Nunthorpe Stakes at York: Angel of the North swoops to derail the Acapulco loco


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The Independent Online

Seldom has the beating of a favourite been as popularly and loudly acclaimed as when Mecca’s Angel took down the giant American juvenile filly Acapulco in York’s Nunthorpe Stakes yesterday.

Mecca’s Angel is actually trained just over the border near Darlington in Co Durham, but was, like her trainer Michael Dods and jockey Paul Mulrennan – both tasting Group One success for the first time – greeted by the locals as one of their own, roared to the rafters after sweeping two lengths clear of the US trailblazer. That the winner, at 16,000gns, cost semi-retired farmer David Metcalfe just a small fraction of the $750,000 (£477,000) shelled out by Coolmore for the runner-up will also have brought a smirk to the faces of all self-respecting Yorkshire folk.

For Dods, this was not only reward for the utmost patience in bypassing tempting midsummer engagements while waiting for ground conditions to ease, it was also sweet revenge after Acapulco had beaten his best two-year-old, Easton Angel, in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot. He was quite happy to say exactly how he felt about it.

“When Acapulco burst clear I thought, ‘Oh no, I can’t bear to get beaten by the Americans again’, but then it was, ‘Go on, my girl, we’ve stuck it up them this time!” he said. “She’s proved today that when she can get her toe in she’s the real deal. She was awesome.”

Mecca’s Angel’s future depends on the ground, but the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp on Arc day in October is a likely target. There are surely more big days ahead, too, for Acapulco, although her trainer, Wesley Ward, feels that she needs to be back on fast ground to show her best.

A more contented American drawl could be heard after Max Dynamite, trained  by Willie Mullins for Rich Ricci, had run away with the Lonsdale Stakes.

Ricci, of course, is much more familiar to jumps racing fans, having helped Mullins to dominate the Cheltenham Festival in March.

“When [winning rider] Frankie [Dettori] gave me a kiss, he said Max Dynamite will win the Ascot Gold Cup next year,” said Ricci. “I don’t know whether it was just the love talking, but the dream first is to win the Melbourne Cup in November.”

Max Dynamite’s victory was a further shot in the arm for backers of Mullins’ much-fancied Clondaw Warrior, who has sneaked into the Ebor Handicap as first reserve.

Irish trainers appear to have a stranglehold on this afternoon’s highlight, with Aidan O’Brien’s St Leger entry Fields Of Athenry among other raiders prominent in the betting.

But there is perhaps more value to be had among the home contingent, in particular Arabian Comet, whose trainer, William Haggas, could hardly have his team in better form.

“I think a fast pace will really suit her,” said Haggas on Friday. “I spotted she was 25-1 for both the Ebor and the Yorkshire Oaks, so we’ve gone for the Ebor and I’m quite excited.”