Yorkshire Dale ends 14-year drought
Apprentice plays waiting game to perfection as he guides Moyenne Corniche to victory in Europe's richest handicap
Sunday 21 August 2011
On another continent, yesterday would have been the day that stopped a nation. The running of the nearest thing in the northern hemisphere to the Melbourne Cup, the Betfred Ebor, had to be content with slightly halting a part of Yorkshire. The 25-1 winner of Europe's richest handicap, Moyenne Corniche, is trained 20 miles from the Knavesmire track in the small racingtown of Malton.
The six-year-old, scoring for the first time since winning a maiden three-and-a-half years ago, was not even the leading fancy from his own yard, that of Brian Ellison. His stable-mate Saptapadi, with Kieren Fallon on board, started 15-2 third favourite but it was the outsider who came through to give his rider, the apprentice Dale Swift, his day of days. The partisan crowd cheered the local horse – the first from the county to take the historic prize, first run in 1843, for 14 years – and local lad home.
Second spot, a length adrift, went to the gallantly rallying 9-1 chance Tactician, followed by Divertissement (25-1), Modun (7-1) and Saptapadi. The 6-1 favourite, Lost In The Moment, came in seventh. Ironically, Moyenne Corniche was once in the care of Tactician's trainer, Michael Bell, before being cast off last year at auction, where Ellison acquired him for £30,000. Yesterday he earned £130,000 for his three owners.
Although the market for the two-miler had suggested that Moyenne Corniche was just making up the numbers, Ellison was not wholly surprised by the result. "My two had been working together and there was not much between them," he said. "Moyenne Corniche loved that bit of juice in the ground and the race went to suit him, he has to be ridden from behind. Saptapadi got a bit lit up, else he would have been closer. But it's nice to win a big one, with whatever horse."
Rotherham-born Swift, 25, executedthe waiting plan to perfection. "He was travelling so well all the way," he said. "I kept having to just ease him back, so as not to get there too soon. Then when I asked him to go, he got the gaps when he needed them. Just to ride in this race means the world. Then I realised I had the chance of winning it and I wasn't going to let it go. I grabbed it with both hands."
Most of the rest of the afternoon here went to a rather better-known jockey, one Frankie Dettori, who rode a treble on Parlour Games and Opinion Poll for the Godolphin trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni and My Propellor for Peter Chapple-Hyam. Most notable was Opinion Poll, who proved himself one of the best of this year's stayers as he followed his Goodwood Cup victory with a second success in the Lonsdale Stakes. The five-year-old, the 3-1 favourite, survived a stewards' inquiry after he outbattled Duncan to take the Group Two prize in a rough finish. "I always felt I'd get the runner-up," said Dettori. "He's a horse who needs one to scrap with. He's very good and very game."
Minutes after Opinion Poll, whose target is the valuable long-distance contest at Ascot's new Champions Day in October, enhanced his reputation here, his Gold Cup conqueror Fame And Glory did the reverse at the Curragh, labouring in second place behind Fictional Account, whom he has beaten twice in the past. His display was one of a number of dull recentefforts by Aidan O'Brien inmates. "Disappointing," said his rider, Seamie Heffernan. "I thought I had it all covered, and he found nothing."
It is likely – just – that we have already seen some of next year's Classic winners; of the 47 individual winners of such contests this season and the preceding nine, 26 had appeared by this stage of proceedings. Only four, though, had run at Group One level, and of that quartet two – SpecialDuty and Natagora – were runners-up in the Prix Morny. Today's edition at Deauville has attracted a fieldof eight, including Gatepost and Frederick Engels for Britain.
The future was also in mind as one era ended and another began. Barry Hills, who has officially handed over the running of his Lambourn yard to son Charlie, spent his last day of 42 years as a licensed trainer at one of his favourite tracks, Chester. The 74-year-old has saddled more than 3,200 winners and yesterday added another,who could hardly have been more appropriately named. Na Zdorovie!
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