Golden Horn was undoubtedly the star at Longchamp, but he wasn’t the only success story as far as the Brits were concerned.
Hugo Palmer and connections of Covert Love formed arguably the most ecstatic group in the winners’ enclosure after the filly pulled off a gutsy victory in the Prix de l’Opera Longines. It was a second Group 1 for the classy filly, who came so close to making it three when edged out in the Yorkshire Oaks at York.
Needing a true end to end gallop, she was forced to cut out her own running, but the fractions were judged to perfection by one of the most talented jockey’s on the circuit. Pat Smullen is yet another that has had a season to remember, and though John Gosden’s Jazzi Top threatened to spoil the party, Smullen and his willing partner were not to be denied. In a pulsating finish, Covert Love got home by a neck.
A breathless Palmer spoke after the victory, saying: “I'm lost for words. My god, she tries. What a ride, what a jockey. Three times I thought she was done in the straight but she found, found, found. I can't say much more!” It’s been an incredible campaign for Palmer, and with juveniles of the standard of Galileo Gold and Hawksmoor in the yard, the future couldn’t look brighter.
Robert Cowell added further gloss to a terrific day for the Brits, when his high-class sprinter Goldream took the prestigious Qatar Prix de l’Abbaye. Another making it two Group 1s for the campaign, Cowell’s six-year-old has blossomed over the last two years, and with the ground in his favour is one of the best sprinters around.
Given a preferable draw, he was always up with the pace, and though the French colt Rangali swept to the front a furlong out, Martin Harley had just enough time to galvanise the winner to get up in the dying strides. It was another thrilling renewal, and yet another terrific performance from a man on top in a day of outstanding rides. Muthmir was back in third, unable to match the leading pairs acceleration in the final stages. He continues to run consistently well, though a Group 1 success so far eludes him.
For Cowell the result once again proved just how good he is at training speedsters. Based just outside Newmarket at Bottisham Heath Stud, he’s had several top-class sprinters through the yard in recent times.
Kingsgate Native may be heading towards the twilight of a sparkling career, and had already achieved plenty before coming under Cowell’s care, but he was expertly guided to a Group 2 Temple Stakes win at the age of eight, before finishing runner-up in the same race at the age of nine.
In 2013 it was Jwala flying the flag for the yard when completing a stunning victory in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York. She too ran a stunner in the Prix de l’Abbaye that season, finishing a close fourth behind Maarek. It was tragic that such a promising career was to be cut short when the filly died after a fall in the Hong Kong sprint.
Prohibit had proved the catalyst to Cowell’s spell as one of the leading trainers of sprinters. He had captured the stables first Group 1 during a stunning campaign in 2011. Fresh from a successful spell in Meydan, the son of Oasis Dream (very much a go-to sire for Cowell sprinters) came close to capturing a Group 3 at Longchamp before finishing third to Sole Power in the Temple Stakes. He then finished runner-up in a Group 2 at Chantilly, before getting up late in a star-studded King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. A success mirrored by stable companion Goldream this year.
On winning his first Group 1 an emotional Cowell had said: “I cannot believe this has just happened - has it happened? Has it really? I am just overwhelmed. I have got glasses on, so you won't notice that I am crying. This is the best day of my racing life without a shadow of a doubt. To train a Group 1 winner has always been a goal of mine.”
Like so many top-class trainers, it’s the grounding and experiences along the way that lay the very foundations to a successful career. On completion of his A-levels in Norfolk, Cowell immediately started work in Newmarket for trainer Gavin Pritchard-Gordon. Two seasons with David ‘The Duke’ Nicholson proved invaluable and this was followed by a spell in France under the guidance of John Hammond.
In 1992 he took a trip to America to gain further experience when assistant to Neil Drysdale. He was part of the team that saw A.P.Indy and Hollywood Wildcat win Breeders’ Cup races. After a brief spell in California it was time to return to England, and with a wealth of experiences under his belt and numerous willing owners prepared to get on-board, Cowell set about becoming a successful trainer on home turf.
After Sunday’s success Cowell said: “It's a big achievement to win two Group 1s in a year with a sprinter, as nothing normally goes right. But well done to Martin Harley, who got the horse on the line when it needed to be.” The trainer now plans to head to Meydan with Goldream, targeting two particular events for his six-year-old. “He'll go for a conditions race and then the Al Quoz Sprint on World Cup night,” Cowell added.
He’ll be hoping that a successful winter proves the perfect preparation for the yards latest sprinting star, before taking aim at the leading events back at home next summer.