Racing: Piggott just out of picture: Old master returns to the saddle but is denied in a photo-finish

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IT WAS so nearly a fairytale result, but Lester's comeback here yesterday was spine-tingling none the less. Piggott - the maestro, the galloping grandfather, superman, call him what you will - failed by inches to nurse The Jotter home in the Sweet Solera Stakes, his first ride since his horror fall at Goodwood eight days previously.

No one could have got more from the William Jarvis-trained filly, and the huge crowd on the July course, whether lured there by the summer weather or the presence of racing's most famous posterior, had their money's worth in that one race.

There was a buzz from the stands as Piggott pulled up his keen little partner on the way to the start and dismounted. The Jotter's tack had moved forward slightly and this time her rider, mindful that a slipping saddle caused his downfall at Goodwood, was taking no chances, and led the filly to the stalls, where everything was put safely in order.

Piggott dictated the race, letting The Jotter, a free runner, settle in front. She quickened approaching the final furlong and saw off Femme Savante, but close home her stride began to shorten and Jural's to lengthen.

As the pair flashed past the line Piggott glanced over at Philip Robinson and correctly read what he saw; he rode The Jotter straight into the second-place berth.

By winning this seven-furlong contest, Jural, one of the first batch of two-year-olds trained by Mark Johnston at Middleham for Sheikh Mohammed, put herself in the picture for next year's first fillies' Classic, the 1,000 Guineas over the Rowley mile.

Robinson said: 'She's a lovely filly and I didn't think I'd got beat. But Lester's a desperately difficult man to get past. I was hoping Femme Savante would take me there, but when she dropped back I had to go after him on my own.' Robinson added: 'There's no one else could bounce back like he does at his age, and long may he carry on.'

Piggott, 58, will be in action in Germany today, on the Queen's Sharp Prod at Hoppegarten, having snubbed commitments in Sweden. But whatever the rights and wrongs of Lester's casual treatment of his Scandinavian fans, there is no doubting his judgement on horseback.

There were some fancy pedigrees on display in the opener, a three-year-old maiden. The winner Golden Ball, a son of the 1984 Irish 2,000 Guineas and Eclipse Stakes winner Sadler's Wells, out of the 1983 Epsom Oaks and Doncaster St Leger heroine, Sun Princess, stayed on well to resist the challenge of the newcomer Totality, a full-sister to last year's Epsom Derby winner Commander In Chief. Sea Freedom, a full-brother to the 1992 Oaks and St Leger winner User Friendly, finished third.

Golden Ball, seventh in this year's Epsom Derby, will now try to emulate his dam by winning the St Leger on Town Moor next month.

Urgent Request got off the mark in Pattern company in no uncertain fashion when he turned the Group 3 Rose of Lancaster Stakes into a procession at Haydock. The grey four-year-old ran away with a handicap at Epsom at the Derby meeting on his first run for Reg Akehurst, and then was one of the worst sufferers from the riderless Ezzoud's attentions when allowed to take his chance against the best in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot two weeks ago.

(Photograph omitted)