Racing: Monsieur Bond now a local hero thanks to Smart move

It was a grimy old afternoon on the Knavesmire yesterday, a typically spring Yorkshire day you might say for the first card of the season at the county's premier racecourse.

It was a grimy old afternoon on the Knavesmire yesterday, a typically spring Yorkshire day you might say for the first card of the season at the county's premier racecourse.

The attitude to the big race was in character as well. The locals were loath to let it get spirited away by the fancy folk from down south. So they didn't.

Bryan Smart, who now trains at Hambleton House near Thirsk, became another son of the white rose to keep the Group Two Duke of York Stakes at home, following Tim Easterby's Bollin Joanne (1998) and Pipalong (2001). Monsieur Bond's is the new name on the victory scroll.

"I'm a Yorksire lad and, as soon as I walked on the new place [Hambleton House] 19 months ago, I realised I'd been kidding myself, living in Lambourn all that time and thinking it was home. It wasn't," Smart said. "I love the place and it's nice to come home and win one here."

The decision to keep Monsieur Bond in training has delivered immediately. The little chesnut beat Steenberg seven lengths in the Gladness Stakes at the Curragh last month and the same horse by the narrower margin of a length and a half yesterday. Authority was again available, however.

Monsieur Bond was an agent for consistency last season, yet also consistently unfortunate. "He was unlucky all last year. Everywhere he went he got mullered," Smart said. "He's got speed to burn this year. He's getting better and better.

"I thought he was awesome when he quickened up. He's a good horse and it's nice to have another Group horse. Sil Sila [who won the French Oaks in 1996] was my last."

Monsieur Bond had been compact and neat in the preliminaries, during which Arakan captured the eye. He looked monstrous, fighting with his accoutrement of a lip chain, for all the world appearing as though he was choking on a bell rope.

The bell was tolling for Sir Michael Stoute's horse some way out, as he struggled to cope with the speed up front of Welsh Emperor. In the circumstances, Kieren Fallon did well to haul Arakan into third spot.

A furlong and a half out, Fergal Lynch made his move on Monsieur Bond. After that it was like trying to catch a spectre. "The boss has been training him for speed. We've been doing spurts with him and he's really sharpened up with his work this spring," the jockey reported. "He puts his ears flat back and gives you everything he's got.

"He'd be a lovely horse out in America. He's got a high cruising speed and a turn of foot. He's a naturally well-balanced horse who could go round a tight track no problem."

Smart has got something more local and a bit more damned British in mind. His chosen objective is the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Punctilious must obviously now run in the Oaks after battering her five opponents into the ground in the Musidora Stakes yesterday.

It was the filly's first run for Godolphin after a transfer from Michael Jarvis's yard. She became their third winner of the race following Bahr and Zahrat Dubai and did it the hard way, in front from beginning to end.

Punctilious was steadied by Frankie Dettori early but cranked up the treadmill all the way down the straight. She swished her tail two furlongs out, but that transpired to be a goodbye wave as she stretched six lengths clear.

"Some of our horses have needed the run so I didn't want to set sail for home from too far out," the jockey said. "I wanted to make sure I had enough petrol left for the end. I wasn't frightened at any stage. I wish there had been somebody to come and test me a little bit. If someone had come with me I'd have gone on again."

Dettori now has one of the better quandaries in choosing between this filly and stablemate Sundrop, the 1,000 Guineas runner-up, for Epsom. "I'm more confused than you guys," he said. "I cannot say anything bad about either of them."

Punctilious was followed in by the David Loder-trained pairing of Glen Innes and Bay Tree. The latter was ridden by Tom Queally, who later rode a winner for the Newmarket trainer on Balkan Knight. There could be a good few more where they came from as Loder appears to have fallen out terminally with his relatively new stable jockey, Johnny Murtagh.

"You take a girl out twice," the trainer said, "but you don't have to marry her."

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