Midday is muddy marvel for Cecil at gloomy Goodwood

Filly makes a splash but only after trainer's last-minute decision to let her run
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The Independent Online

Horses, unlike cricketers, can perform on sodden ground. But in terms of visible action, racegoers here yesterday were barely better off than the disappointed bananas and Elvises at Edgbaston. Sou'westers would have been more de rigeur than panamas as the cloudbase descended well below the 600-foot top of the Sussex Downs, with only the last half-furlong's denouement of each contest apparent to those huddled miserably in the rain-lashed grandstands. It was an inglorious end to a week that so often deserves its alliterative epithet.

For sustained glory, though, look no further than Henry Cecil, the latest top-level victory of whose long and distinguished career came when Midday gallantly splashed her way home in the Nassau Stakes. Prince Khaled Abdullah's home-bred filly had been beaten by inches in the Oaks before floundering, well behind her Epsom conqueror Sariska, on soft ground in the Irish version of the Classic and her trainer had to steel himself to let her take part yesterday once the weather closed in.

But a tally of more than 100 important winners worldwide is not the record of a man who makes the wrong call too often and Midday's prize of £113,000, plus the prestige of a Group One win on her record, was consolation for her two Classic defeats. "I almost pulled her out," said Cecil, "but I lost my bottle. I know she hates soft ground, but in the earlier races they seemed to be going though it and the times weren't too bad so I took a chance. I couldn't bear to watch the race, even if I could have seen anything. I was dreading having to phone the Prince and tell him I'd done the wrong thing. But then I heard people shouting for her, and I knew she must be going well, and I could stop feeling sick."

Midday was the first to emerge from the murk having been driven past Katiyra and Barshiba two furlongs out. The daughter of Oasis Dream scored by two and a quarter lengths, from 5-2 favourite Rainbow View with rider Tom Queally quick to salute Cecil. He said: " Henry stuck his neck out and decided to run. She did it well, much better than I thought she would, but then English soft ground and Irish soft ground are different things."

The reception given to Cecil was a heartening moment amid the gloom. The 66-year-old has been fighting a well-documented battle with cancer with much dignity and Abdullah has been the mainstay of ownership support through his troubled times.

The performances of Midday and Rainbow View, fourth in the Oaks, served only to underline the excellence of Sariska, who is scheduled to put her status as Britain's top middle-distance filly on the line in the Yorkshire Oaks 17 days hence. Midday may take her on again on the Knavesmire, though more in hope than confidence. "The race may come too soon," said Cecil, "but even second prize there is something like £60,000."

High-class fillies will take centre stage again today, first in France, then in the States. This afternoon at Deauville, three raiders from Britain – Godolphin's Lady Marian and the Mick Channon-trained pair Lahaleeb and Eva's Request - try their luck in the first elite contest of the Normandy seaside season, the Prix Rothschild. But the sharp end of proceedings should concern four-year-old Goldikova, who bounced back to her best last month in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket, and star three-year-old Elusive Wave, reverting to a mile after her fourth in the French Oaks.

Later the focus of attention will be on the imperious Rachel Alexandra, who will face Belmont Stakes hero Summer Bird and five others in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. The filly, whose run of seven successes includes the Preakness Stakes, returns to competition against colts after a 20-length romp against her own sex in June.

What is normally one of the week's most thrilling sights here, the downhill charge by seasoned sprinters that is the Stewards' Cup, was largely an aural affair yesterday, no more than a thunder of squelching hooves. The four home first belonged to 14-1 shot Genki, who gave Roger Charlton a third success in the six-furlong contest. "I didn't see much of the race," said the Beckhampton trainer. "Let's hope the handicapper wasn't watching too closely either."

Five-year-old Genki scored by a length from Evens And Odds (33-1), Knot In Wood (10-1) and 15-2 favourite Markab. His rider was the appositely-named Steve Drowne.