Johnny Murtagh once again proved that when he sends his runners over to Britain they warrant the closest inspection as Ottoman Emperor ground out victory in the John Pearce Racing Gordon Stakes at Goodwood.
Murtagh recently enjoyed his first Royal Ascot winner with Create Belief, having won the 2014 Ebor with Mutual Regard, and operates at a healthy strike-rate when he makes the short journey across the Irish Sea.
Unraced at two, Ottoman Emperor made his debut at Dundalk in May behind Sir Lamorak before winning a Cork maiden in April.
He then won a Gowran handicap before also being successful in a decent event at Navan – but this represented a steep step up in class against a number of rivals who had already run in Classics.
Sent off an 11-1 chance, Ben Coen was determined to keep his mount close to the pace and tracked Wordsworth before hitting the front over a furlong from home.
He took two lengths out of the field, although with 100 yards to run his stride began to shorten and the chasing pack closed in.
Sir Lucan and Frankie Dettori did best of those, getting to within half a length, but the line came in time for Coen. Derby fifth Third Realm was third, with Youth Spirit and Wordsworth also close up.
The winner was cut to 10-1 from 20s for the Cazoo St Leger by Betfair – and the Doncaster showpiece looks like being the target.
Murtagh said: “He did it the hard way – Ben said he was racing lazily the whole way, but he’s like that.
“He’s a little bit babyish, we don’t really know how good he is or how good he can be, coming to the top of the hill he (Coen) said he lost his balance a little bit and then he grabbed hold and really became strong.
“He got to the the front a bit soon, but he wasn’t stopping once the other horses got to him, he put his head down.
“One thing about him is he’s really genuine and really tough, I think he stays the distance really well.
“We were here to find out – is he a mile-and-a-half horse or can he stay a mile and six? I think he answered a lot of questions today.
“We’d love to give him a shot at the English St Leger next, it’s a very nice race and we’d love to have a live chance in it.”
The former multiple Classic-winning rider added: “This horse has stepped up from day one, I know he got beaten in his maiden, but he’s just kept improving physically and mentally I think he can improve a bit more.
“Today was a big ordeal, a big crowd and a bit of atmosphere, he’s never seen that before so he was a little bit on his toes.
“I think mentally he can still grow up a little bit and he could be a very nice staying horse this year and on into next year.”
Dettori said of Sir Lucan: “Aidan (O’Brien) said he might stick him in the Voltigeur and the Leger, that’s the plan.”
Roger Varian added of 5-2 favourite Third Realm: “He stayed on steadily and galloped all the way to the line. He’s a horse that might be better with more give in the ground than there was today.”