Racing: Far Lane and Tillerman keep Abdulla in midsummer clover

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The Independent Online

If recent results are a guide, it must be presumed that Khaled Abdulla owns a pet black cat which wears a collar made from intertwined four-leaf clovers.

Horses belonging to the unassuming Saudi Arabian prince, who trades as plain "Mr" in these parts, have been cutting a notable dash this summer - the 2,000 Guineas favourite Three Valleys, the potentially top-class miler Trade Fair and the sprint champion-elect Oasis Dream spring to mind - and yesterday the hayride continued as two more bearers of the pink, green and white silks, Far Lane and Tillerman, took the feature contests at York and Ascot.

On a sun-drenched Knavesmire, Far Lane's half-length defeat of Etesaal in the John Smith's Cup emphasised the value of a low draw on this sweeping, turning track. Barry Hills' charge, a 7-1 shot, emerged from stall four, making his the 11th single-figure success in a row. His rider, the trainer's son Michael, was not immediately able to capitalise on his starting pitch near the rails with a position in the van, though.

"It didn't quite go how I wanted," the jockey said, "I wanted to be handy, but I got chopped at the start, and had to go for Plan B, which was to get him settled and in a rhythm behind horses."

The way the race panned out, Hills may have been fortunate, as the leaders, among them King's Thought, Danelor and Jazz Messenger, went off at a suicidal gallop that favoured those who kept their powder dry in midfield. The first to emerge and strike for home was Jamie Spencer on Etesaal (drawn 12), but Hills had the move covered, followed him through and, taking the lead going to the final furlong, worried him out of the £87,750 prize in determined, if slightly wayward, fashion.

Far Lane is not the most straightforward of conveyances, as the multiple representation of the loriner's trade in his mouth, plus a cross-noseband, implies, and Hills did well to counteract his tendency to hang left-handed towards his rival, who was running up the far rail. "He is a hard ride," Hills admitted. "You need only one rein, he's all on your right hand. But he's very game and very honest."

It was only the second win of the Lear Fan four-year-old's 12-race career, but was deserved reward for a series of stalwart efforts in good-class handicaps. "It was my first win in this race," Hills added, "and dad's too. He's been very patient with the horse this year, and trained him specifically for this race. It's nice when it comes off."

Etesaal had four lengths in hand of Persian Lightning, whose threatening thrust petered out in the final furlong. Courageous Duke took fourth. The 5-1 favourite, Researched, came in 13th of the 20 runners.

At Ascot, Tillerman, as befits a horse who has won at Group Two level and been placed in the top grade, proved far too good for his four rivals in the newly upgraded Group Three Michael Page International Silver Trophy. The only real doubt about his capacity to take the mile contest had been whether, in a small field, he would get the fast pace he needs. But Frankie Dettori on Beauchamp Pilot obliged up front, and Richard Hughes was able to sit off the gallop before delivering Tillerman with his trademark late punch to win by a cosy three- quarters of a length.

The victory was a fine compliment to Dubai Destination, who had disposed of Tillerman with some ease in the Queen Anne Stakes at the Royal meeting last month. Right Approach, third on that occasion, occupied the same place yesterday, failing to justify favouritism on better weight terms.

Tillerman, a seven-year-old entire, looked splendid in the preliminaries, strutting the last furlong to post in a rhythmic, extravagant trot that would have earned high marks under a dressage judge. "He is a very special horse to us," said his trainer, Amanda Perrett. "He has been with us a long time and I do hope he stays in training next year as well."

Tillerman's next race is likely to be a tilt at a second Celebration Mile at Goodwood next month.

When your luck is in where horses are concerned, you just breathe a sigh of relief, keep your fingers crossed and enjoy. The game's other élite players, the Godolphin and Ballydoyle operations, have been having, by their standards, a torrid time at Group One level, but the Co Tipperary crew can get one back in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh today. On home soil Yesterday is taken to turn the tables on her Epsom conqueror, Casual Look. The danger is the progressive Abdulla candidate, Spanish Sun.

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