Andrew Balding was quick to give credit to Hoo Ya Mal’s owner after almost pulling off a 150-1 shock in the Cazoo Derby, chasing home impressive winner Desert Crown.
Victorious in a York maiden in August, he had been beaten in each of his previous three starts, and having been behind Nations Pride over 10 furlongs at Newmarket he clearly appreciated the stepping up to a mile and a half for the first time.
David Probert had a dream run aboard the son of Territories, to finish two and a half lengths behind Sir Michael Stoute’s unbeaten colt.
Balding took none of the credit, however, and said: “I have Ahmad Al Shaikh to thank entirely, because I didn’t want to run in the race but he insisted, and at the end of the day he made a very good argument that if the horse who was supplemented won it (Nations Pride), we’d think where would we have finished, so it was a great decision.
“The winner is a very good horse.”
Westover (25-1) was narrowly behind in third under Rob Hornby, who had to overcome a bad draw and found himself hemmed in on the rail coming round Tattenham Corner.
Winner of the Sandown Classic Trial, trainer Ralph Beckett feels the son of Frankel will compete in the Irish Derby and, further down the line, the final British Classic of the season.
Beckett said: “What a run! We were just a bit unlucky really. Just after the line he was second. Just the draw really. It is a tough gig to be there in stall one or two – the stats are against you. He got a good slot but he just couldn’t get out.
“I actually noticed the second came from behind him. I think we will go to Ireland and then the St Leger later on.
“He’s a cracking horse and he’s run a huge race, I’m thrilled with him. I think nothing went wrong except the gap was going quicker than he was at the time.
“The obvious thing now is to go for the Irish Derby on a big, galloping track. All of us would agree that if we can’t win it Sir Michael winning it gives us all great hope. I’m extremely glad to be here.”
Balding also saddled the fourth home, Masekela (66-1). Despite being beaten eight and a quarter lengths, the Feilden Stakes runner-up clearly benefited from the extra distance.
His jockey Andrea Atzeni said: “He had a great run. He ran to the line. Considering he was previously running over nine furlongs, we didn’t know if he would stay. He hit the line very strong and I felt it was a very promising run.”
Aidan O’Brien saw Changingofthegraurd finish ahead of better-fancied stablemate Stone Age, with the pair fifth and sixth respectively, while Dee Stakes winner Star Of India was disappointing back in 13th place.
O’Brien said: “They ran as they were. Stone Age travelled well and might not have got the trip. We don’t know – we will see. He travelled well into it but maybe it was a little bit too far.
“Changingoftheguard ran well. He keeps galloping. He is a solid horse that gallops well and he will stay further.
“Star Of India ran OK. The trip is a question mark as well. We’ll see. His brother only got a mile and quarter, so it is possible. It was an evenly-run race, you have to say. The winner won well and looked a really good horse, didn’t he?”
Adam Kirby, who won the Derby last year on the Charlie Appleby-trained Adayar, did not have the best of luck this time round in the same red cap, denoting Godolphin’s third string, but he still managed to finish the best of the Sheikh Mohammed runners on Nahanni, who was seventh.
“That is racing,” said Kirby. “He just went down on his nose as the gates opened and all of a sudden I was in a position I didn’t want to be in, but I couldn’t loop the field as no horse has ever done it and no horse ever will.
“I had to ride him for a bit of luck but he has finished his race off good and he has had a great run – can’t knock him at all. The winner was superb. Well done to Sir Michael and also excellent for Richard (Kingscote). I am really pleased for them both.”
William Buick suffered a luckless run aboard the Godolphin first-string Nations Pride, who finished 13 and a half lengths behind the winner in eighth, having been supplemented by connections at a cost of £75,000 on Monday.
Buick said: “I was in a pretty bad spot and it just didn’t happen for him.”
Though there were questions from many about the participation of the once-raced Stan Moore representative El Habeeb, who had finished fifth of six in a 10-furlong Listed race at Newmarket on debut last month and was sent off the rank outsider at 250-1. But he was a gallant 10th of the 17 runners.
His jockey John Egan said: “It was a cracking run – only the second time he has ever run and he is a big maiden baby.
“I rode him out the back and rode him to finish. If he’d had a couple of more runs, I could have been harder on him and sat him in the middle. He ran very well and he’ll be a St Leger horse.”
Royal Patronage carried the light blue Highclere Thoroughbred Racing colours after finishing runner-up to Desert Crown in the Dante Stakes at York.
However, the recent rain on watered ground was blamed as he trailed home in 16th for the training combination of Charlie and Mark Johnston.
Mark Johnston said: “We put it down to ground. Considering he had a bad draw, he (Jason Hart) got him in the perfect position.
“But he said he was never giving him a feel and from seven furlongs out he knew he was beaten. We will just find fast ground for him – which is getting more and more difficult these days. It is a total nonsense.”
Frankie Dettori, seeking a third Derby success, felt the Donnacha O’Brien-trained Piz Badile, who was 12th, would be better on a more conventional track.
The Italian simply said: “He never acted on the track.”