Racing: Classic case of brilliance and bravery

Mutafaweq taken to the limit in the St Leger while Daylami runs away with Irish Champion Stakes
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The Independent Online
WITHIN THE space of 35 minutes yesterday afternoon, here and in Ireland, horses carrying the blue silks of Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin team put up performances that stretched emotions to their limits. First, in the 223rd St Leger, there was admiration as Mutafaweq, Ramruma and Adair slugged it out up the long Town Moor straight and then, as the victor, Mutafaweq, pulled up and returned to the unsaddling enclosure in distress, fear the colt may have paid the gravest of prices for his gallantry. Then, in the Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, there was delight at the brilliance of Daylami as he annihilated opposition that included Royal Anthem.

The St Leger is never an easy Classic to win, and the last one of the century asked for all the qualities needed of a high-class stayer. The field of nine was the best-looking of recent years, with Adair and the Oaks winner Ramruma, still with a summer glow to her chestnut coat even on a desperately muggy afternoon, the pick. Ironically and, it later transpired, significantly, the least impressive was Mutafaweq, his bay hide spattered with patches of white foaming sweat.

Iscan, sometimes a troublemaker, went into the stalls like a lamb. Praslin Island had his moment of glory as he led the field along the back and over Rose Hill but the no-hoper could not maintain his gallop even as far as the home turn. As the field swung round it to face the uncompromising run to the line three horses detached themselves from the pack, the little filly, the favourite, carrying the dark green silks and the two big colts in blue.

And how Ramruma, a roar rising for her from 22,000 throats, tried as, flanked by the Godolphin pair, she took them into the uncharted territory beyond the mile and a half. Her stamina and guts saw off Adair, but in Mutafaweq she met her master. After a final valiant effort inside the final furlong, Pat Eddery, realising she had given everything, eased and Mutafaweq strode to a two-length victory. Adair's class kept him within two lengths of Ramruma, with seven back to All The Way.

Afterwards, Hills, winning the longest, oldest and toughest Classic for the first time, paid tribute to Godolphin's number one rider, Frankie Dettori, on easier duty on Daylami. "He talked me through the race in the morning," said Hills, "He told me Mutafaweq was tough, strong and progressive, and if there was a chink in Ramruma's armour he would get to it. The horse gave 100 per cent and was a privilege to ride. I wanted to keep close to the filly and tracked her throughout, always travelling comfortably. It was all pretty straightforward."

However, the scenario became alarmingly less so as Mutafaweq was led back towards the parade ring to be unsaddled. The colt, suffering an attack of cramp in his quarters brought about by dehydration, began to kick out, rear and plunge in distress, threatening to collapse and scattering the Maktoum cohorts surrounding him. With his lad doing exceptionally well to control him, he was immediately led away to the care of the course vets.

And, happily, the heart- stopping drama looked worse than it was. A human athlete feeling the effects of over exertion understands the reason, but a horse will react with instinctive panic to an unfamiliar sensation. After receiving ten litres of fluid intravenously, Mutafaweq recovered rapidly. Peter Green, one of the veterinary team, said: "His incipient collapse was because of heatstroke and metabolic stress. He is just a very tired horse who raced his guts out on a hot day."

The Silver Hawk colt's St Leger victory was the third in five years for Godolphin, after Classic Cliche in 1995 and Nedawi last year. It was also the 50th Group One win worldwide for the Dubai-based outfit since Balanchine started the juggernaut rolling in the 1994 Oaks.

No 51 came swiftly with Daylami's tour de force in Ireland. Although, Royal Anthem, who beat only two, may not have been suited by the soft ground, Daylami's nine-length rout of Dazzling Park put the grey in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe reckoning, although an alternative plan may be to follow the Dubai World Series route via the Breeders' Cup Turf and Japan Cup.

If yesterday's events were not enough for one weekend, the level of interest and quality is unabated as the focus switches today to France, where Longchamp stages its time-honoured card of Arc trials. And the banker bet may be that the winner of the Arc will be sighted in the Bois de Boulogne, as five of the last seven, have warmed up in either the Prix Foy, Prix Vermeille or Prix Niel.

The race with the best record of the trio is the Niel, which has produced the last three Arc winners - Sagamix, Peintre Celebre and Helissio - and today marks the return to action of Montjeu, the Arc favourite. With only four runners, it looks a formality for the French and Irish Derby winner. The Foy, too, has attracted only four runners, but should be more competitive. El Condor Pasa, Japan's middle-distance champion, faces a rematch with Croco Rouge, who beat him in the first race of his European campaign in the spring. The last Vermeille winner to go on to Arc glory the same year was Three Troikas 20 years ago, although there have been near-misses for Magic Night, second in the big one 1991, and Leggera, runner-up 12 months ago.

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