Tiger Cliff takes spoils with tigerish finish

Late developer rewards former trainer's patience and perspicacity by claiming York's coveted prize

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The Independent Online

Where an individual race is concerned, the future for the winner is often as significant as the present. But for those closest to Tiger Cliff, the moment when he swooped late to win the £250,000 Ebor Handicap was very much the one to savour.

The late-developing four-year-old, who first appeared on a racetrack barely more than a year ago, had his career charted by Sir Henry Cecil and yesterday, in taking York's coveted and historic prize, did his late trainer's patience and perspicacity proud.

The gelding's rider, Tom Queally, judged his finish to perfection on the 5-1 shot, catching Genzy (11-1) by half a length in the final few strides, with Number Theory (16‑1) third. The field for Europe's richest handicap was reduced to 14, the smallest for more than 60 years, because of underfoot conditions made testing by overnight torrents, but the Warren Place team could not have been happier had they performed a rain dance themselves.

"This is a thickset horse who bends his knee, the sort who loves soft ground," Queally said. "Sir Henry had this in mind for the horse all along and although a competitive handicap like this is one of the hardest of the year to win, he's a tough willing horse. It's great when a plan comes together."

Tiger Cliff, a son of Tiger Hill, may take in another of the season's high-class marathons, the Cesarewitch, before transferring from Lady Cecil to Alan King to embark on a hurdles career.

Kevin Ryan took York's juvenile highlight, the Gimcrack Stakes, for the third time in eight years – after Blaine last year and Amadeus Wolf in 2005 – as the trailblazing 5-1 shot Astaire held on by two necks from the Irish raider Wilshire Boulevard and 11-4 favourite Parbold. "He had to do it the hard way from the front today," his rider Neil Callan said, "but he was travelling so well I was able to sit against him and hold him together. When I let him down two out he instantly took two lengths out of the field and though tiring towards the end he had enough in hand."

The son of Intense Focus will now bid to emulate Amadeus Wolf by winning the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket. But however prestigious, these six-furlong races are in the modern era generally a guide to future sprinting, rather than Classic, talent. There were pointers to next year's Guineas yesterday, though, notably at the Curragh, where the Coventry Stakes winner War Command put behind him a subsequent odds-on defeat at the Co Kildare track two weeks ago.

The colt, an Aidan O'Brien stablemate of Wilshire Boulevard, had looked one of the most exciting juveniles of the season when he trounced Parbold by six lengths at Royal Ascot. Yesterday, relishing the step back up to seven furlongs, the son of War Front showed a high-class change of gear a furlong out as he cruised home by three lengths in the Futurity Stakes, a contest taken in recent years by such as Teofilo, New Approach and Cape Blanco.

"We gave him a break after Ascot, and it caught him out the last day," O'Brien said. "Obviously trainer error again, but he was a different horse today, more like the one we know he is." War Command, like the Ballydoyle stable's York International winner Declaration of War, runs for his breeder, Joseph Allen, and the Coolmore partners. He has been cut to 10-1 for the 2,000 Guineas and is likely to head next for Ireland's top two-year-old prize, the National Stakes.

Goodwood provided the stage for Amazing Maria to confirm her potential in the distaff division as she came home a comfortable winner of the Group 3 Prestige Stakes, and will have her first test in top company in the Fillies' Mile at Newmarket. "I think the ground was softer than ideal for her," her trainer Ed Dunlop said, "but we've always thought the world of her and at this stage she'd be my best two-year-old." The daughter of Mastercraftsman has been introduced into the betting for the 1,000 Guineas at 20-1.