It is popularly supposed not to buy love, nor does it guarantee success. But it can make a considerable difference, as Ger Lyons has discovered. The Irishman is on the roster of 15 trainers employed by one of the sport's newest, wealthiest and most enthusiastic patrons, Sheikh Fahad al-Thani and yesterday he became the one to give the young Qatari businessman his first Group One victory.
From that point of view the occasion, the rather easy half-length success of Lightening Pearl in the Cheveley Park Stakes, was not so much a feather in Lyons' cap as a whole peacock's tail. It also marked a breakthrough to the highest level and the start of Classic dreams for the trainer, with a type of horse not previously on his radar.
"We've always bought commercially priced colts," he said, "ones we could win with and trade on, that's been my job. And we'd been successful doing that, we'd sold some to Hong Kong for a lot of money. But now with Sheikh Fahad on board, we've got horses I couldn't have bought. Just because they're dear doesn't mean they're good. But it gives us more of a chance."
Lightening Pearl cost €125,000 as a yearling 12 months ago and has now, thanks to adding yesterday's Jaguar Cars-sponsored prize to two previous wins, at least earned back her purchase price. That, though, is almost immaterial beside her residual value as a Group One-winning filly and any future glory. She has been introduced into the betting for the 1,000 Guineas back here in May at around 16-1.
The daughter of Marju, 3-1 second market choice, was dropping back to six furlongs after a wide-margin win over seven on her previous run and showed tremendous pure speed as she surged to the lead after half a mile under Johnny Murtagh, readily holding off outsider Sunday Times. Angels Will Fall was third, but 11-8 favourite Best Terms was a disappointing fifth.
Murtagh has had a happy association with Co Meath-based Lyons and his team, having ridden the operation's first winner, first Group winner, first Royal Ascot winner and now the first Group One winner. "She had this won a long way out," said the rider, "and going back up in distance will be no problem. From day one I knew she was going to be good."
Lightening Pearl was a late entry to Britain's top contest for juvenile fillies,at a cost of £15,000. "We don't like to show our hand unless we think we can do it," said Lyons, "but we knew after the last day she could be special. She's a straightforward filly who just gets on with life and her job."
Sheikh Fahad, who runs his horsesunder the banner of his Pearl Bloodstock, has been involved for only two years but has already made a mark, notably through Qipco, his family's private investment company that has introduced lavish sponsorship to the sport, including next month's inaugural British Champions Day at Ascot.
That meeting has meant a shuffling of the calendar, including the transfer of the Royal Lodge Stakes – won last year by the peerless Frankel – from Ascot to Newmarket. And yesterday's running of the mile Group Two contest at its new home did find favour with one man, at least. Aidan O'Brien saddled the first three home – Daddy Long Legs, Tenth Star and Wrote – and said afterwards: "The Guineas is run here and it's great to show the place to that sort of horse, to let them get the feel of it. With the undulations, a horse has to have quick feet here."
Daddy Long Legs, ridden by Colm O'Donoghue, made all the running, powering three and a quarter lengths clear. The son of Scat Daddy, a high-class US dirt performer, has the Breeders' Cup meeting pencilled in.
O'Brien reported Ballydoyle star So You Think right on schedule for his tilt at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe a week today. "We'll decide on a jockey after he's worked midweek," he said. "It's a brave decision to go for the race – he's never run beyond 10 furlongs apart from the handicap [the Melbourne Cup] – but so far, so good."
In the Sun Chariot Stakes, the French mare Sahpresa, trained by Rob Collet, became the first three-time winner of the 10-furlong Group One prize. The 13-8 favourite outclassed Chachamaidee by an easy length.
The afternoon's handicap feature, the Betfred Cambridgeshire, duly proved a bookies' benefit as 40-1 shot Prince Of Johanne beat Stevie Thunder (25-1), Proponent (14-1) and Nanton (33-1). The 8-1 favourite Man Of Action finished 19th of 32.