Mediterranean rolls in to soak Ebor punters

York Ebor Meeting: Ballydoyle stable sweeps past the £2 million prize-money mark with a big-race double to add to their Knavesmire haul
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The Independent Online

O'Brien, Kinane, Magnier, Tabor: the names which have become the roll-call for the summer were all there in the winners' enclosure to greet Mediterranean after the Ebor Handicap here yesterday.

The only thing missing was the short price. Between them, the big hitters from Ballydoyle and the punters crowded onto the Knavesmire allowed him to start at 16-1, and they were made to regret it when Mike Kinane brought Mediterranean with a long, smooth run to beat the favourite, Foreign Affairs, by half a length.

Twenty-two runners went to post for the Ebor, and Kinane had the other 21 still in front of him at the four-furlong pole. But he also had a horse which was travelling well and little more than bottom weight on its back, Kinane having sweated down to within a pound of the 8st 3lb Mediterranean was set to carry.

When he showed the colt daylight and started to push, he left most of them standing, and by the furlong pole he had passed all but Foreign Affairs. The favourite's stamina was in doubt before the race, but George Duffield and Sir Mark Prescott, his jockey and trainer, had decided that a non-stayer is a non-stayer however you ride it, and Duffield was up with the pace from the start. He kicked for home two out and looked for a moment to have the race won. It was not stamina which beat him in the end, though, but simply a better horse with a little less weight to carry.

"Master trainer," Prescott said to O'Brien in the winners' enclosure a few minutes later, "you are a nuisance." He was smiling broadly as he said it, but every trainer in Britain must know how he feels.

Mediterranean's victory added another £120,000 to O'Brien's prize-money total on this side of the Irish Sea, pushing him past £2m for the season, and he added another £70,000 when Rock Of Gibraltar took the Gimcrack Stakes half an hour later.

Mozart will start at odds-on for the Nunthorpe today, and O'Brien now seems likely to become the first Irish trainer since Vincent O'Brien in 1977 to win the British championship.

"Mick said he couldn't believe how well he was going on him," O'Brien said after the Ebor, "and he's a horse with a lot of options open to him now. Hopefully he can go on next year as well."

The option which O'Brien prefers is to move Mediterranean up from a low weight in a handicap straight to a Classic, although he may prefer the Irish St Leger to next month's original version, one stop down the west coast mainline at Doncaster.

Ballydoyle already has Milan, the winner of the Great Voltigeur Stakes on Tuesday, among the Leger favourites, and Hills offer 20-1 against Mediterranean for the Town Moor Classic (Milan is unchanged at 7-2).

The bookies had an escape when a horse with Michael Tabor and JP McManus among his connections went unbacked in the big race, and most will have kept every last penny in their satchels after Super Tassa won the Yorkshire Oaks at 25-1.

The filly was the first Italian-trained winner of a major race in Britain since Ribot in the 1956 King George, but looked anything but an outsider as she quickened past Sacred Song to win with something in hand.

This may not have been the strongest Group One of the season, but it was still an enormous achievement for Valfredo Valiani, who trains near Pisa, to win it with his first runner in Britain. Nor was he entirely surprised, despite Super Tassa's starting price. "She has been working really well," Valiani said. "I don't think she'll go for the Arc, because she doesn't usually end the season very well, or she didn't last year, anyway. But this year she's going faster than ever, so she might change. We'll have to see."

Rock Of Gibraltar, who took the Gimcrack by three lengths from 33-1 chances Ho Choi and Twilight Blues, is now second only to his stablemate, Johannesburg, in most bookmakers' lists on next year's 2,000 Guineas. Coral's 10-1 is the best price about Johannesburg, while Hills and Chandler go 14-1 about Rock Of Gibraltar.

Since he runs in the colours of Sir Alex Ferguson, the result also means that the Manchester United manager will be invited to address the Gimcrack dinner in December. Whether the average Jockey Club member will understand a word he is saying is another matter.

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