IT was as a fresh-faced youngster that Jeff Craft first visited Salisbury and it has taken him almost 60 years to return there finally as a winning owner when Michaels Choice last night comfortably took the six-furlong handicap.

The horse had been off the track for eight months after being switched from Willie Jarvis to Eve Johnson Houghton to freshen him up with a change of scenery.

A four-time winner, he was well treated on his best form and once Georgia Doble brought him to challenge just over a furlong out, there was only going to be one outcome.

The now retired Craft, who in 2005 co-founded the London based X-ray Touring agency whose roster included Elbow, Pulp and P J Harvey, reminisced about those far off days.

He said: "As a boy, I lived in Bournemouth and my father took me here as a six-year-old in 1963 and I absolutely loved it. I have never wanted to sit on a horse, nothing like that. Racing is just great fun."

To show there was no animosity, Jarvis, who was saddling the top weight in the long-distance handicap, was the first person to congratulate him.

"Eve has done a smashing job freshening him up," said Craft. "Horses can get bored doing the same things every day and need a change. I'm sure there is more to come unless the handicapper is not kind!"

Remarkably Michaels Choice was a 20/1 outsider in the seven strong field, the same as Rocking Ends who caused a major upset in the opening juvenile race.

Surprised? the trainer was asked. “Not a bit,” he replied. All those without a crystal ball probably were.

One of only three two-year-olds Brett Johnson has in his yard, the Havana Grey gelding swept into the lead just before halfway with the expectation his two market rivals would reel him in.

Not so, Rocking Ends kept up the gallop putting daylight between him and his four rivals.

Rocking Ends was a distant figure in the Brocklesby at Doncaster in March - "as green as grass," as Johnson put it - but then ran much better when third on the all-weather track at Lingfield.

And that gave the trainer confirmation his horse was not short of ability.

"Hughsey (Richard Hughes) beat us half a length and he told me afterwards his horse was nice, so I knew I came into this race with a big chance."

Next stop, the Windsor Stakes at Royal Ascot.

"Why not?" he reasoned. "Let's enjoy it." Clive Cox is Mr Reliable at the track and embellished his record when Regal Envoy got up in virtually the last stride to win the sprint, squeezing through a gap as the second and third rolled towards him at a crucial moment.

"He's brave and honest," enthused Cox. "The pace was strong up in front and he did well to get there."

The favourite suffered a hairline fracture on his debut at Windsor last season and taking a long time to recover, it was not until March that the acknowledged top of the ground performer returned to the racecourse, finishing second at Wolverhampton before following up at Bath.

No one has a present better strike record than 17-year-old Harry Davies, who followed a treble at Chepstow on Friday with a facile success in the ten-furlong classified stakes - he has now ridden 23 winners for 15 different trainers. His only problem was keeping Guilin calm at the start.

"He can get a little worked up in the preliminaries but in the race, he travelled beautifully and I always thought I was on the winner. He's a nice progressive horse."

Of his career, he understandably added: "I absolutely love it. I am very lucky."