 10 furlong maiden with a change of tactics. Second on his debut where he came off the pace, he was ridden more forward on this occasion and Benoit De La Sayette found himself in front earlier than he wanted for the inexperienced three-year-old.

"He was a bit green and had to work. He has learnt from his previous run."

  • Article written by y John Hoskins - with pic of Pont Neuf from Francesca Altoft