Flashy Wings, the 4-9 favourite for the valuable Watership Down Stud Sales Race, went down by just a neck to the 14-1 shot Expensive. Her trainer, Mick Channon, in search of a run on fast ground as well as a monster prize, had taken something of a chance in throwing the daughter of Zafonic into such a big-field scramble off top-weight, and it so nearly came off.
The Queen Mary and Lowther Stakes winner's class took her to the front as soon as Ted Durcan asked inside the final two furlongs, and she cruised two lengths clear of her 22 rivals down the centre of the track. But in the closing strides she lost concentration alone in front, drifted left-handed and was mugged close home by Expensive, who finished tight against the stands-side rail.
Flashy Wings lost not only the £142,000 first prize but also her position at the head of next year's 1,000 Guineas market (ironically, she has been supplanted by her former stablemate Silca's Sister, headhunted last month by Godolphin), but Channon was typically phlegmatic. "No excuses," he said. "She got beat and that's that. Perhaps it would have been better if she'd had something to race with, but she lives to fight another day, and I'm glad we ran her."
The Newbury race's massive purse is designed to encourage the purchase of fillies at the yearling sales, which begin in earnest at Newmarket next month. And although Expensive, who cost 40,000 guineas last year, may have been named with feeling, she must now count as a bargain. And despite the focus on her victim yesterday, she deserves credit for her performance under Eddie Ahern.
The Newmarket operation of her trainer, Chris Wall, is tiny compared with Channon's, but no less effective with the right ammunition. "We have such a solid team," he said. "The right people doing the right things." Expensive, by Royal Applause, has the Rockfel Stakes at her local track pencilled in.
The seven-year-old Vinnie Roe went down with the utmost honour in the Group One race he has made his own. A massive roar went up to acclaim the local hero as he and Pat Smullen hit the front in the straight, but in the final furlong he started to run out of puff as two British raiders, Collier Hill and The Whistling Teal, proved narrowly too good. Collier Hill, trained by Alan Swinbank, prevailed by half a length, and will now head for the Melbourne Cup. The Australian showpiece is the likely target, too, for Vinnie Roe, who finished second last year and came to yesterday's fray off a minor physical setback. "The hold-up we had last week may well have cost him the race," said his trainer, Dermot Weld.
Today at the Curragh, another Guineas favourite puts a reputation on the line. The Aidan O'Brien-trained colt George Washington, already short odds for the 2,000 Guineas, turns out for the Group One National Stakes.
The Ayr Gold Cup, Europe's richest sprint handicap, concerned two men for whom yesterday can be lettered in red. In a finish of noses, the 12-1 shot Presto Shinko beat Fonthill Road (10-1) by a short-head, with Majestic Times (16-1) the same distance third and Yomalo (66-1) a neck fourth. The first home from Nicholls' eight-strong squad was eighth-placed 66-1 chance Primus Inter Pares.
The winner was trained by Richard Hannon and ridden by the title-chasing Seb Sanders, who was notching a 633-1 treble at the Scottish track. The first two and the third in the six-furlong dash were split by the width of the track, and Valdir de Souza's premature delight on Majestic Times on the stands side put doubts in Sanders' mind.
"I may have gone too soon," he said, "but the horse was travelling so well that I thought what the hell, I'm going. I thought I'd won, but then I saw the other lad celebrating and I began to wonder."
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