With two Group 1 races, three Group 2s, a Group 3 Cup race, and one of the Uk’s most venerable Heritage Handicaps to savour, we were assured of a great day’s racing.
To read about the Champion Stakes, see the Champion Stakes section.
The other Group 1, the Jumeirah Dewhurst Stakes, is the most prestigious on the calendar for 2yr old colts and often throws up the following season’s 2000 Guineas winner. Three of the first four home were trained by the Irish genius Aidan O’Brien for his masters at Ballydoyle, including the 1st and 2nd (Beethoven and Fencing Master, both by freshman Coolmore stallion Oratoriao) and since all three looked a little gross in the parade ring we can expect a lot of improvement from them next season. Third place was filled by the handsome Xtension (by Darley stallion Xaar) trained in Lambourn by Clive Cox. This self-effacing and soft-spoken horseman, hitherto a bit of a connoisseurs’ secret but greatly respected by shrewd punters in the big Saturday handicaps, has really moved into the big time this season, winning his first Group 1. Now he finds himself with a placed horse in the premier trial for the first Classic: good luck to Clive, and let’s hope he can help us keep the prize in the UK come next May!
The Group 2s were as ever interesting races, throwing up a variety of winners. Top Irish jockey Johnny Murtagh won the opening Victor Chandler Challenge Stakes over 7flgs for local trainer Jeremy Noseda and Arab owner Saeed Suhil. The Lotus Evora Rockfel Stakes, a Group 2 for 3yr old fillies went to Music Show trained by former footballer Mick Channon, and former seven-times Champion Jockey Kieren Fallon, recently returned to race-riding at top level after a lengthy ban. This was a popular win. A race for older fillies and mares, the Pride Stakes (named for the 2006 French winner of the Champion Stakes) was won by the Aga Khan’s grey filly Ashalanda from last year’s heroine Crystal Capella. The Aga’s horses had carried (almost) all before them at the Arc meeting in Longchamp, but this time his new retained jockey, the undeniably cute Christophe Lemaire who was then off with injury, was aboard to share the triumph.
The other two staples of Champions’ Day are ‘staying races’. After the feature race, the huge parade ring filled with connections of the 34 staying handicappers running in the Totesport-sponsored Cesarewitch Heritage Handicap, some of whom became a little frisky given the delayed and noisy celebrations for Henry Cecil! Recently this race has gone to ‘National Hunt (ie jumping) yards, with hurdlers limbering up for a winter over the sticks; but this year, the ‘good thing’ Darley Sun romped in by several lengths, expertly piloted by 3lb ‘claiming’ Apprentice Andrea Atzeni. Both belied their age and inexperience for a famous victory: no 3yr old has won this for many years, and such a huge field in a marathon normally demands an experienced jockey. The Italian yells of “Brava! Brava!” were heart-warming as young Atzeni hugged his mount and grinned from ear to ear. This was by far the biggest win of his fledgling career, too! – as it was for up-and-coming trainer David Simcock.
The concluding G2 Jockey Club Cup over 2 miles which now closes the card was won by Richard Hills for Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, some compensation for thier 2nd in the Champion. More importantly the flashy chestnut Akmal – also a rare 3yr old winner of this marathon – brought up the 250th Newmarket winner for Arundel-based John Dunlop. This was in the nick of time, since the course had presciently laid on a lavish tribute for the veteran trainer, with a few of his biggest wins shown on the big screen followed by the presentation of a framed collage of photos. A surprising number stood in the gathering twilight to honour his magnificent feat.