Starspangledbanner trampled in the rush by 100-1 shot Sole Power

Irish sprinter races to Nunthorpe Stakes success in greatest Group One upset for 35 years
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The Independent Online

As far as the body of the betting public is concerned, a 100-1 winner is not generally a cause for letting loose a champagne cork, for the very fact of its price means that not many punters would have been on.

A 100-1 winner who beats a hot favourite is even less popular. But a 100-1 winner who beats a red-hot favourite and is owned by one of the old enemy, a bookmaker? Make sure the Bolly is nailed into its case.

If there were any who backed Sole Power, the first Group One winner at those extravagant odds for more than 30 years, in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes here yesterday, they were probably local fishmongers. The storm of noise that erupted from the grandstands as the 12 runners for one of Europe's top sprints hurtled into the final of the five furlongs was howls of encouragement for Starspangledbanner, backed from 9-4 to 6-4 during the day, not cheers for the unheralded little brown gelding who was rather spiritedly holding him at bay.

Starspangledbanner, pride of Ballydoyle and winner of Britain's two best six-furlong contests, tried his powerful heart out in pursuit of his Irish compatriot over a distance probably too short and will have another day. But this one belonged to Sole Power, his trainer, Edward Lynam, and his rider, Wayne Lordan. And his owners, David and Sabena Power, of the Paddy Power bookmaking dynasty. It was a first top-level prize, worth £136,248, all round. "I've had a licence since I was 20 and, of course, I've trained Group One winners before," said 48-year-old Lynam, based at Dunshaughlin in Co Meath, "but then I've woken up."

The team, though, were not entertaining their angel, a three-year-old whose only previous win had come on the all-weather at Dundalk in April, entirely unawares. "We've always rated him," said Lynam. "He's very, very fast; he broke the track record in Dundalk. But one problem with racing a sprinter in Ireland is that there aren't many races for them, and so it takes a while for them to learn their job.

"The others go too slow for this lad in sprints back home and he gets a bit buzzed up and runs too freely, almost too willingly. We thought the pace they'd go in this race would suit him, help him to learn and settle and race sweetly so he could deliver his finish. Mind you, beforehand we thought we'd have got a result if he'd finished third or fourth."

The pace, thanks to the visored filly Rose Blossom and a following wind, would have put the Light Brigade to shame. Starspangledbanner, rather isolated from his stands-rails draw as the pack thundered up the centre, was taken off his feet at first under Johnny Murtagh and the second favourite Equiano, drawn wide and slightly hampered early, could not keep up at all, eventually coming in an eased-off last.

Rose Blossom kept her lead until a furlong out, when Piccadilly Filly took over briefly until Sole Power surged to the front. His margin of victory was a length and a quarter; the same distance behind Starspangledbanner, Piccadilly Filly – another 100-1 shot – held Prime defender by a nose for third, with Rose Blossom fifth and Borderlescott, winner of the two previous runnings, sixth. The time, 57.1sec, was much quicker than average, but still a second slower than Dayjur's 20-year-old record.

If Paddy Power, David's son, felt Sole Power's victory was some sort of justice after the firm that bears his name had refunded all stakes, some £200,000-worth, on Sariska after she refused to race in Thursday's Yorkshire Oaks, then it set the record straight too for 28-year-old journeyman Lordan, who had missed the ride on the Irish-trained Ebor Handicap winner Dirar on Wednesday because of riding commitments at Killarney for one of his chief employers, Tommy Stack.

"I'm not sure I've ever been as fast on a horse before today," he said, "but it suited mine perfectly. He settled nice and quietly in my hands and I was able to ride the race I wanted to. I always had half an eye out for Johnny and as it started to get serious I knew he was only a length or so behind.

"I didn't want to commit too early and use all my horse up – he's only a three-year-old and wouldn't be as strong as some of those big older horses – but when I peeked behind and saw Johnny at work I thought maybe I'd better go while I still had some horse. Mine picked up for me as soon as I asked, and did it well in the end. But I honestly thought next year would be his year."

Sole Power, whose sire Kyllachy won the Nunthorpe Stakes eight years ago, was the first 100-1 Group One winner since Hittite Glory took the Flying Childers Stakes, then a top-level contest, in 1975. As a gelding, his future lies on the track, not the lucrative breeding shed, and he may become a regular here and anywhere else he can find five furlongs and fast ground. "He's still immature," added Lynam, "and he's not very big, he weighs only 425kg. But he's got a racing heart and the right attitude. He may be a surprise champion today, but don't underestimate him."

Turf Account

Sue Montgomery's Nap

Jehanbux (4.50 Sandown)

Impressed with his attitude when overcoming interference to win his maiden at today's track.

Next best

Murbeh (3.40 Ripon)

Won only narrowly on his debut, but showed signs of inexperience and should have learnt from that effort.

One to watch

Gritstone (R A Fahey) looked too fresh on his reappearance after a six-week break. He will be more settled next time.

Where the money's going

Poet's Place has been installed 10-1 favourite for next month's Ayr Gold Cup by sponsors William Hill.

Chris McGrath's Nap

Danger Mulally (6.35 Bath)