Jamie Spencer's obvious delight as he passed the post first on Goodricke had nothing to do with winning his first Group One race of a phoenix year in which he is champion jockey-elect, and everything to do with the poignant fact that the three-year-old is trained by his good friend David Loder, soon to be forced from his trade's ranks by illness.
"This is not about horses, or about me," said an emotion-charged Spencer. "David has been one of my best friends for a long time, and it is upsetting and sad that his career is ending. I was just delighted that I could do this today for him."
After 13 years, the Newmarket-based Loder, 41, will hand in his licence at the end of the season, on medical advice. He has suffered health problems since being hospitalised by a virus five years ago when in charge of Sheikh Mohammed's ill-advised Godolphin juvenile training camp in France. "I really should have stuck to my guns two years ago, when I said I'd retire," he said yesterday at his local track, where he saddled the promising juvenile Primary to win, "but my ego prevailed. There will, though, be no going back this time, and I'm counting the days.
"I have been advised to keep away from stress. If you give this job 100 per cent you get that, and there is no point in doing it at less."
Goodricke, owned by the Sheikh, was Loder's 14th top-level winner, and if the colt was the last, he was as stylish and impressive as any who have gone before. Spencer, always with a double handful, sent the powerful bay, a 14-1 shot, on a scything run through his rivals, hit the front a furlong out and galloped on strongly to repel the Nunthorpe Stakes heroine La Cucaracha (8-1) by a length.
"I knew at halfway that he was going to hose up," added Spencer. "I went for an opening and he just flew."
Spencer's recent road has been as bumpy as Loder's. This is his rehabilitation season after a nightmare time as the Ballydoyle No 1, a job he quit earlier this year.
"When I moved back to England David was the first person to put me up [in a race] straight away," he added. "It's hard to describe what today means. It's more than just racing. It's friendship."
The 50-1 outsider Ashdown Express came in third yesterday, ahead of Fayr Jag and the former winner Somnus. The huge disappointment was the 6-4 favourite Proclamation, owned by Sheikh Mohammed's wife Princess Haya. Frankie Dettori's mount, already proven as a high-class miler - he won the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood last month - was trying a six-furlong dash for the first time and simply could not cope with the speed of the specialists. He was taken off his feet from the start and finished 11th of the 17 runners. But another leading fancy, the well-backed Gift Horse, did even worse, finishing plumb last.
Goodricke, who will join the Godolphin operation next year, did his bit not only for the human family connected with him, but also his own. The son of Bahamian Bounty has picked up the baton at the top of the sprint division from his four-year-old full-brother Pastoral Pursuits, who took the July Cup before being forced off the stage by injury. "He's a horse who has just been getting better all year," said Loder. "The key is getting him out of the stalls, and once he jumped I knew he'd have a chance."
The best performance at Newmarket yesterday, and a mighty impressive one it was, came from Imperial Stride, who lived up to his name with a vengeance in the 12-furlong September Stakes. Ridden by Richard Hills, who flew from Haydock after finishing sixth on Etlaala in the Sprint Cup, the four-year-old beat Mamool by a length and a quarter, with the rest 14 lengths back.
"That was good," said his trainer, Sir Michael Stoute. "It shows he's up there at the right level. The Champion Stakes is a possibility, but all sorts of options are now open."