There was knee trouble for Sakhee in the winter and neck and eye trouble for his jockey Frankie Dettori yesterday when the ex-invalid strolled away with the International Stakes here on the Knavesmire.
When Dettori looked back at the end of his 10-furlong assignment he could see not racehorses but ant-like figures on the horizon. Sakhee had thrown away his crutches and won by seven lengths. "We knew he was going to be hard to beat today, but even I was surprised it was seven lengths," Dettori said. "It shocked me. I thought today's performance was breathtaking. As good as Royal Anthem's in this race [two years ago]."
Sakhee did have the form in the book to win the contest, but the statistics that have mattered most recently have been on the medical board at the bottom of his bed. The four-year-old contracted a knee injury shortly after being conscripted into the Godolphin troops from John Dunlop's yard last season. It was damage which required surgery and it took until three weeks ago for last year's Derby runner-up to return to the track.
That Listed-race success at Newbury told us little. Yesterday, however, meant the doctor will not have to make stable calls any more.
The nine-runner field was predictably led by the pacemaking Darwin soon after the stalls opened. Sakhee sat easily on the shoulder of Distant Music in joint second place as the other fancied horses, Medicean and Black Minnaloushe, kept company at the rear of the field.
The definitive manoeuvre came three furlongs out, when Dettori shot for home. "He's run over a mile and a half and there were a few doubtful stayers behind, like Black Minnaloushe and Medicean," the Italian said. "I thought 'let them come and get me' because my horse would give them a fight. There was no need for that anyway."
Now there is another battleship in the equation as Saeed bin Suroor pushes his weaponry around the world map in the Godolphin underground bunker. It seems that Sakhee will next attempt to retrieve the sponsorship money in the Dubai Champion Stakes at Newmarket, while his comrade Fantastic Light has the likes of the Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on the radar. "With some horses it is difficult to get back, but with him he is tough horse and very brave," the trainer said.
Milan is 3-1 favourite in one book for the St Leger after his collection of the old Classic prep race, the Great Voltigeur Stakes, although 9-2 is still available with Ladbrokes.
If he looks frightening to the connections of those at the top of the market it is no more than the apprehension he spread when Michael Kinane's bottom first came into contact with the colt's back yesterday. "He got very fresh when Michael got up on him and I was afraid he was going to get loose so that's why we let him out and let him off," Aidan O'Brien, the winning trainer, said. "The minute Michael sat down on him he got very rank."
Milan was not so rank in the race itself, forging on, like Sakhee before him, from some way out. The winning distance was a less emphatic length and half, but the Ballydoyle colt is clearly developing into a robust competitor.
"We gave him a break after the French Derby and Ascot because it happened a bit quick and we felt he went off a little bit," O'Brien said. "He's been working like a fresh and happy horse at home."
Persian Punch continued to burrow into the affections with a trademark victory in the Lonsdale Stakes, battling back to beat Jardines Lookout by a head. It was a moment greatly enjoyed by David Elsworth, his trainer and Dr Frankenstein.
"There's another season at least in him and if he was a jumper he would be just coming to his best," Elsworth said. "I think he's at his full powers now. Retirement isn't a consideration. That's his 41st race and he's a product of years of thorough grounding. I feel now he's the complete horse."Reuse content