Competition takes its toll on horses and trainers alike, so due admiration is imperative for Mac Love and Stef Liddiard, who yesterday won the only Group race of the year at Salisbury.
Mac Love was conceding age and weight to all five of his rivals for the Totesport Sovereign Stakes, had not been seen since trailing in last at Royal Ascot, and was duly sent off at 25-1. But the eight-year-old swept past the front-running favourite, Confront, to win by a length and a half entirely on merit.
Mac Love's longevity can be measured by the fact that he made his debut in the 2003 Brocklesby Stakes and went on to contest another 15 races that season. In those days he was trained by Mick Channon, and he has since served time with John Akehurst and Jeremy Noseda, only entering Liddiard's care last autumn. His only success until that point had come in 2004, but he beat Confront himself in the Diomed Stakes on Derby day and has now made it two Group wins in three starts.
Liddiard candidly acknowledged the horse to have been out of his depth in the Queen Anne Stakes and that he would have been a much shorter price for a bigger yard. Her own resources can be measured from the way she had to ask Ian Balding, the retired trainer, to lead Mac Love round during the rituals of prize-giving and interviews. But her "hands on" approach has prompted similar rejuvenation in others housed at her stables on the Berkshire Downs – not to mention the savings passed on to her patrons.
"We'll always have room for a good one," she said. "But we want to keep things fairly small, because that's why horses like this one are winning. My horses only work in twos and threes and they only hack, which he loves. I am so in love with him. To have two Group wins in a season is something else, and it is hard to believe he is an eight-year-old."
At the other end of the scale, Godolphin have been enjoying a prolific summer, after the Classics once again proved a write-off. They hope to breathe fresh life into their three-year-olds at Newbury tomorrow, when Kite Wood tests his eligibility for the Ladbrokes St Leger in the CGA Geoffrey Freer Stakes, and Evasive makes his debut for the yard in the Hungerford Stakes. The latter was last seen finishing fourth for Sir Michael Stoute in the St James's Palace Stakes.
The stable has several good prospects for York next week, where the chance of riding Sariska in the Yorkshire Oaks is meanwhile the only obvious comfort available to Jamie Spencer. A curiously unproductive season for one of the most natural talents of his generation reached a new nadir yesterday, when the British Horseracing Authority handed Spencer a lengthy ban for a series of related misdemeanours. Having already accumulated 24 days of suspension for interference over the past 12 months, he will now be able to ride for only three days between Thursday and 10 September.
Turf account: Chris McGrath
Audemar (9.15 Kempton)
Returns to the scene of a promising reappearance last week, when set plenty to do before finishing well for fourth behind the smart Musleh. The drop back to 7f should not hinder a colt likely to relish a strong pace.
Destination Aim (5.25 Newmarket)
Another well-bred, well-built juvenile for the in-form Godolphin stable, he looked a certain future winner on his debut at Goodwood, keeping on for fourth without being given a hard race. The three in front had all shown promise in previous starts and he should find the experience beneficial in turn.
*One to watch
English City (Mrs L B Normile) had been winning over hurdles before returning to the Flat off a very low mark at Musselburgh the other day, only to be caught out by a sprint finish under his apprentice rider, doing well to close for third from well off the pace.
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