Borderlescott and Blue stage timeless show
The bigger picture here is all about the panorama beyond, but yesterday it was the detail on the track itself that provided a defining snapshot of the British Turf. Within barely half an hour the two biggest races of the day summoned opposite extremes, from a headlong descent of five furlongs to a gradual crescendo over two miles. Age cannot wither variety like this, and the prizes were duly claimed by veterans of eight and seven respectively, in Borderlescott and Illustrious Blue.
At the same time, equally, their competitive longevity was placed in chastening perspective when Age Of Aquarius, heavily backed for the Artemis Goodwood Cup, went lame when leading early in the straight. Pulled up and dismounted, he was taken to a nearby equine hospital for X-rays.
In the circumstances, it was comforting to see both this race and the Audi King George Stakes won with such undiminished ardour. Here, palpably, were creatures that love their vocation. Nobody, equally, should ever presume to instruct those who work with thoroughbreds every day, rain or shine, in the dilemmas prompted by their cherished charges.
The way Illustrious Blue ran down Electrolyser, who had been left in front when the favourite broke down, was suffused with an animal relish and fulfilment. And this is his home track in every sense. For one thing, it is only a few miles up the road from his stable at Angmering Park; but there is also something about its singular topography that seems to bring out the best in him.
He has now won seven of his 14 starts here, at a variety of distances. It was only this season, in fact, that William Knight first decided to examine his stamina. As Harbinger showed last weekend, their sire (Dansili) can get a good horse in any discipline. But this certainly proved a notable inspiration on the part of a trainer in only his fifth season.
As his 24th winner of what had already become a breakthrough campaign, Illustrious Blue took Knight past the 23 that made the last one his best to date. Now he is even beginning to toy with the possibility of aiming Illustrious Blue at the Melbourne Cup, an assignment in audacious contrast with all those cheap lorry rides up here.
"It wasn't nice to see a horse go lame like that," Knight said. "But after that, without wanting to appear arrogant, I thought we would win from four furlongs out. He was always going to get there. It's fantastic to have a horse like this so early in my career."
Granted, the race rather fell into his lap. Quite apart from the miserable business of Age Of Aquarius, the second favourite, Tactic, was soon labouring and finished tailed off. At the business end, the unconsidered Electrolyser was beaten little over a length, keeping on well to hold Purple Moon in third, with a long gap back to the rest.
As for Borderlescott, who won the Stewards' Cup here way back in 2006, he seems to be coming right back to his best in time for his hat-trick bid in the Coolmore Nunthrope Stakes at York next month. As the stalwart of an even smaller yard, Borderlescott's wins in that championship sprint show that horseracing can warm the heart, as well as break it.
"I think he's better than ever," trainer Robin Bastiman said. "He's unbelievable. It does take a bit longer to wind him up, but once he gets wound up, he goes. The engine's still there, that's the main thing. He just has this will to win and I can't wait for the Nunthorpe now."
Ridden for the first time by Kieren Fallon, replacing the suspended Neil Callan, the old horse challenged down the centre and held off Group Therapy by half a length in a bunch finish. Starfish Bay, the American raider, could not come to terms with the novelty, after all, managing only 10th. "I was dying to get the ride today and he made it easy for me," Fallon said. "You wouldn't think he'd had a race. He doesn't use any gas at all, he's totally switched off. I nearly had to push him down to the post, whereas most sprinters are using up energy before the race. But as soon as he gets into the gate, he lights up."
Not that all the old achievers here yesterday were on four legs. Richard Hannon seems to be getting even harder to beat in his sixties, relaxed and mellow as he has always seemed. Kalahaag's win in the maiden was his 200th at Goodwood, but he dismissed the landmark. "It took 40 years!" he exclaimed. Come to that, he had already been training for five years when Knight was born. But it was that kind of day – one that explored the whole spectrum, the whole landscape.
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