Aidan O’Brien ended a seven-year wait for Glorious Goodwood’s biggest prize as The Gurkha pipped Galileo Gold to take the £1m Qatar Sussex Stakes.
It was exactly the race it had been built up to be – another duel on the Downs between the top two three-year-old milers around.
Where Galileo Gold had taken the honours at Royal Ascot, The Gurkha got his own back here with a beautifully-timed run to edge Frankie Dettori’s mount, owned by the main sponsor of the the Qatar Goodwood Festival, into second.
To complete the perfect Sussex Stakes recipe, the older horses in the contest did their bit too, with Ribchester and Toormore not very far off the pace in third and fourth.
It was O’Brien’s first Sussex Stakes since Rip Van Winkle took the 2009 renewal and, after his runner War Decree took the Qatar Wintage Stakes on day one of the 2016 festival, the Irish champion trainer will be wondering whether this might turn into a perfect week for him that could be capped by a win for Minding in the other Group 1, the Nassau.
The Gurkha’s gutsy win followed two creditable runs in defeat in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown, and O’Brien’s charge seemed to appreciate the return to a faster surface.
Having broken well under Moore, registering his first success in the race, the well-backed 11/8 favourite always travelled kindly on the rail in behind market rival Galileo Gold.
Turning for home, the son of Galileo looked to be travelling best of the 10 runners but got slightly caught for room approaching the two-furlong pole.
However, once Moore found daylight on the French Guineas winner, The Gurkha responded well to his jockey’s urgings to quicken up nicely and battle on gamely all the way to the line, fending off the late challenge of Galileo Gold by a neck with Godolphin’s Ribchester a further short-head back in third.
O’Brien, registering his fifth success in the Group One feature and his 15th victory at Glorious, said: “Ryan was prepared to make the running today if no-one was going to make it but I presume he was happy where he was.”
The Ballydoyle handler added: “We always thought he was a very fast horse, he has an awful lot of speed. He was always a fast Galileo. But we took a chance at Sandown over a stiff mile and a quarter in soft ground and we were just worried that it took a lot out of him but from day one he has always been very quick.
“He is a good traveller who handles fast ground very well and quickens very well. I suppose he is also very courageous which is why he has run the races he did like when we took him out of his comfort zone at Sandown [Coral-Eclipse] and even at Royal Ascot where the ground was soft.”
O’Brien outlined a list of potential targets for the exciting colt. He said: “He could go to France for the mile race, Leopardstown for the Champion Stakes or head to York [Juddmonte]. Obviously, York would be the easiest mile and a quarter and Leopardstown would be the stiffest mile and a quarter. I suppose we will have to see how he comes out of today.”
Moore was happy with the performance after the race and thought the better ground had helped him turn the tables on the runner-up.
“Frankie got the run of the race and he was able to dictate terms,” said Moore.
“They are both very good colts. My horse was a lot happier back on good ground today and I think he’ll be even better on faster. He travelled very well and showed a lot of pace through the race. I was confident that my horse would be able to get himself out of any position today and go and win. He’s had a tough campaign but he’s done very little wrong. It all points to him being a very exciting horse for the rest of the year.”
Hugo Palmer, who trains Galileo Gold for Sheikh Joaan’s Al Shaqab Racing, said: “I’m disappointed to lose, but immensely proud of the horse. We were slightly hoping something else would make the running, but in the absence of a pacemaker we were hostage to our own fortune.
“Frankie got it absolutely right, and went the perfect gallop in front, giving the horse every chance to hang on, but he didn’t quite. It’s very hard to lead a field of that quality from pillar to post, and not many horses in history have done it - I’m not sure we’ll try to do it again.”
Richard Fahey, who saddled Ribchester for Godolphin, was happy with the colt, who had to switch off the rail a furlong and a half out, come wide and then took time to reach full stride - he finished best of all. Fahey said: “James [Doyle] was delighted with him - he’s a horse with loads of pace and James just wished they had gone a bit quicker in order to give him a bit of room with which to work. It didn’t happen, but he ran a blinder.”
The Sussex grabbed most of the headlines on a day when the forecast rain stayed away and the sun even made a few appearances, but the whole card lived up to expectations again.
The opening race was the longest of the week, the two-mile, five-furlong Matchbook Betting Exchange Goodwood Stakes, which starts in front of the grandstand. And it was Star Rider who dug deep and showed her rivals how to win a marathon.
Bred by her owners, Ben and Sir Martyn Arbib, ridden by Jimmy Fortune and trained by Hughie Morrison, the four-year-old won by two lengths from Percy Veer, and there were two heads back to third and fourth, Oceane and Poyle Thomas.
The winner, Morrison’s eighth success in the past 14 days, started at 11/1. It was Morrison’s 25th Goodwood success and fourth at Glorious.
Trainer Sir Michael Stoute was delighted with the performance of Ulysses after the 9/2 second-favourite ran out the impressive half-length winner of the BeringIce Gordon Stakes.
The son of 2001 Investec Derby hero Galileo, who is regally bred being out of the 2007 Investec Oaks winner Light Shift, was always travelling smoothly for jockey Andrea Atzeni and accelerated smartly when asked for his effort two furlongs from home.
The pair had to dig deep to repel the challenge of runner-up The Major General in the closing stages but Ulysses had the class to prevail.
The three-year-old had previously finished a well beaten 12th of 16 in the Investec Derby at Epsom but suffered a particularly troubled passage that day, so it was particularly pleasing for his trainer that he bounced back to form this afternoon.
“He got murdered in the Derby,” said Stoute shortly after the race. “He was badly interfered with twice at Epsom so it turned into a non-event really. I’m very pleased as we thought this horse had a lot of potential and he’s beginning to show it now.”
Mark Johnston scored his second success of the week when Yalta, under James Doyle, broke the record for the fastest time ever seen in the Group 3 Victoria Racing Club Molecomb Stakes. It was the first of three wins on the day for Doyle.
Going off at 8/1, the two-year-old left the field for dead and crossed the line three lengths ahead of The Last Lion, also trained by Johnston.
“To be honest, I was a bit devastated when he got beaten the last couple of times as we thought so much of him,” said Johnston.
“At the beginning of the year, we thought that The Last Lion, Souter County and this one were our three best two-year-olds but, for one reason or another, it hasn’t quite gone right with him on his last two runs.
Doyle later completed a double, guiding Sagaciously (14/1) home in the EBF Breeders’ Series Veuve Clicquot Fillies’ Handicap, giving Newmarket trainer Ed Dunlop his first success of Glorious week.
Jockey David Probert enjoyed a happier day two than day one. Having been unseated before the start of a race on Tuesday by Union Rose, he was back in the saddle and taking Perfect Angel (8/1) to the win in the Markel Insurance Maiden Fillies’ Stakes.
The card ended with the NatWest Stakes, which went to Doyle again on the Ian Williams-trained Shady McCoy.
There were three wins apiece for tips shared on this website by Observer sports editor Steve Bone and Goodwood sport MD Adam Waterworth.
Thursday’s action includes the Group 2 Qatar Goodwood Cup and the Qatar Richmond Stakes, while the action begins on Ladies’ Day with the Magnolia Cup celebrity ladies’ race for charity.
Full coverage on this website.
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