Quick-thinking James Doyle rides his luck as Amazing Maria astonishes rivals again


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If the mark of a top-class jockey is an ability to recognise a problem in the heat of battle and act fast to solve it, then James Doyle unquestionably has what it takes.

Amazing Maria proved that her 25-1 Royal Ascot triumph in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes was no flash in the pan when following up in yesterday’s Group One Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket, but this was also so much down to Doyle’s quick thinking and tactical nous.

A dawdling pace is always to the detriment of those, like Amazing Maria, held up for a late run, but Doyle took charge of a potentially embarrassing situation, making his move appreciably earlier than originally planned so that suddenly, two furlongs from home, the grey was on the heels of the leaders and in the perfect position to go on and win her race.

Four of Amazing Maria’s six rivals, three from France and one from Ireland, the 1,000 Guineas runner-up Lucida, came back with hard luck stories. Doyle, meanwhile, had made his own fortune.

“People were saying it was a fluke at Ascot, but I can only speak as I find and I felt she was a class filly so I rode her with confidence,” said Doyle. “It was cat and mouse so I wanted to get first jump on them.”

Amazing Maria, a talented juvenile for Ed Dunlop in 2013 before losing her way last year, is yet another advertisement for the skills of Yorkshire trainer David O’Meara, who now has three top-level victories on his CV.

Brazen Beau, who last month at Royal Ascot narrowly failed where top Australian sprinters had previously succeeded, today attempts to become the first horse trained Down Under to win the Group One July Cup at Newmarket.

This midsummer highlight, usually won by a horse subsequently crowned champion sprinter, proved a step too far for both Choisir in 2003) and Takeover Target three years later, but hopes are high that Brazen Beau can put the record straight after beating all the European opposition in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, only to be thwarted close home by the American speedster Undrafted.

With Undrafted not taking up the rematch, the way might have been clear for Brazen Beau, except that another sprinter exploded on to the scene at Ascot, the Charlie Hills-trained Muhaarar, who quite sensationally blew away what everyone believed to be a high-class field in the inaugural running of the Commonwealth Cup.

Once again Brazen Beau has a wide draw to overcome, 15 of 15, just like Ascot, where his rider, Craig Williams, ploughed a lone furrow away from the rest of the field, much to the annoyance of some of his backers, who felt that his Greta Garbo impression cost him the race.

Brazen Beau’s trainer, Chris Waller, while respecting the punter’s right to be “vocal”, was not one of them, but is confident anyway that Brazen Beau, who now runs in the colours of Godolphin and so will be ridden by Doyle, one of their retained riders, will have “a little more in the tank” for this historic challenge.

“If Ascot has brought him on he’ll certainly be very hard to beat,” Waller said. “I wouldn’t swap him for any other horse.

“His biggest asset is he is so relaxed. From getting off the plane, to settling in, to handling the big occasion, he has just coped like a superstar.”

Ryan Moore will be out of action for at least three days after injuring his neck in the stalls at Newmarket on Thursday. The three-time champion jockey was odds-on for a fourth title, but betting on the contest has been suspended until an exact comeback date is known.