Cecil team overjoyed at Mongan's first Group One
Some may beg to differ, principally those incautious enough to risk fortunes on a horse that had never even contested a Group One race against two that had already won nine between them. But while these shared a cold illumination with Await The Dawn, sent off at staggering odds of 8-13, it otherwise proved impossible to resist the contagion of joy diffused by the brave success of Twice Over in the Juddmonte International Stakes here yesterday.
For once, public affection was divided almost equally between horse, rider, owner and trainer. But top billing should perhaps be granted to Ian Mongan, as the only one among them hitherto unversed in winning races at the elite level. At 32, Mongan had calmly seized an opportunity without precedent in a 15-year career of quiet endeavour. As a valued work rider for Sir Henry Cecil, he had been given the mount on Twice Over when Tom Queally decided to stay loyal to the stable's other runner, Midday, likewise in the colours of Prince Khaled Abdulla.
And at no stage did Mongan look out of place, watching Queally take first crack at Await The Dawn and then asking Twice Over to discover what the mare had in reserve for a duel to the line. Sure enough, she began to hang to her left through the final furlong, and Twice Over wore her down in the closing strides under a firm drive. There was three-quarters of a length in it at the line, with Await The Dawn floundering a dozen lengths away, followed home only by the two no-hopers.
If that evinced a lack of depth to the field, the belt-and-braces policy of Cecil's most treasured patron had upheld the distinction of a race especially dear to his heart. Abdulla's breeding empire, Juddmonte Farms, has sponsored the prize for 22 years and it had begun to seem that he might only win it by bringing Frankel here next year. In his understated way, the prince exuded a pleasure that will be greatly compounded by the growing possibility that Cecil may crown one of the great comebacks in Turf history with an 11th trainers' championship. He is now breathing down Richard Hannon's neck, at the top of the table, and looks far better equipped for the engorged purses at the new Champions Day at Ascot in October – respectively through Frankel, over a mile, and Twice Over and Midday over 10 furlongs.
Cecil has been masterful in restoring Twice Over's confidence, dropping him in grade for his latest start after he had lost his form. At six, the horse has long been a favourite at Warren Place, winning the last two runnings of the Champion Stakes at its historic home, Newmarket. Cecil refers to him as "a gentleman, and a great friend". As such, he could have chosen no better agency for the satisfaction of both Abdulla, and the man wearing his livery. "Ian really deserved this," Cecil said. "I've always thought a lot of him. He's my second jockey and very under-rated. If he got better rides, he'd be right in the top flight."
Mongan, who returned with the broadest beam of the summer, duly reciprocated. "I'm so grateful to the prince and Sir Henry for putting their faith in me," he said. "I'll never forget this. I rode one for Sir Henry at Folkestone one day, and it just went from there. He's a great man to work for. He gives you confidence and belief, which means you got out there relaxed. And it just panned out perfect. I needed the horse to dig deep for me, and he did."
Riders like Frankie Dettori, Kieren Fallon and Richard Hughes were sitting in the weighing room, but Cecil has always believed in backing the men astride his horses as they venture on to Warren Hill at daybreak. Hughes, however, had already had a happy reunion with his old boss – he was once retained by Abdulla – when standing in for the injured Ryan Moore on Sea Moon, runaway winner of the Sportingbet Great Voltigeur Stakes.
With Seville's tame third contributing to a disappointing day for Ballydoyle, Sea Moon pounded eight lengths clear and is now 6-4 favourite with the sponsors for the Ladbrokes St Leger. Sir Michael Stoute had hoped to train him for the Derby, but the colt was held up in the spring and only resurfaced in a handicap here in June. "We had to be patient," Stoute said. "But he's a lovely big horse, with a good mind, and has progressed so well. We were hopeful today, but didn't expect him to win quite like that."
Hughes has a prior commitment in the Leger, Census having impressed at Newbury last Saturday. That colt is trained by Hannon, who is his father-in-law, and it would hardly be consistent with the lessons of the day to try to disown his obligations. Who knows? Perhaps Abdulla might even ask Stoute to try this fellow Mongan.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Tuscan Gold (4.50 York) Significant that he has been retained by his stable at four as he was making rapid progress before disappearing last year; long absence unlikely to be an issue for this trainer, and track looks ideal.
Crown Dependency (2.00 York) Form as it stands probably the best in this field but has promised better still back over this trip.
One to watch
Rocket Rob (Willie Musson) Renewed the impression that he is coming to the boil when finishing fast into midfield at Doncaster last weekend.
Where the money's going
Entifaadha is widely offered at 20-1, and 33-1 by Paddy Power, for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas after building on his impressive maiden win against a strong field in the Acomb Stakes at York yesterday.
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