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Little Big Bear roars back to form with Sandy Lane strike

Little Big Bear proved his 2000 Guineas run to be all wrong with a comprehensive success in the Betfred Nifty Fifty Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock.

Champion juvenile last year on the back of his seven-length win in the Phoenix Stakes, his campaign was then curtailed by injury.

Aidan O’Brien opted to switch up to a mile for his seasonal bow, but nothing went right at Newmarket and he finished slightly lame in last place.

Just three weeks later, he was a different proposition dropped back to six furlongs on Merseyside, travelling sweetly throughout in the hands of Frankie Dettori, with Ryan Moore on Irish Guineas duty at the Curragh.

Hollie Doyle appeared to be going just as well on last year’s Coventry winner Bradsell until a furlong and a half out, when Dettori made his race-winning move.

Richard Hannon’s Shouldvebeenaring tried to make a race of it having cruised into contention, but he could never quite get close enough to put the evens favourite under pressure and he went down by a length and a quarter.

The winner is now 6-4 favourite from 9-2 with Betfair for the Commonwealth Cup at Ascot.

Dettori said: “Aidan got in touch with me 10 days ago and I said ‘yeah, I would love to ride the horse’, but I didn’t know where I was going to be. Very kindly they held on for me, I was on the phone on Sunday and said ‘listen, I’m going to Haydock’.

“He looked magnificent today. I guess they had to try the Guineas, it was too long (a mile) and it didn’t work out, but he won in good style today.

“I always had the race covered, he quickened up well under hands and heels and it’s a good confidence booster before the Commonwealth Cup.

“I don’t know what the line-up will be, but he was champion two-year-old, he has big figures and has come back to his best today, so he’ll be the favourite.”

O’Brien watched on from the Curragh, where he saddled Paddington to win the Irish 2,000 Guineas.

Reflecting on Little Big Bear’s performance, he said: “I’m delighted with him and Frankie was over the moon. He said he still lacked a little confidence after the last day so he said he coasted with him and guided him through.

“He loved him and said he’s going to be a lot better horse in Ascot. The Commonwealth Cup is the plan, I think that’s what the lads were thinking and that’s why they sent him there (Haydock).

“I think it should set him up perfectly if he’s well. Hopefully everything will be well with him between now and then.”

He went on: “He was a big horse and always looked like a horse that was going to be a way better three-year-old .

“He always looked like a big powerful sprinter but we felt that we had to give him the chance (in the Guineas). Obviously nothing worked for him but at the same time we didn’t have time to go back and give him another go at it.

“We decided if he was going to the Commonwealth in Ascot he had to have a run in a sprint and that’s why he was where he is today.

“He got two little half speeds over short distances so he was always going to come forward a lot from it.”

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