They used to hang highwaymen on the Knavesmire, but yesterday at York it was the bookmakers who were strung up. Foreign Affairs, trained by Sir Mark Prescott and ridden by George Duffield, landed the gamble of the season in the 42nd John Smith's Cup. The three-year-old had been backed from 7-1 to 5-2 favourite over the past five days and, when he hit the front two furlongs out, it seemed that every one of the 39,501 throats present opened to roar him home.
It was the second time in four years that Prescott and Duffield had played the roles of executioner, having sent Pasternak north from Newmarket in 1997 to land an equally well-plotted victory. The road to success yesterday was not entirely straightforward – from a favourable low draw Foreign Affairs had to, in the end, come wide to avoid trouble in running – but thanks to Duffield's cool appraisal of the situation it was all pretty easy in the end.
Once Foreign Affairs had taken the lead and gone clear, he had only to be kept up to his work to repel the challenge of last year's runner-up Man O'Mystery by a length and three-quarters. Golconda, third in 1999, filled the same place again, just in front of Ballet Master.
Duffield's problems began at the start, which was delayed because of the withdrawal of three of the field of 22, Bawsian, Riberac and Octane. "After all the messing about, he ambled out as if next week would have done," said the veteran jockey. "Then I was off the bridle and I could see the scrimmaging in front and I decided not to stick to the inside, but to go round. But I knew at the three marker, when I gave him half a squeeze and he came good for me, that I'd win."
Prescott said: "After three furlongs I thought we were undone and that we'd finish eighth or ninth. I was very impressed with the horse that he was able to win from where he did."
Foreign Affairs will now have a break until the autumn, when he may follow the Pasternak route to a Cambridgeshire victory. "He is a big, leggy type, who will improve with time," added Prescott. "There will be no excuse for hurrying him, as he's done us so well already."
It was very much Prescott's day. At Chester, another of the Heath House inmates, Danehurst, produced a blistering burst to take the City Wall Stakes and earn a crack at the July Cup hero, Mozart, in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York next month.
The Danehill filly, one of last year's speediest juveniles, was scuppered by the draw in a Listed contest at The Curragh on Irish Derby day, but showed her true colours yesterday with an easy victory over Superstar Leo by two and a half lengths.
Mozart's youngest stablemates have been sweeping much before them this year and the Ballydoyle babies' bandwagon rolled on in Ireland. Johannesburg, winner of the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, maintained his unbeaten record with a sauntering four-length success in the Group Three Anglesey Stakes.
There was a reverse for the Co Tipperary yard in the Group Two International Stakes, when Bonnard came in last of three behind Distant Music. The Barry Hills-trained winner, who beat Muakaad by a comfortable, confidence-boosting length and a half, is now back on track towards the top 10-furlong contests later in the year.
O'Brien's record in this year's Irish Classics has been sensational so far, sending out three of the first four in his local 1,000 Guineas, the first three in the 2,000 Guineas and the Irish Derby winner with the magnificent Galileo. This afternoon he saddles half the field of 12 in the Irish Oaks but, in the absence of the injured star Imagine, for once quantity may outweigh quality. But should Chamela Bay, Fantasy Royale, Rose Gypsy, Snowflake or, more likely, Karsavina or Sequoyah prevail, O'Brien will be the first man to train the winners of the four Irish Classics since Jack Rogers achieved the feat in 1935 with the colt Museum (who went on to take his St Leger) and the filly Smokeless.
The four-strong British challenge for the Group 1 prize is led by the Barry Hills-trained Relish The Thought, third to Imagine in the Oaks and sure to be better suited by the flatter contours of The Curragh. John Dunlop's Time Away and his son Ed's pair, the Oaks fourth Mot Juste and the progressive handicapper Lailani, complete the closely matched raiding party.
Rebelline, trained by Kevin Prendergast, bounced back to form in the Pretty Polly Stakes last month and compensation for her Irish 1,000 Guineas defeat by Imagine, when she was in season, awaits today.Reuse content