Cecil repays Abdullah's loyalty with a champion performance

Newmarket victor likely to join Canadian winner in owner’s Breeders’ Cup squad
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The Independent Online

The weekend must be counted a good one for Khaled Abdullah, the self-effacing Saudi Arabian prince who styles himself merely Mr on British racecards, with two top-level victories seven hours and 3,500 miles apart. First up was progressive Twice Over, who took the Champion Stakes at Newmarket, followed by Champs Elysees in the Canadian International at Woodbine, Toronto.

It was Twice Over who provided the heartwarmer; the ovation that greeted the colt as he returned to the winner's enclosure on the Rowley Mile was entirely for his trainer, Henry Cecil, the 10-times champion of his profession but in recent years beleaguered by health and personal problems. But yesterday, the Cecil family standard, traditionally hoisted to mark a Group One success, was fluttering in bright autumn sunshine outside Warren Place.

Cecil's last trainers' title came in 1993 and the turn of the century brought his slide from the top rank; after Beat Hollow's win in the Grand Prix de Paris in 2000, it was six years before the next in the highest grade, Passage Of Time's Critérium de Saint-Cloud. Both were owned by Abdullah, who has supported Cecil through fat and lean times, a point made by the trainer himself on Saturday. But as far as the owner is concerned, such praise is unnecessary. "It never at any point crossed his mind not to have horses with Henry," said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to Abdullah's Juddmonte operation. "It wasn't even a subject that came up for discussion."

And though Tom Queally rode Twice Over past the winning post on a wave of goodwill, it took more than that to get the son of Observatory home. Cecil's handling of the horse, building his confidence towards the big day with a couple of penalty-kick victories, has been exemplary.

Having proved himself at the top level, Twice Over may now join Abdullah's raiding party at the Breeders' Cup meeting at Santa Anita, California, a team which includes Cecil-trained Midday, winner of the Nassau Stakes during the summer. The filly will stick to familiar underfoot conditions in the turf contest for her sex, but the colt may switch to the artificial surface of the Classic.

Champs Elysees, trained in the States by Bobby Frankel, will go out on a high; the Danehill six-year-old now retires to Abdullah's Banstead Manor Stud near Newmarket, where he will join his full-brother Dansili, one of Europe's leading stallions. His Canadian success thwarted two British challengers; he caught Mark Johnson-trained Jukebox Jury inside the last half-furlong to win by half a length, with Andrew Balding's Buccellati third.

The last-named was ridden by young William Buick, who earlier notched the first top-grade success of his burgeoning career on 44-1 shot Lahaleeb in the E P Taylor Stakes. The Mick Channon-trained filly, whose previous best had come when runner-up in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, led home a British one-two as she proved a length and three-quarters too strong for the favourite Rainbow View. But last year's Oaks heroine Look Here proved disappointing, seventh of eight.

Success in racing comes in peaks and troughs and, although Saturday's Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket did little to clarify the juvenile colts' hierarchy, it did establish that Ballydoyle youngsters are right in the mix of those surging towards the crest of that particular wave. In a finish that was not so much blanket as small fireside mat, Aidan O'Brien saddled three of the first four home, of whom the tough, streetwise Beethoven responded to a first-time visor to finish ahead of his callower stablemates Fencing Master and Steinbeck.

Steinbeck, unraced since May, broke too well and paid for his enthusiasm by running out of puff but remains towards the head of the 2,000 Guineas betting, jostling for favouritism with Arcano, Canford Cliffs and Awzaan.

Chabal, Godolphin's most recent high-profile headhunt, fell from grace in that market after finishing only 10th of 15 on Saturday on his last run for Jim Bolger. But the Blues were back on the Group One scoreboard yesterday in Milan, when Schiaparelli took the Gran Premio del Jockey Club for the second time. When he won two years ago, Champs Elysees followed him home.

Extraordinarily, Schiaparelli's latest success was Frankie Dettori's first Group One win of the year. Godolphin's only other two in Europe this term have been the St Leger with Mastery, ridden by Ted Durcan, and another soft Italian target, the Premio Vittorio di Capua, with Gladiatorus (Ahmed Ajtebi).

Turf Account: Sue Montgomery


Hot Prospect (3.40 Pontefract)

His impressive maiden win was franked by the subsequent Group Three success of immediate victim Morana.

*Next Best

Bonheurs Art (3.00 Windsor)

Handicap debutante whose Cheveley Park Stakes entry proved overoptimistic but has shown enough in smart maiden company to indicate she can score at this level.

*One To Watch

The Dewhurst Stakes runner with most scope and quality, the inexperienced Steinbeck (A P O'Brien) looks a genuine Classic contender.

*Where The Money's Going

Starluck is 20-1 from 33-1 for the Champion Hurdle with Paddy Power after his impressive seasonal debut.

*Chris McGrath's Nap

French Art (4.30 Windsor).