Racing: Banks Hill restores status as Abdullah dominates

Sue Montgomery
Thursday 16 January 2014 04:10

The cyclical nature of racing and the breeding industry behind it was emphasised in the space of 24 hours over the weekend when Beat Hollow and Banks Hill scored a top-level transatlantic double for their owner, Khalid Abdullah. Sometimes it seems that Coolmore and Godolphin are the only high rollers in town but the resources of the major players are such in terms of quality and quantity that each will inevitably, with the turn of the seasons, have their time in the spotlight.

Banks Hill was last year's star distaffer after dazzling performances in the Coronation Stakes and Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf and put herself back on course to maintain her status with a facile success in the Group One Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville. The André Fabre-trained four-year-old's crown was starting to wobble after two defeats from as many runs this term, her only ventures into open company, but there was no mistaking her class yesterday as she saw off the colts Domedriver and Best Of The Bests.

Banks Hill, ridden by Olivier Peslier, travelled sweetly off the pace as Best Of The Bests, for Godolphin, set a smart gallop down the La Touques straight at the seaside venue with Turtle Bow in his shadow. She took closer order coming to the final furlong and burst through 100 yards from the post to win by a length and a half with her ears flicking. Domedriver claimed the runner-up spot from Best Of The Bests by the same distance.

The combination of a drop back to a mile and quickish ground suited Banks Hill perfectly. Underfoot conditions had been too soft on her seasonal debut, when she came in third to Best Of The Bests in the Prix d'Ispahan, and the stiff Ascot 10 furlongs found her out when she occupied the same position behind another Godolphin horse, Grandera, in the Prince of Wales's Stakes. "She really quickens off this ground," Teddy Beckett, Abdullah's racing manager, said, "and has blossomed since Royal Ascot."

The end-of-season target for the daughter of Danehill will be a back-to-back win at the Breeders' Cup meeting, this year at Arlington Park. And she will be joined there by Beat Hollow, who scored a dramatic victory by inches in the Chicago track's signature contest, the Arlington Million, late on Saturday night. Barely a length covered the first six home, with excuses rampant, but then Beat Hollow himself was as inconvenienced by any by the run of the race.

The early fractions in the 10-furlong turf contest were pedestrian, with Forbidden Apple in a soft lead. Beat Hollow, the 3-5 favourite, who had been running freely in third with no cover, headed the charge off the home turn and stuck his white-blazed face out gamely to repel all comers. He had a short-head to spare from an old rival, the fast-closing Sarafan, with Forbidden Apple, rallying on the rail, a nose behind. Britain's Ulundi, caught flat-footed out of his ground when the pace quickened going to the final bend, produced a whirlwind finish in the straight down the outside to snatch fourth by a nose from Falcon Flight, who had been impeded on the rails, with Germany's Paolini right on their heels in the bunch and his jockey sitting up with nowhere to go.

Beat Hollow, trained by Bobby Frankel, will lead the US defence in the Breeders' Cup Turf. "The race wasn't perfect," said Saturday's rider, Jerry Bailey, "but sitting in third was nice enough and in the straight it was up to him."

It took two subsequent Arc winners, Sinndar and Sakhee, to defeat Beat Hollow, a son of Sadler's Wells and Irish Oaks winner Wemyss Bight, in the Derby two years ago when he was with Henry Cecil. He and Banks Hill, a sister to top miler Dansili, are blue-blooded products of Abdullah's massive international Juddmonte Farms breeding operation

As, too, is Ulundi, whose performance as a despised 25-1 outsider was one of the fairytales from Saturday's Grade One contest. The seven-year-old gelding, trained by Paul Webber, is by the Arc winner Rainbow Quest out of a mare who produced a 1,000 Guineas winner in Wince. But a breathing infirmity – since clearly remedied – led to his rejection as an unraced three-year-old for a mere 5,500 guineas at auction. His charge to almost-glory under Richard Hughes came via a Market Rasen bumper and the Scottish Champion Hurdle.

But having finally proved himself worthy of his lineage the world of global riches is now at his feet, with the Hong Kong Cup in December his target. "He ran a fantastic race," said Webber, who took the overnight flight from Illinois back to reality and three losers at Bath. "He had to come wide but he ran on beautifully. He has showed he belongs at this level and he will get his fast ground in Hong Kong."

Another who will be globetrotting later in the year is Vinnie Roe. The Gold Cup runner-up has the Melbourne Cup pencilled in and started his countdown in satisfactory style with a cosy half-length success in the 12-furlong Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown yesterday, given just one tap by jockey Pat Smullen in the closing stages to assert. The Irish St Leger is next on his agenda.

Smullen was another on the red-eye and victory on Vinnie Roe and on Dress To Thrill in the Group Three feature, the Desmond Stakes, in Co Dublin were some compensation for a nose defeat on their Dermot Weld stablemate Jazz Beat in one of the Chicago supporting Grade Ones, the Secretariat Stakes.

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