The York festival has come to a close and what a spectacular show of equine elite we were treated to. Some of the weeks’ highlights included Mark Johnston becoming the leading most trainer in England when in the typical running style of his runners, Poet’s Society went for the front and found plenty under pressure to cling on under a determined Frankie Detorri. Undoubtley, Stradivarius was the big winner of the week when in the process of winning the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup he bagged the Weatherbys Hamilton £1 million Stayers bonus.
The first notable performance of the week came in the Group 1 Juddmonte International where Roaring Lion put in a sparkling performance to beat Poet’s Word under high flying Oisin Murphy. This was the son of Kitten’s Joy second consecutive Group 1 victory having won the Coral-Eclipse in July. Connections of Poet’s Word may feel slightly aggrieved having been short of room as the pace quickened but on the day the best horse won.
Gosden said: “He’s run a lovely race. They went an honest pace. You’d got Dubai World Cup winners in there, Poet’s Word came at him and ran a blinder. There were no hiding places out there.
“We were delighted with him — I was expecting a big performance from him.
“He’d been training exceptionally well. We’ve made no secret of the fact he worked on the July Course the other day with Rab Havlin on board and went very well
One of the more interesting and probably informative races of the week was the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes where it was a 1-2 for Charlie Appleby where apparent stable second-string Old Persian beat favourite Cross Counter by a head, with the Aidan O’Brien, trained Kew Gardens a staying on third.
The first three home, all have bigger targets on the horizon and connections will be delighted with all the performances. Afterwards, Appleby said:
“The two horses came here in great order. I put a line through Old Persian’s run in the Irish Derby. We might have backed up quick enough after Royal Ascot, but I always felt the horse was going there in great order.
“It was more the fact the race didn’t pan out as we expected as they slowed up in front and we weren’t in the right position.
“The horse needed a break from there and he had a nice, little break. The team have got him back well and we were confident coming into today. He’s bred to get a trip and he galloped out strongly.
“Cross Counter came onto the scene later on and this wasn’t his main target, but on the back of his victory at Goodwood, he put himself forward to be in the picture for Australia (Melbourne Cup).
“Really, it couldn’t have worked out any better. I know the betting didn’t suggest that, but Old Persian can head on to the St Leger now and Cross Counter can do what we always expected him to do and go to Melbourne for the Cup“.
Of the runner-up Kevin Buckley, Coolmore’s UK representative, said:
“He’s run a great race, he’s just been beaten by the penalty…It’s nice to see him come back from his little break after his race in France in such good form…He should step up on that perfectly in time for Town Moor (St. Leger)”.
Day Two of the Ebor festival was full of talking points as firstly Aidan O’Brien’s Fairyland won the opening Group 2 Lowther Stakes which may mark the end of the “bug” which has plagued Ballydoyles horses this season. The feature race was the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks where William Haggas enjoyed a birthday winner with Sea Of Class certainly living up to her name. She travelled supremely throughout and quickened up well to comfortably beat Coronet.
Mark Johnston made history when as mentioned Poet’s Society and Frankie Dettori won the valuable Clipper Logistics Handicap. This victory was Johnston’s 4,194 winner which makes him the winning most trainer in the UK beating Richard Hannon Snr who previously held the record
A clearly delighted Johnston said:
“I started small. It was just one winner at a time and with horses like this. That was his sixth win of the year. That’s what it’s about – to run them”.
“This horse epitomises what we’re all about – I think he’s won about nine races now…This is a special place to do it, as well, but it’s business as usual now”.
Stradivarius was the star on Day 3 with a strong staying performances in the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup. On his previous starts, this season the son of Sea The Stars had won the Ascot Gold Cup and Goodwood Cup bot of which are Group 1 affairs. This Group 2 win, however, is the biggest of his career due to him bagging the £1 million bonus.
In the race itself, there was a brief moment of worry as Frankie got to work on John Gosden’s stable star and there was an immediate response. Class is permanent and this season’s leading stayer hit top gear inside the final furlong to mow down Count Octave.
The winning rider in his debrief” said:
“I didn’t feel the horse was as good today as at Ascot, only his courage and class got him through…I’m usually worried sometimes he can take a hold, but today he was very quiet, he didn’t carry me with his usual enthusiasm”.
“He’s had a hard season, being in every two-mile championship race from the start of the season can take its toll, but his class and courage saw him through”.
“Show me the money!”
There was a shock winner of the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes as the seven-year-old gelding running in just his second Group 1 contest stayed on gamely under Graham Lee to deny the determined challenge of Mabs Cross. Bryan Smart’s stable star returned at starting odds of 40/1 as race favourite Battaash found little under pressure to finish a disappointing fourth.
A clearly delighted Smart beamed:
“I knew I had him the best he’d ever been, I’d trained him for this race as it was one I’d always wanted to win…I’d told the wife months ago that he was going to be absolutely spot-on for this, he was just coming right”.
“There was a difference today, he was so relaxed, he wasn’t sweating or anything…Credit must go to Graham Lee, it was his idea to take the cheekpieces off as he felt that he couldn’t see the other horses when they came at him”.
The Group 2 Gimcrack went the way of Kevin Ryan’s Emaraaty Ana under the all-conquering Frankie Detorri. The son of Shamardal made all to beat Legends of War who’s form is somewhat suspect. I think this may have been a weak renewal of the Gimcrack but only time will tell.
The final day of the Ebor festival was all about the Ebor Handicap itself which is a 1-mile 6-furlong contest and is the richest handicap run all year. Tony Bloom has landed his fair share of big handicap punts in recent season and he was responsible for this year’s favourite Stratum but it wasn’t to be as Willie Mullins’s runner was badly hampered just outside the furlong marker and that was his race done.
Muntahaa was ultimately a runaway winner of the race under Jim Crowley. The highly tried son of Dansili was fourth in the St Leger behind Harbour Law two seasons ago and this back class showed here to produce an impressive performance.
The incredibly consistent Weekender again finished in the placings and looks sure to land one of these big races sooner or later. The horse to take from the race may be Ger Lyons’s Mustajeer who finished a staying on fourth having not had the clearest of passages throughout the race.