Racing: Agnetha's turn of speed celebrates an old alliance

The former partnership of Dermot Weld and Michael Kinane resumes to achieve an Irish victory in the Group Three sprint
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The Independent Online

The opportunity to inspect contenders in the flesh is one salutary reason to attend the racecourse in person. Here yesterday, the most significant visual clue came in the elegant, easy-moving, well-turned-out shape of an Irish challenger. The fact that Dermot Weld had donned his Panama for the journey to Goodwood, rather than elect to stay at home to supervise a hatful of fancied runners at the Galway Festival, was surely a tip in itself. Those who noted it were rewarded when the canny trainer's charge Agnetha, an 11-2 shot, landed the day's sprint feature, the King George Stakes, by a short-head.

The victory was a triumph for an old firm, for the winning rider was Mick Kinane, stable jockey at Weld's Curragh yard for 15 years before he hooked up with Team Ballydoyle four seasons ago. It was the jockey's first ride in Europe for his former boss since then and both men were delighted to join forces again.

"Dermot always says to me that old friends are best," said Kinane. "Mick and I had some wonderful days together all over the world," added Weld, "He must have ridden 1,200 winners for me." But it was hardly for misty-eyed sentiment's sake Kinane was back in a Rosewell House saddle; he would not take an odd mount on a no-hoper and Weld would not be employing a hopeless jockey. It took all of the veteran Irishman's strength and craft to get Agnetha home; from a wide draw he found himself alone in front sooner than ideal but instantly adapted the game plan to use the filly's blinding speed and will to battle to repel Rudi's Pet by the minimum margin.

Agnetha, a German-bred three-year-old who runs in the colours of Weld's mother Gita, is a young sprinter of conspicuous talent, given fast conditions underfoot. One of her scalps last year was no less than Sophisticat's and her end-of season target is the Prix de L'Abbaye, via the Flying Five at the Curragh next month. "She idled a bit when she was on her own," said Kinane, "but I let her drift left and she got going again once she had company. She's very tough; the other horse headed her but she came back in the last strides."

One of the finest hours enjoyed by Kinane and Weld came when Vintage Crop won the Melbourne Cup nine years ago. Since then, Europeans have essayed, and failed (though some narrowly and honourably), the challenge regularly. Two more possible hopeful travellers emerged from the 173rd Goodwood Cup in the winner Jardines Lookout and runner-up Give Notice.

Jardines Lookout, ridden by Kinane, covered the two-mile course in a record 3min 21.63sec and although his 10-1 success may have been a surprise to the sun-basking crowd, who could hardly raise a cheer for his effort in the venerable marathon, it was not to those closest to him, trainer Alan Jarvis and owner Ambrose Turnbull. Their consistent five-year-old had finished down the field in the Ascot Gold Cup but had had a genuine excuse. "He had run well in the Yorkshire Cup first time out and we fancied him at Ascot," said Jarvis. "But he was girthed up too tight. When we took the saddle off his sides were like two lumps of red meat."

The cause of yesterday's winner was much aided by the furious pace set by Persian Punch. But the nine-year-old faded to finish last and his future is now under consideration. "We'll see how he is," said devoted owner Jeff Smith, "but one thing is certain, he won't be plugging round the gaffs if he's no longer up to this level." Yesterday may have been the moment when the giant chestnut, veteran of 14 victories from 47 previous starts, was finally carried out on his shield.

Today's programme holds the lowest profile of the five days atop the Sussex Downs. The Group Three Lennox Stakes would be at the mercy of Redback if he could reproduce his 2,000 Guineas third, but preference is for the progressive Nayyir (2.45), who showed he could cope with an idyosyncratic course at Epsom. Similarly upwardly-mobile and agile LINGO (2.15, nap) is returning from a break, but hails from a stable where lack of fitness need not enter the equation.