Universal continues impressive progress in Princess Of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket

Mark Johnston’s battler may now line out for the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in just over a fortnight

Jockey Joe Fanning and Universal (left) land the Princess Of Wales’s Boylesports.com Stakes at Newmarket. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Jockey Joe Fanning and Universal (left) land the Princess Of Wales’s Boylesports.com Stakes at Newmarket. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Fri, Jul 12, 2013, 01:00

There are few harder horses to dislodge from the front than Universal and Mark Johnston’s battler continued his impressive rate of progress in the Princess Of Wales’s boylesports.com Stakes at Newmarket yesterday.

As he was robust enough to be winning a third Pattern race from his 10th start of 2013, Johnston and owner Abdulla Al Mansoori are now unlikely to be able to resist the lure of the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in just over a fortnight.

Although unsuccessful in Dubai, the winter warmth has propelled the four-year-old to greater heights, and he was the 3/1 favourite after his respectable third in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Soon in his usual position at the head of affairs, Universal was shadowed by his five rivals but saw them all off without much trouble, bustling two and a half lengths clear at the post under Joe Fanning.

“It would be very interesting to see this horse over a mile and six furlongs in something like the Irish St Leger,” said Johnston. “The King George is the obvious race. Abdulla says wait a week, but if he’s true to form he’ll be ready again in two days, he thrives on his racing. The heart says King George, the head would maybe say things like the Irish Leger, the Canadian International or Japan Cup.”

John Gosden likes to use the Bahrain Trophy to road-test possible Ladbrokes St Leger types and Feel Like Dancing kept the prize in his stable for the third year running. The Leger sponsors offer 20/1 at this stage.

It was a third Portland Place Properties July Stakes in four years for Richard Hannon, whose Anjal (14/1) came home with great intent and widest of all under Paul Hanagan to snatch the juvenile Group Two right on the line.