For all that Itnab had to battle to overcome Summitville in the Princess Royal Stakes here yesterday, her trainer, Ben Hanbury, now faces a much tougher task. The Newmarket-based handler would dearly like to have the daughter of Green Desert under his care again next season to boost his flagging fortunes, but her owner, Hamdan Al Maktoum, is as much inclined to keep four-year-old fillies in training as the Aga Khan is his colts.
Still, Hanbury, who trained Itnab's dam, Midway Lady, to win two Classics in his more glorious days, will be in there pitching. "This was only the fifth race of her career," he said. "She has taken time to develop, but she is easily the best out of her dam, and she's beaten a filly who's been placed in two Group Ones. She's sure to progress next year, and Sheikh Hamdan has got nearly 200 broodmares. Surely he wouldn't miss one more."
Itnab, whose mother was notoriously bad-legged, needs a little ease underfoot to be able to give her best, and so the summer has been against her. On yesterday's watered - some said overwatered - ground, she went after Summitville with a will in the straight, caught her a furlong out and eventually won a spirited tussle under Richard Hills' driving by a length. The pair pulled 10 lengths clear of Chorist.
Hanbury, whose last domestic Group-race success came with Alshakr in the Falmouth Stakes three years ago in the same blue-and-white colours, is down to just 10 horses. "There was a time when I had 80," he said, "and really, if it wasn't for Sheikh Hamdan, I wouldn't still have a licence. The game is getting harder and harder, and the divisions between the top and lower levels more marked."
The Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks third Summitville will be around next year after missing out only close home on the Group Three prize that so augments a filly's paddock value. Her trainer, James Given, whose career profile is in sharp contrast to Hanbury's, said: "Perhaps at the end of a season of Group One races she just lacked an edge today. But if there is a silver lining, it's that she won't be carrying any penalties next year, and a Listed race should be a penalty-kick."
Given the glorious, warming sunshine here, the title of the opener, the Autumn Stakes, was something of a misnomer. But then again, the trees in the adjoining Windsor Great Park are on the turn, and the mile race often produces an animal to dream about during the winter. Nashwan, Nayef and Daliapour are previous victors, and yesterday's winner, Fantastic View, kept all fantasy options open with his four-length success, gained barely off the bridle.
The Distant View colt cruised to the front early in the straight, and Pat Dobbs had only to nudge him out to keep Menokee at bay. "He tends to prick his ears in front," said the Irishman, recording his first Group-race success, "and perhaps I could have done with a lead for a bit longer. But it was a bit of a stop-start pace and I didn't want to get caught out, so I thought it best to let him go when I did."
Fantastic View, a bargain 35,000gns buy at the Newmarket sales in the spring, was put in at 20-1 for the Derby by Ladbrokes. The chestnut is unlikely to be seen again until the spring. "He's in a Group One in Italy," said his trainer, Richard Hannon, "but I should think today would be it for the year".
Majestic Missile emerged with valid pretensions to sprinting honours next term after running away with the other juvenile Group Three contest on the card, the Cornwallis Stakes, a result that was never in doubt once Kieren Fallon had sent the son of Royal Applause past Nights Cross approaching the furlong marker. Majestic Missile, already winner of a similar contest, the Molecomb Stakes at Goodwood, quickened away to win by three-and-a-half lengths.
His trainer, William Haggas, thinks enough of the partnership-owned colt to have considered him for last weekend's Prix de l'Abbaye against older horses, but the prevailing soft ground scuppered the audacious plan.
"It's a shame, because that was a Group One," Haggas said, "and he's already won one of these. But if the ground has been OK, then it would have been OK for Oasis Dream as well, and taking him on would have been tough."
In the sprint handicap, honours were shared between Speed Cop and Halmahera. The filly, trained by Andrew Balding, was in front all the way until the line, where Halmahera, sold out of the Baldings' Kingsclere yard to Kevin Ryan two years ago, poked his nose level with hers. It was one of three dead-heats during the afternoon, with the others for minor honours behind Chic in the Listed October Stakes and the highly regarded Oriental Warrior, who took the Hyperion Stakes.Reuse content