The idea of a consolation prize often has a hollow ring to it but if ever such a solace was to be judged appropriate it would be at Goodwood on Saturday, when Nayyir lines up for the Celebration Mile.
Victory in the Group 2 contest would not only be due reward for the six-year-old after his career-best performance last time out in running Soviet Song to a neck in the Sussex Stakes at the downland track, but for the team at his trainer Gerard Butler's stable after a soul-destroying first half to the season.
The omens are propitious. Nayyir clearly likes Goodwood, having won successive Lennox Stakes on his only two tries over the idiosyncratic contours before his latest narrow defeat. Mick Kinane, on board last month and when the talented gelding was touched off by dead-heaters Paolini and Right Approach in the Dubai Duty Free at Nad El Sheba in March, will be in the saddle again. And the yard has hit stride again, with seven wins, including one at Hamilton yesterday, and 10 places in the past two weeks.
Nayyir is the Churn Stables star, a late-developing horse whose innate talent has yet to be crowned with a top-level success. "He won't be going to stud, so it's not as important for him as it would be if he was a colt," said Butler's racing manager, Chris McGrath, yesterday, "but in terms of everyone's morale we need him to get that Group 1 win, and please God it will happen. In the meantime, we'll settle for another Group 2."
The chestnut son of Indian Ridge came late to the racecourse, various problems having kept him out of action until he was four. But no horse made more progress through the ranks than he that year, until his career, and nearly his life, was stopped in its tracks by a bout of colitis while preparing for a race in Hong Kong.
He has raced just seven times since returning to action in June last year. His three runs this term have been in the best company, at different distances. The nine furlongs at Nad Al Sheba was just a bridge too far but his effort over six in the July Cup at Newmarket was far better than his placing might indicate. "He was the last horse still on the bridle before Antonius Pius got in his way," said McGrath. "We're not saying he would have won, but he would have been closer than sixteenth."
Nayyir's performance at Goodwood last month confirmed the always-held view of those closest to him that he belongs in the top flight. "If he hadn't been checked slightly, and started his run at the same time as the filly, who knows?" added McGrath. "All the signs since, from the manger upwards, are that he's taken that race very well. A sharp mile, as at Goodwood, or a stiff seven, like Newmarket [where he won the Challenge Stakes two years ago] suits him best."
Although Nayyir travels supremely well in his races, his previous difficulties travelling to them may rule out the one contest that McGrath feels may suit him best of all.
"The Breeders' Cup Mile at Lone Star Park, a fast pace on a sharp track, would be ideal," he said. "But the problems he had in Hong Kong make it unlikely that he'll go there." Before any decision is made about the future, Nayyir has 12 potential rivals to account for on Saturday. They include a trio who ran unplaced in the Sussex Stakes - Tillerman, Celebration Mile winner in 2002 and third last year, Passing Glance, runner-up in the race 12 months ago, and Hurricane Alan - and the first two in the Hungerford Stakes 10 days ago, Chic and Suggestive.Reuse content