Mayson proves master in the mud

Hanagan renews partnership with trainer Fahey to claim landmark victory for both

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The Independent Online

The wise king Solomon had it right with his advice never to forsake an old friend, as Paul Hanagan and Richard Fahey discovered in the July Cup. After 17 years riding for Fahey, an association which culminated in back-to-back jockey titles, Hanagan was this season headhunted by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum's powerful empire. But the rider and trainer have not cut ties entirely, and yesterday the old firm rejoined forces to take the prestigious sprint with Mayson. It was a landmark first domestic Group One victory for both men.

And it was a prize achieved in some style. Soon into the six-furlong contest, Hanagan realised that Mayson was one of the few runners coping happily with the heavy, rain-sodden ground, and let him bowl along in front before stretching clear up the demanding climb to the winning line for a five-length success. "Fantastic for Paul and me," said Fahey, and added with a smile. "He's still my number one – we just borrow him from the Sheikh from time to time."

Four-year-old Mayson had looked a smart prospect when he won twice on the Rowley Mile earlier in the year, but his next two runs, at York and Newcastle, were less good, hence his 20-1 price yesterday. But there were valid excuses for both blips and perhaps his Malton-based trainer's decision to travel south, rather than supervise his runners at his local track, York, should have been something of a hint to punters.

"I was looking at the betting," said Fahey, "and he was just about the outsider of the lot and I was thinking that it was a joke. At York he got upset in the starting stalls and got his back leg caught, and was sore afterwards. And at Newcastle the ground was virtually unraceable, a lot worse than today. Things haven't always gone right but he's back at his best now, and it's just grand."

The conditions on the track meant that runners progressed rather agriculturally, throwing up clods and water as they galloped, and prompted the withdrawal, among others, of the ante-post July Cup favourite Bated Breath. But even in his absence, Mayson – bred by his owner David Armstrong and bottle-reared after his dam died – must now have his hat in the ring among the best.

The son of Invincible Spirit not only coped with the quagmire but showed the ability to quicken through it. "He jumped out of the stalls so well," said Hanagan, "that I didn't want to take him back. I knew if he kept going, which he did, he'd be hard to peg back. He really enjoyed himself out in front and when I asked him to go, he took off."

The next top-level sprint on the circuit, next month's five-furlong Nunthorpe Stakes at York, may not be on Mayson's programme after his earlier experience there. The best of the rest yesterday, The Cheka (14-1) may renew rivalry with third-placed 7-2 favourite Society Rock on Champions Day at Ascot later in the season; Ortensia, fourth, is bound for the Nunthorpe.

Hanagan and Fahey combined for their only other Group One wins two years ago, with Wootton Bassett in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère at Longchamp. The rider's talent and application, and the firepower at his disposal in coming campaigns, will ensure that he will progress to further top-level success for his new boss. But he will never forget the breakthroughs for his old one.

Joseph O'Brien, with all the ammunition in his father Aidan's Ballydoyle at his disposal from the start, made a rather quicker impact at elite levels and, after finishing last on outsider Reply in the July Cup, notched the 12th top-level victory of his two-year senior career on the favourite Imperial Monarch in the Grand Prix de Paris.

The son of Galileo had been one of the chief sufferers in the pack in a rough Prix Du Jockey-Club last month, and this time O'Brien kept out of trouble by dictating from the front. His mount, running for only the fourth time, showed his inexperience by wavering close home, and had to survive a stewards' enquiry after holding on by a head from Last Train in a bunch finish. Saint Baudolino was third and the other raider, David Lanigan-trained Derby runner-up Main Sequence, an arguably unlucky fourth.

The next generation of equine talent was represented here yesterday by the topically named 6-4 favourite Olympic Glory, who held on bravely to take the seven-furlong Superlative Stakes by a diminishing head from Birdman.