High life again for Dettori at Deauville

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The Independent Online

Sometimes you would swear horses know what is at stake. Muhtathir found himself pulled off the subs' bench and bundled into the Number 12 shirt at Deauville yesterday to represent Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin team in the Prix Jacques le Marois in the enforced absence of the injured squad superstar Dubai Millennium. And the five-year-old, hitherto regarded as just a journeyman among European milers, rose splendidly to the occasion to take the £115,000 prize rather easily and give Frankie Dettori that crucial first Group One success since his comeback to the saddle the previous weekend.

Sometimes you would swear horses know what is at stake. Muhtathir found himself pulled off the subs' bench and bundled into the Number 12 shirt at Deauville yesterday to represent Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin team in the Prix Jacques le Marois in the enforced absence of the injured squad superstar Dubai Millennium. And the five-year-old, hitherto regarded as just a journeyman among European milers, rose splendidly to the occasion to take the £115,000 prize rather easily and give Frankie Dettori that crucial first Group One success since his comeback to the saddle the previous weekend.

On the fast ground he so loves there was no fluke about Muhtathir's three-length victory, although his starting price of nearly 22-1 was perhaps a realistic assessment of his chances on recent form. Notable among the vanquished were the runner-up Sendawar, the French-trained four-year-old widely expected to establish himself the best of the older milers with Dubai Millennium out of the way, and the splendid filly Crimplene, in fourth place.

Clive Brittain's charge set off smartly in front as usual but had no answer as Muhtathir loomed up inside the two-furlong mark, towing Sendawar with him. Nor could the favourite, who had travelled within himself to that point, find any extra as the leader kept up his gallop. Another of the home side, Kingsalsa, came from off the pace to nick third from Crimplene close home.

What the win meant to Dettori, sidelined for three months after breaking his ankle in an aircraft crash that resulted in the death of the pilot, was apparent from his shout of glee as he passed the post. But he confined his celebration to a wave at the crowd and a victory slither from the back of his unlikely ally, rather than his trademark flying leap.

"It's great," he said. "With Dubai Millennium out I didn't think we could win but Muhtathir excelled himself. He strode out really well on the fast ground."

It was Muhtathir's eighth victory from 21 races and easily the best performance of his career. Consistency - in the past 18 months he had picked up prize-money in Dubai, Tokyo and Hong Kong as well as Italy and Britain - rather than brilliance had been his previous hallmark and several times he had been deployed as hare on behalf of more celebrated bearers of the blue silks.

But yesterday was his day, a just reward, if he had any comprehension of such a concept, for hard work and team effort. "He is a high-class horse," the Godolphin racing manager, Simon Crisford, said, "but fast ground is his key. And he seems to do best when he runs fresh." Muhtathir's next target will be another distant in time and place, the Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill Downs in November.

Sendawar, deemed ring-rusty by his jockey, Gerard Mossé, will seek compensation in the next round of the mile championship, the Prix du Moulin. "He just hasn't been doing enough in the morning," confirmed his trainer, Alain de Royer Dupré. "He's run well but he was just in need of a race."

Crimplene, bowed but not disgraced on her first venture against colts, will now have a break after her seventh race of the campaign in a fifth different country. Then she, too, is off on her travels again, heading for the Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Kentucky in October as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Muhtathir provided Godolphin's eighth Group One win of the year and half an hour later one of the Dubai team's arch-rivals among racing's heavyweights, the Michael Tabor/ Coolmore axis, notched its seventh when Minardi bolted clear of the British raiders Superstar Leo and Dora Carrington, the 3-1 favourite, at Leopardstown to take the Independent Heinz 57 Phoenix Stakes.

Minardi, too, was something of a supersub, becoming Ballydoyle's number one after his stablemate Freud, the likely hot favourite, was withdrawn, lame, from the six-furlong contest yesterday morning. Michael Kinane hardly had a moment's anxiety as the white-faced bay quickened off a strong pace to win by five lengths. It was a third successive win in the race for his trainer, Aidan O'Brien, after Lavery and last year's leading two-year-old Fasliyev.

The son of Boundary had clearly learned from his debut second at Ascot. "We thought he would burn grass that time, the way he'd been working," O'Brien said, "but it turned out to be a slowly run race and he didn't know what he was doing." The Dewhurst Stakes, over a furlong further, has been pencilled in for Minardi, and the Flying Childers, back to a furlong less, for Superstar Leo.

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