Racing: Alborada ensures grey dawn

Mujahid blows away high-class two-year-olds while favourite falls in Champion Stakes
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The Independent Online
IN SPANISH her name means break of day and she lit up the afternoon here yesterday. The gallant grey Alborada gave Sir Mark Prescott and George Duffield the greatest moment of their long careers as she captured the pounds 228,000 first prize and the Group One glory of the Champion Stakes.

There could have been no more popular winner, as the cheers that greeted the three-year-old filly, whose dark silver-shot coat reflected the wild, cloud-scudded sky arcing above the wide expanses of the Rowley Mile, as she was led back in triumph testified. Her jockey Duffield, 51, and trainer Prescott, 50, are the sport's most enduring partnership.

Duffield, who rode his first winner 31 years ago, is still one of the best and strongest in a finish and had to be yesterday as he kept Alborada, sent to the front before the final furlong, up to her work to win by a neck from the fast-finishing Insatiable with the favourite Daylami a rather lack-lustre third.

The three-year-old, owned and bred by Kirsten Rausing, came to the ten- furlong contest on an upwardly mobile curve, the only horse to finish in front of her this season being the peerless Swain. "I am glad the winning post came when it did," said a relieved Prescott. "But George has not made a mistake on her; he has ridden her faultlessly every time. We have been together for all but the first of my 29 years as a trainer, and it does not seem a day too much."

Alborada saw her first dawn only a few miles from the track at Rausing's Lanwades Stud, still home of her dam and grand-dam. "Although it sounds somewhat fanciful, she was special from the word go," said Rausing. "And she is tough, too; she broke a foot as a foal and had to come through 11 weeks confined to her box. In retrospect it was a fortuitous injury, because it prevented me from sending her to the sales."

Some mighty reputations were blown away on the wind-blasted heath as the 25-1 chance Mujahid and Auction House (20-1), filled the first two places in the season's premier two-year-old contest, the Dewhurst Stakes. The 13-8 joint favourites, Stravinsky and Enrique, could finish only third and fourth with the other perceived crack, Lujain, sixth.

It is just as well horses cannot read the scripts prepared for them otherwise Mujahid, trained by John Dunlop for Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum, would not have had the temerity to jump out of the stalls. And, indeed, half-way through the seven-furlongs the powerful white-faced bay appeared outpaced as Auction House took the field along. But when crunch time came, he was the one with the necessary reserves as Richard Hills darted him though a narrow gap between Enrique and Raise A Grand (a manoeuvre - judged careless by the stewards - for which he earned a two-day ban) and sent him striding clear on the uphill run to the line.

The Irish raider Stravinsky's late effort petered out in the closing stages, allowing Auction House to stay on again into the runner-up spot. Lujain was another whose stamina was found wanting as he beat only the disappointing French colt Indian Danehill home.

There is always a danger that Maktoum-owned two-year-olds will be whisked to Dubai for the winter but Dunlop will keep charge of Mujahid, his first Dewhurst winner. "He came back rather sore after he was only fifth in the Gimcrack", he said. "I thought he would run well today, but I did not really think we would beat all of the top ones, and especially not so easily. But he has a very good character and attitude."

Unexpected does not always mean mediocre - remember Generous, the 50- 1 winner in 1990 - and Mujahid's performance has made him second favourite, behind Godolphin's Aljabr, for next year's 2,000 Guineas in most bookmakers' lists. With Saturday's Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster to come, the message is that no two-year-old is head and shoulders above the rest.

The end-of-season marathon handicap the Cesarewitch was remarkable for the small number of the 29 runners who were ever in contention. The winner Spirit Of Love, an 11-1 chance ridden by Olivier Peslier, was one of a small group who detached themselves from the rest, drawing nine lengths clear of his Mark Johnson-trained stablemate Etterby Park, who just pipped Spunkie with Puteri Wentworth fourth.

On the other side of the world Taufan's Melody became the first British- trained horse to win at Group One level in Australia when he took the Caulfield Cup in Melbourne at 66-1. But his victory, by a short-neck from the 100-1 shot Lisa's Game with the favourite Tie The Knot third and the other raider, Faithful Son, fourth, was not without controversy.

The seven-year-old gelding, trained in Sussex by Lady Herries, had been allowed into the pounds 577,000 contest only at the discretion of the local officials after it was discovered his earnings did not qualify him. Then he had to survive a stewards inquiry to keep the race, a trial for next month's Melbourne Cup.