Rob Hornby’s fine July Festival continued as he partnered Andrew Balding’s Alcohol Free to victory in the Darley July Cup Stakes at Newmarket.
Hornby had never won a Group One on home soil until steering Prosperous Voyage to capsize Inspiral on Friday Afternoon – but doubled his tally in the space of barely 24 hours as the daughter of No Nay Never ran out a convincing winner.
It was Platinum Jubilee Stakes winner Naval Crown who made most of the running towards the far side and that proved the place to be as the winner swooped past entering the final furlong and Charlie Appleby’s four-year-old had no option but to raise the white flag, with Alcohol Free drawing a length and a half clear at the line.
It was a similar story to Royal Ascot for third-placed Artorius with the Australian raider unable to make the required ground having been held up in the early stages, while 9-4 favourite Perfect Power was never travelling with any zest and finished a disappointing seventh in the hands of Christophe Soumillon.
Alcohol Free, who was down the field in ninth in the Platinum Jubilee behind Naval Crown at Royal Ascot, was making only her second start back down at six furlongs since winning the Cheveley Park Stakes as a two-year-old and now has plenty of options, with Paddy Power going 6-1 for the Betfair Sprint Cup, while 14-1 is on offer with Coral for a defence of her Sussex Stakes crown at Glorious Goodwood.
It was a fitting victory for Alcohol Free’s rider, who began his career with the Baldings and has only recently been reunited with the filly following regular pilot Oisin Murphy’s suspension.
He said: “This is great, I began my career with Andrew and they’ve all been fantastic to me since I went there at 16.
“It was an experiment over six today. We’ve considered it and she’s always had plenty of speed but has been so good over a mile.
“The thinking is that in this race her stamina would kick in up the hill, she’d see it out really well and that is what happened.
“This was always going to be her race over six, then the ground started to get quick but it just goes to show her guts and bravery and how tough she is and she’s got form on all ground now.
“Two Group Ones in two days, who’d have thought it, it’s been a crazy year but I’m in a very privileged position to ride top-class horses. So many people helped me to get here.”
Neither trainer nor owner were present on the July Course to witness the success, but Balding’s wife, Anna Lisa, added: “Jeff has always said six furlongs is the right trip so he deserves a lot of credit and I don’t know what Rob has been eating for breakfast but I want some!
“Rob is a huge part of the team and Ralph (Beckett, trainer of Prosperous Voyage) is a great friend of ours so we’re lucky we can share him.
“We’ll see how she comes out of the race and Jeff and Andrew will discuss the Sussex Stakes.
“She’s such a lovely filly, quirky but we all love her. She’s so special and has done a lot for us.
“Andrew was adamant all our runners here this week had come out of their races fine and the ground was OK.
“She ran a great race at Ascot and very rarely disappoints, she’s got a huge heart. I’m so delighted for Jeff.
“It’s a huge team effort, all I’ve done is come and put the saddle on. Jeff has been so loyal, he’s had horses with us a long time and is the ultimate owner/breeder.”
Balding himself later confirmed Alcohol Free would indeed head once more to Goodwood, where she will clash with the mighty Baaeed.
He said: “She is a quality filly. To win four Group Ones, and four proper Group Ones. It just shows the calibre she is. She is just a class act when she is at her best. It is quite amazing, really.
“I just got home to watch it. I drove home and literally walked in the house when they were going in the stalls.
“She will now go to the Sussex Stakes and take on Baaeed. Wish us luck!”