Though best known for his luckless defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint of 1990, Dayjur was arguably the greatest sprinter of them all.
Devastatingly quick, the colt by Danzig was out of an American champion sprinter Gold Beauty. Bought as a yearling for $1.65m by Hamdan Al-Maktoum, he was sent to England to be trained by Major Dick Hern at his West Ilsley stables in Berkshire.
He showed promise as a juvenile, but it was his three-year-old campaign that cemented his status as one of the fastest horses of all time. Totally dominant during the summer of 1990, he collected every sprint prize worth winning, and in doing so turned competitive high-class events into stunning one-horse processions.
Yet his early outings in the spring gave little sign of the performances that were to follow. Disappointing in a Guineas trial at Newmarket, he was next dropped in trip for a victory in a minor race at Nottingham. He then suffered another defeat when losing by a head at Newbury.
His next run came in the Temple Stakes, which in those days was run at Sandown Park. A change of tactics was employed, with regular pilot Willie Carson sending the colt to the front, allowing him to make the most of his inherent speed. Dayjur never looked in danger, as he stormed to a comfortable two length success.
In June he was sent to Royal Ascot for a crack at the five furlong King's Stand Stakes; then a Group 2 contest. With concerns over the rain softened ground few could have anticipated such a one-sided renewal. Dayjur led virtually from pillar to post, drawing clear in stunning fashion to beat the French challenger Ron's Victory by two and a half lengths. The rest of the field failed to land a blow.
After his Ascot romp he was sent off an odds-on favourite for the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York. Again sent to the front from the stalls, the result never looked in doubt. Carson pushed him clear in the closing stages to win by four lengths in a course record time of 56.16. It was another devastating performance from a colt at the height of his powers.
In September, Dayjur was stepped up to six furlongs for the Ladbroke Sprint Cup at Haydock. Despite being an odds-on shot, this looked to be a tougher test with a field that included the July Cup winner Royal Academy and the Prix Maurice de Gheest winner Dead Certain. Tactics remained the same and Dayjur stormed clear inside the final two furlongs. Royal Academy closed late on but never looked like catching the favourite. Carson said after the win: “I didn’t ask him to go flat out all the way. I was taking things a bit easy.”
Dayjur travelled to France in October for the Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp. Few opposed him on his final European start and he again dominated from the front. The only slight concern was a tendency to lose his action when encountering shadows across the track. Little was thought of the matter as he was prepared for his final contest in the Breeders’ Cup at Belmont Park.
That final contest proved to be one of the most dramatic. From a wide draw Dayjur was quickly sent to contest the lead, and for much of the race ran side by side with the American filly Safely Kept. The two fought out a thrilling battle down the home straight, and nearing the post Dayjur appeared to have gained the upper-hand. However with victory in his grasp he jumped a dark shadow cast over the track and a second at the line, handing victory to the filly.
Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktoum retired the colt to his Shadwell Racing farm in Kentucky. He died in September 2013, with Shadwell Vice President Rick Nichols saying of him: “Dayjur was one great racehorse giving all of us at Shadwell many great thrills. He was the cornerstone of our stallion operation, and he was a wonderful horse to be around. He will be deeply missed.”
This weekend’s Sprint Cup at Haydock may well see those famous silks carried to victory again. Adaay is fancied to build on his Hungerford Stakes success at this shorter trip. He won at the track back in May when impressive in the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes. Hamdan Al Maktoum has a handful of speed merchants under his ownership, including the summer’s leading sprinter Muhaarar. It would come as no surprise to see him take yet another coveted prize.