Priors Lodge, whose jaw was broken by a stablemate earlier this year, delivered an uppercut of his own here yesterday as surprise winner of the Celebration Mile. The five-year-old, ably driven home by Willie Ryan, inched a head in front of the trailblazing Passing Glance in the shadow of the post, with last year's winner, Tillerman, two lengths behind in third.
The first two had been split by a short-head, in reverse order, in a Listed contest at Salisbury nine days previously and, on the face of it, yesterday's result, in a Group Two race confirmed the lack of strength in depth in this year's miling division. It was Priors Lodge's 20th race and he had previously failed to win in seven starts at Group level, but his accident in April had denied him the opportunity to show the improvement occasioned by his transfer to Marcus Tregoning from Richard Hannon during the close season.
"He got a bit close to his lead horse, who lashed out and caught him on the chin," Tregoning said, "but it did no lasting harm. He had a dour old battle at Salisbury and it was the same today. But Willie gave him a terrific ride. He has such experience and got to know him in three minutes flat at Salisbury."
The near-black horse's win was some compensation for Tregoning for disappointing runs at York from his stable star, Nayef, and the former St Leger favourite, High Accolade, like Priors Lodge owned by Lady Tennant. "It's been a bit of a mixed week," he said, "but the horses are fine. The cut on a leg Nayef got in the International is healing and he'll be OK for the Champion Stakes or possibly a trip to the States, and we'll leave the blinkers off High Accolade in the Leger."
The 5-4 big-race favourite, Arakan, was disappointing, running freely in third place before fading to last, but earlier his Sir Michael Stoute stablemate, First Charter, in the Kris Kin colours of owner Saeed Suhail, stayed on strongly to win his second March Stakes, the last of the traditional St Leger trials but without a three-year-old in the line-up this time.
The colt went on to finish seventh at Doncaster 12 months ago but, although his profile has been solid and progressive this term, his next venture into Group One staying company will be delayed until next year. "He's honest and consistent, but a race like the Irish St Leger would be too much at this stage," said Stoute, who reported that Suhail's Derby hero was pleasing in his work ahead of a tilt at the Prix Niel, one of the Arc trials staged at Longchamp three weeks today.
British yards won both two-year-old features at the Curragh. Mark Johnston's Pearl Of Love, winner of the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot, was clipped to 16-1 for the 2,000 Guineas after easily beating the Ballydoyle pair Tumblebrutus and The Mighty Tiger in the seven-furlong Group Two Futurity Stakes, and Mick Channon's Majestic Desert pipped Totally Yours, trained by William Muir, in the Tattersalls Breeders Stakes.
The strength of Henry Cecil's recent revival will be tested at Goodwood today when the promising juvenile filly Ithaca faces five rivals in the Prestige Stakes, a seven-furlong Group Three contest that has spotlighted subsequent Classic heroines Gossamer and Pure Grain in the past decade.
Ithaca, a beautifully named daughter of Distant View and the Cecil-trained Oaks winner Reams Of Verse, won her maiden over today's course and distance by five lengths last month. Her rivals include Caldy Dancer, whose second in a similar race at the Curragh reads well, and Stoute's candidate Russian Dance, a good winner at Windsor.
- More about: