Chris McGrath: Ballydoyle raise Starspangled standard over sprint division

Inside Track at Newmarket

Nobody thought to ask the poor old horse, of course, but then it was easy to imagine which way his own vote would have gone.

As it was, Starspangledbanner was doubtless cooling under a hose in the racecourse stables, the pack leader who had thwarted an insolent challenge to his status. He had shown both class and courage to win the big race of the week, in the process vindicating the owners of over 150 mares back in his native Australia.

They had committed A$30,000 (£17,400) apiece for a tryst with the champion sprinter in his new career at stud. After the presentations for the Darley July Cup, however, as the crowds drifted away to watch the next race, a surreal epilogue began to unfold. At the height of an afternoon of savage heat, a group of men, sweating in their suits, huddled in the middle of a deserted parade ring and debated a commercial and sporting dilemma. If Starspangledbanner was to take up his new vocation, in time for the southern hemisphere breeding season, he would have to enter quarantine by midnight. Having now won consecutive Group One prizes, however, they wondered whether they might be cutting him off in his prime.

Aidan O'Brien, who has trained the horse only since March, was unsurprisingly in favour of postponing his retirement. Also among the circle of leaning heads, muttering and perspiring, were Michael Tabor, one of John Magnier's partners in Coolmore Stud, and Magnier's son, Tom. But all three of them at various stages took or made calls from the boss himself, and before they dispersed there seemed a growing likelihood that Starspangledbanner would stay in training. He was due to be inspected by the vets on his return to Co Tipperary, but in principle it is understood that the champion will be made to work a bit longer for his pleasures.

In the process, of course, he could well drive up that fee. Certainly, he has made a bigger name for himself since entering O'Brien's care, hurtling clear on the stands rail at Royal Ascot and here fiercely repelling a sustained challenge from Equiano. The runner-up had himself won at Ascot, but few expected him to rally quite so fiercely over a sixth furlong this time. There was only a neck in it at the line, with the Australian mare Alverta outrunning odds of 66-1 in a close third, followed by Kingsgate Native and Fleeting Spirit. Society Rock, second at Ascot, clearly needs to run fresh and managed only seventh, while Kinsale King faded tamely into 12th of 14.

It had been an exciting finish, backers of the favourite holding out breathlessly for the winning post, yet almost all the drama was reserved for afterwards. For even as his employers held their own council of war, Johnny Murtagh stood before another forum and listened aghast as the stewards handed down their punishment for causing interference in the early stages. A six-day suspension, starting on Friday week, rules him out of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot – the target of Cape Blanco – as well as the first two days of Goodwood. Murtagh was livid, but the head-on footage shows that his short cut from stall 11 to the far rail had triggered a series of collisions.

In O'Brien, meanwhile, there was no disguising the satisfaction he has found in handling a really fast horse once again. You have to go back to 2001 and 1999 for his previous winners of this race, Mozart and Stravinsky, and in the meantime he has increasingly been sent animals with middle-distance pedigrees.

"He's just an incredible horse," O'Brien said. "In his last piece of work, he covered four furlongs in 45 seconds. The first time he worked at Ballydoyle, the fractions were so fast – and this was before he was fit – we had to go back and check, because we couldn't believe he could possibly have won over a mile in Australia. He has such fast reflexes. His fast-twitch muscles take him into top gear so quickly. And to have all that, and then be so tenacious at the end, that's very unusual. He has quarterhorse speed, but there he was at the end of the six furlongs, being so courageous. These are the things you just can't give a horse."

Equiano will drop back to five furlongs for the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York next month, but he may yet find himself pursued there by the winner. The Knavesmire tends to favour pace, and this pair could scorch it black between them.

O'Brien has not yet made his usual impact in juvenile races, but then nor has anyone else bar Richard Hannon. The success of King Torus in the 3Red Superlative Stakes meant that Hannon had won all three Group prizes offered two-year-olds at this meeting. And he bought this colt for €30,000 (£25,200) from none other than O'Brien himself. Some day, perhaps, he will go back for a son of Starspangledbanner. But the chances are that it won't be for a while yet.

Turf Account: Chris McGrath

Nap

Dubai Bounty (3.30 Ascot)

Unexposed after just three starts and found an unfeasibly hot race at Folkestone in the spring, just failing to reel in more positively ridden rivals in a three-way photo. The winner has in the meantime proved himself pretty useful but this filly retains a conservative rating.

Next best

Sarasota Sunshine (4.05 Ascot)

Another improving filly. Already prolific for her previous trainer, and looking even better now, showing promise on her reappearance before winning with more in hand than the strict margin at Newbury last time, idling in front.

One to watch

Deacon Blues (J R Fanshawe)

Is a progressive sprint handicapper who suggested that he remains ahead of his revised rating when set plenty to do, and meeting heavy traffic, before a midfield finish at Newmarket on Wednesday.

Where the money's going

Harbinger, who takes on his stable's Derby winner in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in a fortnight, is 11-4 from 3-1 with Totesport. Paul Hanagan is meanwhile 4-5 from 11-10 for the Flat jockeys' championship after extending his lead over Ryan Moore at York yesterday.

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
Paul McCartney backs the
people
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone