By Chris McGrath at York
Racehorses require very little opportunity to make their masters look foolish. Full credit, then, to the men behind the outrageous stunt pulled off by Kingsgate Native here yesterday.
If it seemed impudent to take on some of the fastest horses in the world with a mere two-year-old, what might be said of their willingness to do so with one that had yet to win a race of any kind? But here was Kingsgate Native in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, a glistening black streak, cutting down the runaway Desert Lord and gaily striding clear.
Mind you, this young horse in a hurry has compressed some epic twists and turns into his brief career. Even this Group One success, on only his third start, is unlikely to expunge some of the bittersweet experiences already shared by connections. He is trained in Kent by John Best for John Mayne, a retired bookmaker from the East End. Best does not entertain an angel unawares – last year he saddled Rising Cross to finish second in the Oaks – and twice prepared the ground for Mayne and friends to back Kingsgate Native first time out. But the colt had to be withdrawn at Goodwood after a passport mix-up; and then, when he was sent here for a maiden, the meeting was abandoned.
Undaunted, Best gave him his debut in a listed race at Royal Ascot, and his owners again got stuck in, at dizzy odds. The colt was beaten a head at 66-1. Kingsgate Native then tried his luck in a Group race at Goodwood, and was again foiled only in a photo. Yesterday, at last, everything fell into place.
Best was tempted here by the generous weight allowance – 19lb and more – for two-year-olds. In 1992, after all, Lyric Fantasy had romped home at odds-on, and Paris House finished second the previous year. But only seven juveniles have tried their luck in the past 20 years, and Best decided a trick was being missed.
"It's always surprised me that more two-year-olds haven't tried it," Mayne said. "But then what do I know? I jabber away to John about form, and he nods politely, and then totally ignores me. I did wonder if the horse might be just a skinny little boy in this race, and be bullied out of it. But John said that he would bully them. Anyone who likes eating every day should take no notice of my selections." In the event, Kingsgate Native proved the only runner comfortable with the pace set by Desert Lord, who is plainly coming back to the boil in time for his defence of the Prix de l'Abbaye. Jimmy Quinn sent him past a furlong out and Dandy Man could only manage a steady pursuit, just failing to get up for second. The winner was certainly an astute purchase at just 20,000 guineas, given that his dam is closely related to Las Meninas. Best watched the race in Florida, where he is seeking new bargains at the yearling sales. He has no need to keep his hand in his pocket now. "That's unbelievable," he said. "I think the sales ring here is going to empty, so many people were cheering him on. It's justice really, after his two near-misses. I'm thrilled for the owners, who have always stood by me, and at least I'll have some money to get some more now."
Mayne declared that his prizemoney "won't get dusty", though he had a message for any predators from the bloodstock elite. "Maybe it's a personal quirk," he said. "But I've always found a fat cheque tempting in the past."
Remarkably, the other big race on the card was also won by a maiden, Nahoodh giving Mick Channon his fourth success in 10 runnings of the Jaguar Lowther Stakes. Here was another juvenile to have been flung straight into the deep end, starting her career in the Cherry Hinton Stakes, where she disclosed little of her ability. She hinted at more when unlucky at Ascot next time but certainly showed her true colours here, albeit getting first run on the favourite, Visit. You'resothrilling beat only one home but was nearly put through the rail in what was a rough race. Nahoodh is 14-1 for the Stan James 1,000 Guineas with the sponsors, who keep Proviso, the French filly, as 8-1 favourite.
"She's very talented," Channon said. "Physically, she's been good – but mentally she has been a bit slow. There's an awful lot of improvement still to come."
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