That business about not being able to win if one does not take part may be a statement straight from the university of the bleedin' obvious and Spinning Queen, surprise winner of yesterday's Sun Chariot Stakes, certainly was something of a have-a-go heroine. But her shrewd and experienced trainer Barry Hills need apologise to no one for a well-executed tilt at a windmill that brought a prize of £113,160 and the kudos of being a Group One winner to the hitherto unheralded filly.
In a field reduced in interest and strength by the withdrawals of Peeress, Speciosa, Flashy Wings and Vague, Hills' son Michael, in the saddle, bounced Spinning Queen, the 12-1 outsider of the five runners, straight into the lead from her berth next to the far rail. The chestnut three-year-old galloped along happily in the sunshine, shadowed by the two top-class older mares, Alexander Goldrun and Soviet Song.
But to the consternation of most, a shadow was all they ended up chasing down the Rowley Mile. Spinning Queen, not in the least inconvenienced by the soft, rather tacky ground, was three lengths clear soon after halfway and continued her serene progress to the extent of a nine-length advantage at the line, leaving the winners of eight Group Ones between them fighting for the runner-up spot. Soviet Song claimed it by a neck, with her stablemate Musicanna fourth and Red Evie, the other top-level winner, a long last.
Hills snr admitted that his first plan had not been to fly so high with Spinning Queen, who had not before demonstrated she could cope with the ground, distance or company of yesterday. "She's tough, and she always runs good, solid races," he said. "But the original plan had been to go for the Challenge Stakes [a grade lower and a furlong shorter]. But then we thought, 'if you're not in it you can't win it'. We did work out how to try to do it beforehand. There would have been no point at all in trying to beat Classic standard horses from behind, so the only way to do it was to wind it up from the front. They were hold-up horses, we got the script right and it's nice to see artistry can still have its day."
Hills jnr executed the plot perfectly, aided by a willing partner. "I had to take the bull by the horns, you can't give a bunch of Group One winners a start," he said. "She didn't seem to like it soft earlier in the year, but she's stronger now and she moved like a dream going to the start. And she's also more settled in her mind, less hot-headed about the whole thing. She saves her energy for when it matters."
Spinning Queen, a daughter of Spinning World, is scheduled to go under the hammer next month at the Newmarket sales and must now be considered a most valuable asset. Her trainer, though, hopes such plans may be abandoned. "She's getting better," he said, "and she'll be better still next year. She's not very big, but good things are supposed to come in small packages."
Victories by daylight may be acceptable in elite contests, but they are not supposed to happen in competitive large-field handicaps. Nonetheless, 9-1 shot Formal Decree turned the Cambridgeshire into a procession, coming in a comfortable four lengths clear of the next of the 33 runners, Blue Bajan at 25-1. Pinpoint (10-1) pipped Take A Bow (40-1) for the minor honour, with 9-2 favourite Smart Enough fifth. The winner, a three-year-old trained by Richmond-based Alan Swinbank, was a chance ride for Jamie Spencer, whose intended mount Cesare was withdrawn. Spencer, whose mother-in-law Lynda Ramsden is one of Formal Decree's part-owners, replaced Dean McKeown.
Like several recent Cambridgeshire winners, Formal Decree seems a Group horse in disguise. "He will get further than this," said Swinbank, "and we will take him to Dubai for the winter carnival."
Otherwise, here and at Longchamp, the afternoon belonged to Godolphin. First to strike was Caradak in the French Group One feature, the Prix de la Foret; fifteen minutes later Satchem beat stablemate Pinson for a Group Three one-two down the Rowley Mile; and - jamais deux sans trois, sure enough - the set came though Echo Of Light in the Group Two Prix Daniel Wildenstein. And the boys in blue have unbeaten US star Discreet Cat to look forward to tonight at Belmont Park.
Both the French winners were ridden by Frankie Dettori. The Italian inched Caradak home by a short-neck ahead of dead-heaters Welsh Emperor and Linngari but, despite a swerve close home from the rather quirky four-year-old, had a rather easier two-length success on Echo Of Light, with Picaresque Coat, galloping companion to Japanese Arc contender Deep Impact, in second place.