Silvestre de Sousa gave his new partnership with King Power Racing an early-season boost after steering Bye Bye Hong Kong to glory in the Woodford Reserve Cardinal Conditions Stakes at Chelmsford.
All eyes were on U S S Michigan, one of two runners in the race for Aidan O’Brien, as he attempted to book his ticket in next month’s Kentucky Derby, but it was not to be for the son of War Front who was sent off the 15-8 favourite to back up his recent Dundalk success.
Sitting just in behind the early pace, the Andrew Balding-trained Bye Bye Hong Kong (7-2) picked up well under the champion before holding off the late rally of Antilles, stablemate of the favourite, with Group Two winner Dark Vision a further head back in third.
De Sousa said: “He is a really nice horse and Andrew really likes him. He has got a long future ahead of him. I think he is a Group horse, whether a Group One, I don’t know, but he will win Group races.
“It was nice prize-money and the team will be happy. It is just nice to keep the ball rolling.”
An outing in the Qipco 2000 Guineas has not been ruled out by trainer Mark Johnston for Dark Vision, who was making his first start since finishing down the field in last year’s Champagne Stakes at Doncaster.
Johnston said: “I was a lot happier than last time. He was struggling early on and flew late.
“James said it was a bit sharp for him and that the Guineas might be a bit sharp for him, but he has only sat on him once, around this track.
“It is all positives really, as it is not his track. That is him back to how he was. We certainly won’t be ruling out the 2000 Guineas.”
While the dream of an outing at Churchill Downs may be over for U S S Michigan, connections were still satisfied with the performance.
Kevin Buckley, representing O’Brien, who was having his first runners at the Essex circuit, said: “Ryan was happy enough with him. It was only his third run and he is still learning, plus it was his first time over a mile, so we were going into the unknown.
“He will come on from that.”