As the jumpers finally stepped into the wings yesterday, the class acts were proven and putative stars on the Flat. Paco Boy and Glass Harmonium were the names to quicken the pulses of those ready for the change of focus; the former put down the year's first marker for the miling divi-sion, the latter served notice of his exciting middle-distance potential.
Paco Boy made it back-to-back victories in the Group Two Mile. Twelve months ago he scored by less than a length; this time, as a five-year-old in his full physical prime, he bounded three-and-a-quarter lengths away from Pressing, responding instantly to Richard Hughes's request for acceleration a furlong out. His next target will be next month's Lockinge Stakes at Newbury. "I almost wish that race was today," said Richard Hannon, son, assistant and namesake of the winning trainer. "He's been gasping for a race for six weeks and is so well and fresh that he kicked two windows out of his box."
Glass Harmonium's success in the 10-furlong Group Three Gordon Richards Stakes was harder fought – by a head from late-thrusting Redwood. The grey is exactly the sort of four-year-old improver with which his trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, excels, and an exciting campaign should be ahead, starting in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the top level. "He's been a bit behind schedule," said Stoute, "and so there may be more than normal progress from this. He'll stay a mile and a half in time, but we won't go down that route just yet."
This day, one of the few mixed cards left in the calendar, was once an occasion when it was possible to see both a Cheltenham Gold Cup hero and a Derby winner. The rescheduling of the Classic trial to the previous afternoon has put paid to that, but the fall from grace of the feature steeplechase would have done so anyway.
In its time the three-mile, five- furlong test formerly known as the Whitbread had a proud and classy history. Yesterday's edition was largely the province of exposed veterans; the winner was Church Island, an 11-year-old notching his biggest win on his 46th appearance. The gelding, trained in Co Limerick by Michael Hourigan, was the fifth to take the prize, now sponsored by bet365, back to Ireland. The first was a horse called Arkle.
Church Island took over from Piraya after a circuit and shrugged off all-comers to score by six lengths from Hoo La Baloo. His victory capped a fine season for the young jockey Adrian Heskin, who took the cross-country chase at last month's Cheltenham Festival on the Hourigan-trained A New Story. "We went a mad gallop out there," said the 17-year-old, "and I thought maybe a bit too mad. But when I gave him a squeeze he had loads left."
Most of the jumping titles – for trainer Paul Nicholls, jockey Tony McCoy and owner JP McManus – have been settled for some time. Con-ditional champion Rhys Flint took his crown yesterday, though, thanks to winning the opener at Market Rasen, one of four during the afternoon for David Pipe. But any end-of-term notion was rendered meaningless – most of the participants have no holiday; the new season starts today at Ludlow.Reuse content