Racing: Malhub snub works wonders

Royal Ascot: Sheikh Hamdan's third-choice outsider romps to surprise victory after recovering from throat surgery

That old adage that jockeys are not necessarily the best judges proved entirely to Kevin Darley's benefit here yesterday. The 41-year-old took the Group One feature, the Golden Jubilee Stakes, on the barely considered 16-1 shot Malhub, carrying the third colours of Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum. The John Gosden-trained four-year-old had been rejected by both the owner's retained jockey, Richard Hills, and his deputy, Willie Supple.

Malhub, who came to the £250,000 six-furlong test on the back of a victory in a four-runner contest at lowly Yarmouth, made just about every yard to beat Danehurst a length and a half, with Three Points third and Indian Country fourth.

The favourite, Johannesburg, who was weak in the market, beat only three in a field that had been reduced to 12 runners by four withdrawals. The most notable of the absentees was the US challenger, Caller One, who had been found to have a throat infection late on Friday night.

The winner, a son of Kingmambo, ran ninth to Black Minnaloushe in the St James's Palace Stakes here a year ago but was one of the least exposed of yesterday's contestants over the sprint distance. Now that his métier has been identified, he will next stake his claim for divisional honours in the July Cup at Newmarket next month.

The Yarmouth race, nine days ago, was Malhub's seasonal debut, as his reappearance had been delayed by surgery to correct a breathing problem. But he gave notice of his potential by breaking the track record. Gosden said: "I felt a mile was too far for him, but I also felt he had it in him to be a proper horse, so we gave him this one really smart entry at the shorter distance. He had throat surgery after the race here last year and had to have a touch-up in February and it's a testament to Sheikh Hamdan's patience that he stuck with him."

Darley's previous top-level association with Gosden here also resulted in victory, when he rode Observatory for the stable to beat Giant's Causeway in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes two years ago. "On paper, Malhub perhaps did look the least of the three," said Gosden, "so perhaps you can't blame the boys, and I was delighted when I found out Kevin was available." Hills, on Misraah, came in eighth, two places ahead of Supple on Mugharreb.

The race went entirely to plan as far as Darley was concerned. "The idea was to jump out quick, grab a chunk of mane and throw the reins at him," he said, "It seemed to work." The Golden Jubilee Stakes – the renamed and upgraded Cork and Orrery Stakes – was Darley's second successive winner on the day. Half an hour earlier, he had brought the wholly admirable Zindabad home a length in front of Storming Home in the Hardwicke Stakes, and did not see another horse's backside in that race either. The six-year-old bowled along in front and found plenty as the challenges began to stack up behind him in the straight.

"He is absolutely genuine and straightforward, a bus of a ride," said Darley. "It may seem he gets lazy in front and I have to work a bit, but he is only waiting for the others to get to him. As soon as they do, he puts his head down again."

Zindabad, who was recording his ninth victory, is now firmly top of the middle-distance first division. But a premiership win is the target, with the Canadian International in September the favoured target. The Hardwicke Stakes, a Group Two race, put Middleham-based Johnston top of the trainer's table for the week on four wins, ahead of the racing superpowers of Ballydoyle and Godolphin. Johnny Murtagh took the jockey's title, also on four wins.

Yesterday's one-off Royal day to mark the Golden Jubilee made the week the most successful race meeting ever held in Britain in terms of attendance, with more than 300,000 people going through the gates over five days.

The afternoon, though, began on a note of intense regret among the sport's professionals with the news that Gerald Leigh, one of Britain's leading owner-breeders, had lost his four-year battle with cancer. Poignantly, his death came less than 24 hours after his filly Gossamer ran last in the Coronation Stakes.

In 30 years, Leigh developed a small-scale broodmare band of the highest quality at his 600-acre Eydon Hall Farm in Northamptonshire. His top-level successes in his own colours included Brocade, Infamy, Markofdistinction and two current stars, Gossamer and Act One, and, in other silks, Barathea and Bosra Sham.

Leigh's horses were his delight and his passion, and the exploits of Gossamer and Act One gave him the focus and strength to fight the increasing effects of his illness during the past year. Two weeks ago, he had his accommodation at home rearranged so that he had a view of his beloved 21-year-old Brocade in her paddock from his bedroom.

Luca Cumani, trainer of Gossamer and others, paid tribute to Leigh, saying: "He was a great man in every walk of life and did an enormous amount of good over the years. I'm sure his work will have a proud effect for many years to come in racing." That legacy became apparent within hours of Leigh's death when the juvenile filly, Duty Paid, whose sire is Barathea, won the opening race here.

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