Racing: Distinction merits another tilt at Melbourne

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The Independent Online

Distinction was the winner, as his position in the market suggested he should be. His rumbling success was further qualification for a return visit to the Melbourne Cup at Flemington, in which the massive gelding was sixth last year.

Golden Quest, the half-length runner-up, was barely less commendable. This effort had him shooting through the Ebor lists and he is now favourite for York next month and an occasion which may not be "the race that stops a nation", but it does rather hamper traffic flow on the A64. Both beasts, however, have some way to go before they supplant the most celebrated of Goodwood Cup participants.

There is a teary whiff of nostalgia these days about the Group Two race. The 2003 encounter is one of the very few races which never shrivels in the memory, the day Persian Punch, at the age of 10, ran himself into the ground to repel Jardines Lookout by a short-head. He tried to do the same in the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot the following April but, this time, his heart would not stand it. The old horse's ashes are scattered over the course here.

More pragmatically, the Goodwood Cup was also an event which promised to make another's name on the West Sussex downs. Mark Johnston saddled three runners - Golden Quest, Winged D'Argent and Hearthstead Wings - in an effort to draw level with Sir Cecil Boyd-Rochfort's record six wins in the race. He almost made it.

There was no carefully unravelled denouement to this two-mile assignment. Distinction ensured it would be a race for the hardy from the moment he was sent on, almost four furlongs out, by the jockey on a high surf of confidence this week, Michael Kinane.

If it had not been for Golden Quest, it would have been a most uninspiring spectacle from that point. The little horse, well little by comparison at least, came snapping at the leader's heels. Big D, as he is known to his syndicate owners, responded with a flourish.

"He was travelling really good, so well and I didn't want to break his rhythm," Kinane said. "I just let him flow. I knew he'd stay well. Then I was having to fight him [Golden Quest] off in the last furlong.

"He was getting at me going to the furlong pole, but, in fairness to my horse, he had the race well won again over the final five strides. Fortunately he's got a lot of guts and he pulled it out well."

Sir Michael Stoute, the winning trainer, added: "I was anxious for one moment, but Mick gave him a crack and he jumped forward again. The Melbourne Cup is on the agenda. He's a suitable type for the race, as he proved last year. He just got a little far back, but he came out of the race with a lot of credit."

There was no landmark for Johnston, but gratification all the same. "I was a bit worried about running a horse rated 99 against this opposition at these weights, but he has run a great race and I am delighted," the trainer said. "It was a good trial for the Ebor. It was a good trial for anything."

The first of a brace of Group Three contests was the Lillie Langtry Stakes, a race for well-connected, sleek fillies named after one. Tartouche was the winner of a contest which appeared to take an age to develop down the long, winding Goodwood straight. Appropriately enough on ladies' day, the first offering went to a woman trainer, Lady Herries.

For a fleeting moment, Jimmy Fortune on Bowstring suggested he might have pinched the race from the front, but the partnership was gobbled up at the two-furlong marker by Seb Sanders and Tartouche, who also had enough in reserve to hold off Without A Trace. It was a result which meant Sanders went to the front twice, as he immediately rose to the head of the jockeys' championship market, just in front of Robert Winston and Jamie Spencer.

"It looked for a few strides as if Jimmy might have slipped the field, but I was determined to play to my filly's strength," Sanders reported. "She always knows where the winning post is and, in the end, I have got to the front too soon."

There was another scattering at the outset of the second Group Three, the King George Stakes, when there appeared to be a degree of jockey divergence about which part of the course held the best ground. Most of the field choose to compete on the stands' side, decisions which became evidence that democracy is not always right.

Adrian Nicholls, who was drawn furthest wide in the No13 stall, probably had no alternative but to stay on the far side with Fire Up The Band. His chosen land proved to be the most advantageous as the gelding held on by a neck from The Tatling. Yet it transpired that Nicholls had been following parental orders from his father, trainer David.

"I was worried that I might lose too much ground crossing over there," he said, "but clearly it was the right thing to do. I had hoped to get right over to the far rail, but I couldn't quite manage that as he wasn't doing a lot for me."

Hyperion's selections for today's other meetings:

BANGOR: 2.05 Strathtay 2.35 Mr Ed 3.10 Catchthebug 3.45 Ballyboe Boy 4.20 Lawyer Des Ormeaux 4.55 Combat Drinker

NOTTINGHAM : 5.45 Gala Sunday 6.15 Chaski 6.45 Bishops Court 7.15 Xaarist 7.50 Caribbean Dancer 8.20 Sir Bond 8.50 Noble Future