Tag Archive for: David Egan

Eldar Eldarov battles to Queen’s Vase victory

Eldar Eldarov got up in the shadow of the post to prevail in a thrilling Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot.

A winner over a mile at Nottingham in October and a mile and a quarter at Newcastle last month, Roger Varian’s colt faced a big step up in class and distance for this one-mile-six-furlong Group Two.

The son of Dubawi was nearer last than first turning for home, but came from the clouds to seal the narrowest of victories in the hands of David Egan as the 5-2 favourite.

Al Qareem set a strong gallop in front for much of the way and was still in a clear lead at the top of the straight, but began to tire soon after and was passed by Zechariah and Colin Keane.

After seeing off Hafit, the 20-1 shot looked likely to prevail, but he was joined on the line by the fast-finishing Eldar Eldarov and after a tense wait for connections the judge confirmed the latter had won the day by a nose.

Varian said: “I wasn’t sure. I thought we were a good winner before the line and a good winner after the line, but we got the bob wrong, which sometimes can go against you.

“We’ve got the give the second credit, he ran a great race, we’re all elated and he was on the wrong side of a tight photograph so I feel for the second.

“I’m delighted for this horse and these connections, they’re supporting the industry very strongly, they’re supporting me. Days like this are very special to all of us and to get the horse home in front with a lot of expectation is always satisfying.

“The Irish Derby came too soon, he didn’t thrive in the spring. We had a chat about him in the winter, he won at Nottingham in a similar style to the Derby winner won at Nottingham – those end of October maidens. Look at the horses that come out of them, Golden Horn, this year’s Derby winner (Desert Crown).

“We won nicely so of course you’re excited about him, hoping you can get to a Derby trial, which we couldn’t do with him. When he went to Newcastle we thought, ‘if we’re going to Ascot we’ve got to run’, but he was only 90 per cent. He had to run to get a run under his belt, that was a strong novice.

“Then we were unsure, King Edward or the Vase, the ground we were unsure about as well. I thought on fast ground that he looks a horse laden with stamina, let’s go the distance, jump out and ride him to get home. He got every inch and David said he couldn’t pull him up.

“Who knows what the future holds in terms of trip, but he obviously stays very well. I’m delighted, there’s a lot to come from this horse, I think his best days are ahead of him.”

Betfair and Paddy Power slashed the winner in price to 6-1 for the St Leger, which could well be on the radar.

Varian said: “I think he is only going to improve, he is a late-maturing horse. He put in one hell of a performance and you would think looking down the road, he could develop into a St Leger horse and even looking to next year hopefully he can keep improving.”

David Egan celebrates
David Egan celebrates (David Davies/PA)

Egan said: “He was really, really good. I thought he’d won, it’s great for connections to have a Royal Ascot winner.

“He’s a tough horse who I think will be even better with a bit of ease in the ground. It’s riding very quick and we weren’t sure if he was going to go on the ground, he did but there’s a lot more to come from this horse, for sure.

“He’s a true stayer and to do it at Royal Ascot shows his class.”

Zechariah is trained by the father and son team of Martyn and Freddie Meade, who took the narrow reverse on the chin.

“It is always a nod, isn’t it? Can you believe it. One mile six, you think, ‘crikey, you don’t need to lose by that much do you, really?’, but that is racing for you,” said Meade senior.

Zechaarah (left) did almost everything right
Zechaarah (left) did almost everything right (David Davies/PA)

“We thought we’d got it for a minute, but you can’t really tell. We were sort of in the stands and were sort of too far away to really tell. Looking at the photo, it was a difficult one to call, I would have thought.

“A dead-heat would have been a better result. We have been waiting to run him over this sort of distance and he has been building up to it. Of course, the betting didn’t show that, but we really had a lot of faith in him and it could have been well-placed at one stage.

“Obviously today was a bit of an experiment to make sure our judgement was right that he would get the one mile six, and clearly that has been shown now and so that opens up a lot more opportunities.

“He could be a cup horse in time. We ran him at Lingfield and he didn’t really cope with that in the (Derby) trial and that just wasn’t really right for him.

“We thought this would be a nice flat track, which would suit him and it did. He ran lovely apart from the result.”

Martyn Meade was proud of the performance of  Zechariah in defeat
Martyn Meade was proud of the performance ofZechariah in defeat (Nigel French/PA)

Part owned by Aquis Farm, connections may think about running him in Australia in future.

Meade added: “That is always on the cards with people like Aquis, but they have their horses with us to run here, so that is actually not a thing. He might do better over there and we will have to see, but he certainly has got it (trip) and he saw it out well.

“He has been out in front for quite a bit of time and had he had a bit of company then that would undoubtedly have helped him. The St Leger could be something to think about. We’ll see.”

Egan upbeat on chance of first British Classic victory with Eydon

David Egan insists Eydon can make good use of his stamina and put it up to Native Trail in Saturday’s Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

The 22-year-old jockey, unquestionably one of the rising stars of the sport, is no stranger to the biggest stage, having won the world’s most valuable race aboard Mishriff in the $20million Saudi Cup last year.

Now he seeks his first British Classic with the Roger Varian-trained Feilden Stakes winner Eydon.

The Prince Faisal-owned Eydon made his racecourse debut on the all-weather at Newcastle in December and was beaten three-quarters of a length in a mile novice event.

Having been short-headed on his next outing over the same course and distance, he went into the Feilden at Newmarket as a 22-1 outsider – but relished his first run on turf and powered up the Rowley Mile for a three-and-a-quarter-length success over dual winner Masekela.

His sire, Olden Times, also won a Feilden as a maiden for the late John Dunlop and having successfully followed in his footsteps on the same Rowley Mile course over a furlong further than he will encounter this time, Egan hopes Eydon’s stamina will come into play.

“It was Prince Faisal’s decision to step him up,” said Egan.

“Obviously he had been beaten twice on the all-weather at Newcastle and finished behind some nice horses, but it was a brave decision to step him up in company, and he took it well within his stride and won it decisively.

“His pedigree has a lot of stamina in it. Prince Faisal knows the family, as he had the father and bred the horse himself.

“Going into the Feilden, the Prince was telling me how much confidence he has about his stamina.

“Dropping back to a mile (in the Guineas), stamina is going to play to our strengths and what also will probably play to our strengths is how well he travelled into the Feilden Stakes off a slowly-run pace.”

Eydon is berthed in stall 10 of the 15 runners in the colts’ Classic, but neither the draw or the likely quicker ground worries the rider.

Eydon was an impressive winner of the Feilden Stake
Eydon was an impressive winner of the Feilden Stakes (Tim Goode/PA)

He added: “They are going to go a lot faster, but I’m happy with the draw. As long as you are not out on the wing, any draw is good, because you have so many good horses in the race.

“Coroebus, Luxembourg and Perfect Power are drawn one, four and three respectively.

“They are three very strong, competitive horses. I’m sure it will be a strongly-run event as it is normally in every Guineas. We will have a plan in place before we go out and hopefully he is good enough to take the step up in grade.”

On official ratings, Eydon has some 13lb to find with unbeaten favourite Native Trail, who is the one they all have to beat according to Egan.

“You could say the top four are four top-class two-year-olds,” he added.

“Obviously Coroebus hasn’t run this year and Native Trail is still borderline odds-on. It just shows the authority Native Trail has and how much regard he is held in by his supporters.

“He has a lot of track experience and any test that has been thrown at him, he just takes it in his stride and does everything with such ease. So obviously he is the horse to beat, but there are four unbeaten horses going into the Guineas, which is not something you see very often.”

David Egan seeks a first British Classic with Eydon
David Egan seeks a first British Classic with Eydon (Tim Goode/PA)

With Newmarket officials continuing to water after another dry week, the ground is set to be on the quicker side of good, but Egan is not making any excuses on that score.

“Eydon is a very good mover and physically he is a very strong horse,” he said.

“As they say, good horses go in any ground. It was on the quick side of good when he won the Fielden Stakes and probably was not as quick as he is going to find this time.

“There hasn’t been much rain recently at Newmarket, but he is a very good-moving horse and I wouldn’t be worried about what the ground was.”

:: The Qipco 2000 Guineas is the start of this year’s Qipco British Champions Series. For more info go to britishchampionsseries.com.

Ameynah stakes Classic claim with Newmarket victory

Roger Varian is not ruling out a tilt at the Qipco 1000 Guineas with Ameynah after she impressed in the opening race at Newmarket on Wednesday.

Runner-up over the course and distance in October, the daughter of Exceed And Excel was an even-money favourite to go one better on her return to action in the Rossdales Maiden Fillies’ Stakes.

Always travelling well in the hands of David Egan, Ameynah readily kicked almost four lengths clear in the last of seven furlongs, prompting Paddy Power to cut her Guineas odds to 25-1 from 50-1.

Varian is keen to let the dust settle on her victory before deciding on her participation in the first fillies’ Classic of the season, however.

He said: “She ran really well here on her debut. She was crowded in a big field and backed off, but really finished her race off well.

“She’s a filly we hold in quite high regard so it’s nice to see her come to the races and put in a performance like that.

“I don’t think I’ll rule it (1000 Guineas) out. We like her and she has won nicely, but it is only a maiden. We’re in a nice position where we can watch the trials this week.

“She’s a big filly with loads of scope. If she could have got out three weeks ago on the all-weather, we maybe could have come here for a Nell Gwyn, but we didn’t so she was only ready to run this week.

“We’ll see how she comes out of the race and how she works over the next couple of weeks. She’s hopefully got an exciting season ahead of her and where she’ll go next, we’ll give it some thought.”

New London (left) on his way to victory
New London (left) on his way to victory (Tim Goode/PA)

New London emerged as another potential Classic contender for Charlie Appleby after notching a second course win in the bet365 British EBF “Confined” Novice Stakes.

The 6-4 shot and William Buick got the better of another previous Godolphin-owned winner in Aldous Huxley (11-10 favourite) by two and a quarter lengths – teeing him up for a possible Derby trial.

Appleby said: “I loved the way he hit the rising ground and went away in the end.

“He’s a lazy horse at home and I was sort of sitting on the fence about what he might do this afternoon, which is why we brought him here instead of going straight into a Derby trial.

“He’ll go into a Derby trial now, but I didn’t want to dive straight into one as on home evidence he’s still a big baby and I thought it might be too much too soon.

“We’ll probably send him to Lingfield. He’s a nice horse, but he’s still very much learning on the job, so going to Lingfield will be good for him, even if he gets beat.”

Tranquil Night (3-1 favourite) made it a hat-trick on the day for Appleby and Buick in the closing Best Odds Guaranteed At bet365 Handicap. The pair also struck with Native Trail in the Craven Stakes.

Francesco Clemente and Frankie Dettori lead the way
Francesco Clemente and Frankie Dettori lead the way (Tim Goode/PA)

Francesco Clemente created a big impression in the bet365 Wood Ditton Maiden Stakes.

A field of 13 unraced juveniles went to post and John and Thady Gosden’s 3-1 shot was much the best – putting 15-8 favourite Secret State in his place by two and a quarter lengths under Frankie Dettori.

Kiteflyer, trained by Sir Michael Stoute for The Queen, was just a nose further behind in third.

“He’d done plenty of changing over the winter – he’s grown a lot and lengthened a bit,” Thady Gosden said of the winner.

“He’s a Dubawi with plenty of scope. He was obviously very green in the race and got a bump out the gates which didn’t help, but he enjoyed the ground and picked up nicely.

“This is always a competitive race and he’ll come on for it and is still learning plenty. This was the first run of his life, so it’s probably best to take the sensible route and find a novice for him somewhere, rather than chucking him straight in at the deep end.”

Anadora (left) in the hands of Neil Callan
Anadora (left) in the hands of Neil Callan (Tim Goode/PA)

Kevin Ryan and Neil Callan teamed up to land the bet365 Handicap with 25-1 shot Anadora.

Ryan said: “She’s a filly we liked a lot last year, she’s very genuine and has done well over the winter.

“Neil said when he got on her she felt like a colt, which is always a good sign, and she gets the stiff six furlongs well.

“She puts a lot into her races, so we’ll get her nice and fresh again and see what the handicapper does. Eventually you’d be hoping she could pick up some black type somewhere.”

Egan relishing Saudi Cup defence with Mishriff

David Egan has hailed Mishriff as “the perfect racehorse” ahead of his defence of the Saudi Cup.

John and Thady Gosden’s money-spinner will take his career earnings higher than any other horse in history should he win the newly anointed Group One in Riyadh on Saturday.

Having shown great versatility, winning over a variety of trips on turf and on dirt, Mishriff has proven himself unique among the world’s best.

“The horse is in good shape again, he’s fit and healthy and he’s got all guns blazing, I suppose,” said Egan.

“He’s a credit to Team Gosden and everyone at Clarehaven, mentally he must be so strong. He’s a credit to himself as well, to do it on any surface and any trip is quite astonishing really.

“It was a feather in his cap having run well in the (Saudi) Derby out here the year before last and now he’s run well here twice, whereas some will be coming out here for the first time and running on this sort of surface for the first time.

“He’s had a similar prep in the UK, he travels well and takes it all in his stride so I hope things go nice and smoothly into the race.”

He went on: “Mishriff won’t feel the pressure, this is his usual trip in February and he’s getting used to it now. My form study will start when the draw happens.

“He’s a lot more professional in his races now. As a three-year-old he would jump slow and took an age to get going. He was just immature, but racing and developing with age has helped turn him into the perfect racehorse.

“Last year everyone had their eyes on Knicks Go and Charlatan, it’s more of an open race this year there’s half a dozen who could win.

“Mishriff has proved he’s the horse to beat with track experience and leads the way, I suppose.”

Mishriff embellishes glittering CV with emphatic York display

John Gosden hailed Mishriff’s versatility as the four-year-old provided him with a second Juddmonte International in four years on the Knavesmire.

In arguably the premier 10-furlong contest in Europe, Gosden’s Roaring Lion announced himself as the pre-eminent colt around at York when following up his 2018 Eclipse win, before cementing his status in the Irish Champion and then successfully reverting to a mile in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Ascot’s British Champions Day.

Mishriff did not have as much to prove. But there was one glaring omission on his CV – and that was a Group One on home soil.

Having won the French Derby last year, he had a Classic in the bag – and he then beat the best America had to offer in the Saudi Cup on dirt in February, adding to his overseas record by winning the Sheema Classic in Dubai.

The one box he had left to tick was a showpiece race in England, and defeats in the Eclipse and King George had the naysayers wagging fingers.

While ante-post favourite St Mark’s Basilica was missing, Aidan O’Brien could still field Love; there was Andrew Balding’s multiple Group One winner Alcohol Free stepping up in trip, and William Haggas had two live players in Mohaafeth and Alenquer – but none had an answer to the six-length winner.

“I’m delighted. It’s strange that because of lockdown last year he had this truncated season,” said joint trainer Gosden.

“He won at Newmarket in June, won the French Derby, won at Deauville and then got stuck in a bog at Ascot.

Mishriff and David Egan were impressive winners of the Juddmonte International Stakes at York
Mishriff and David Egan were impressive winners of the Juddmonte International Stakes at York (Nigel French/PA)

“So then we had a holiday and went back to a winter campaign, which was absolutely brilliant – winning in Saudi, where he beat the American dirt horses, and then the Sheema Classic, beating the Japanese mares in Dubai.

“He then had another break before we went for the Eclipse – and while he wasn’t short of work, he was just a bit fresh and heavy, which meant he blew up with a furlong to go, having cruised into contention.

“He ran a blinder last time in the King George. But the mile and a half of Ascot was too great a demand on his stamina up that hill – and it was a very good race. The Derby winner was getting 11lb.

“But he’s come here today, over a mile and a quarter on good ground – that’s his game. He’s versatile, but this is probably his best distance – and arguably perfect ground on the Knavesmire is right up his street.”

All the top races over 10 furlongs and a mile and a half worldwide are in the mix for Mishriff – but not the Irish Champion Stakes, which Gosden feels would hamper his preparation for autumn targets.

“I want to give him another break now, because there are races deep into the autumn if he’s in good order – namely the Arc or the Champion Stakes – ground dependent as I wouldn’t run him if it was deep,” said Gosden.

“Then you have Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup) over a mile and a half (Turf) and then there’s the Japan Cup – so we’ll be looking in those directions. I don’t want to just keep going; I want to freshen him up.

“The problem with the (Breeders’ Cup) Classic this year at Del Mar is the short straight. I know Del Mar well – it’s virtually the shortest straight in America for a Grade One track.

“If you notice with his racing style he kills them in a long straight – it was the stretch that won it for him in Saudi. He’d like a Belmont stretch, not a Del Mar stretch!”

David Egan gets his hands on the Juddmonte International trophy
David Egan gets his hands on the Juddmonte International trophy (Nigel French/PA)

For David Egan, who briefly lost the ride on Mishriff to Frankie Dettori despite being retained by owner Prince Faisal, this is the highlight of a career admittedly still in its early throes.

“To do what he has done is phenomenal. He’s a horse to be reckoned with now,” said Egan.

“This horse means everything to me. He’s going to make my career, hopefully.

“I’m just so thrilled for the horse to be able to do it on UK soil. He’s proved he can do it elsewhere. Some people had doubts he could do it here. I’ve won the lottery, literally.

“This is my best day at the race track. The money doesn’t matter – it’s all about the horse. Hopefully, there’s more to come.”

Mishriff dazzles with impressive International verdict

Mishriff landed his first domestic Group One triumph with a brilliant performance in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York.

Winner of over £10.5million in prize money, mainly due to his wins in the Saudi Cup and the Dubai Sheema Classic, the John and Thady Gosden-trained four-year-old added another £567,000 to the kitty with a blistering six-length success in the extended 10-furlong showpiece.

Mishriff left the opposition standing in the closing stages under a confident ride by David Egan to execute a long-term plan by connections.

Alenquer was smartly away but Mac Swiney took up the running once the field settled down with Love third and Mishriff just behind.

There was little change in the order until the long straight where Mishriff (9-4 favourite) cruised into contention.

Once let down by Egan, the Prince Faisal-owned colt drew away, scoring impressively from Alenquer. Love was half a length adrift in third.

Mishriff had previously finished third in the Eclipse at Sandown and second in the King George at Ascot, but John Gosden felt the colt had his optimum conditions on the Knavesmire.

Mishriff comes home well clear at York
Mishriff comes home well clear at York (Nigel French/PA)

He said: “His first run back, he’d been freshened since his winter campaign and he was a little full of himself and got tired, blew up if you like, in the last furlong. He ran a great race in the King George, probably stretching his stamina in that race, but it was a lovely race.

“This is his ground, good ground, and I think a mile and a quarter is perfect for him.

“He’s had this strange year where he raced in a truncated season last year, then he raced in the winter and we gave him a holiday, now he’s run in the middle of summer.

“If I’m going to go deep into the autumn, I’ve got to take a pull with him, freshen him again through September, then you could look at either the Arc or the Champion Stakes and then you have races like the Breeders’ Cup and the Japan Cup.

“He’s having to run in sort of segments with holidays in between.”

The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is contested over 12 furlongs, like the King George, but Gosden thinks the ParisLongchamp track presents less of a stamina test.

He said: “It’s an easier mile and a half than Ascot. The stiff uphill from Swinley Bottom caught him out stamina-wise, but I don’t want to see him running in deep, heavy ground.

“I think he’s right up there (with the best I’ve trained). To win over a mile and a furlong on the dirt (in the Saudi Cup) and beat the Americans and then come here and do this, he’s a super horse.

“He won a Sheema Classic against a Japanese champion, he’s phenomenal. He’s versatile, but this is probably his best distance and arguably perfect ground on the Knavesmire, right up his street.”

David Egan with the trophy at York
David Egan with the trophy at York (Nigel French/PA)

Egan said: “I had it in the back of my mind how well he stays a mile and a quarter on a flat track. Getting him in a nice rhythm and relaxed was the key today.

“He did everything perfectly. We were in the exact spot – it couldn’t have gone better. I wasn’t sure how far clear I was at the line. He’s a true champion and he’s only getting better this season.

“I was going so comfortably three out. I had it in my mind I didn’t want to quicken too far out, but he was going so easy he took me to the front.

“To do what he has done is phenomenal. He’s a horse to be reckoned with now.

“This horse means everything to me. He’s going to make my career, hopefully.

“I’m just so thrilled for the horse to be able to do it on UK soil. He’s proved he can do it elsewhere. Some people had doubts he could do it here. I’ve won the lottery, literally.

“This is my best day at the race track. The money doesn’t matter – it’s all about the horse. Hopefully, there’s more to come.”

Alenquer was a distant second
Alenquer was a distant second (Nigel French//PA)

William Haggas was pleased with Alenquer’s effort, but expects his charge to move back up in distance now.

He said: “Alenquer ran a very good race. He stayed on and wants further, but you can’t criticise a run like that in a Group One race.

“He’s a very nice, straightforward three-year-old who should develop into a very nice, straightforward four-year-old I hope.

“I suspect we’ll go back up to a mile and a half, but we’ll talk to the owner and see where we go.

“I don’t know, but I suspect the Arc will be well in the mix.”

Mohaafeth is likely to drop back to a mile now
Mohaafeth is likely to drop back to a mile now (David Davies/PA)

Of fourth-placed Mohaafeth, the trainer added: “I was pleased with him, too. To me, it looked like he didn’t get home.

“It looked like he was going to be second and was weak in the last furlong, so I definitely think we ought to explore dropping him back to a mile. We’ll see.

“I’ve no doubt Mishriff will go for the Champion Stakes, and we’ve got Addeybb who will be on the battlefield for that if the ground is soft.”

Egan respectful of International task for Mishriff despite Basilica absence

David Egan is taking nothing for granted ahead of Mishriff’s bid for further big-race honours in the Juddmonte International, despite the withdrawal of his chief rival St Mark’s Basilica.

Having completed a huge global double with victories in the Saudi Cup and the Dubai Sheema Classic earlier in the year, Mishriff returned from a break to finish third behind St Mark’s Basilica in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown in early July.

A mouthwatering rematch was scheduled to take place in the another Qipco British Champions Series contest at York on Wednesday, but Aidan O’Brien announced on Monday morning that St Mark’s Basilica would miss out after suffering a minor setback.

Reacting to the news on a press call, Egan said: “St Mark’s Basilica has been outstanding this season. It’s unfortunate what’s happened – nobody wants that. We want the best horses going for these big races.

“One horse isn’t going to make a horse race. Even without St Mark’s Basilica, it’s still a very strong field and we have a lot of good opposition to take on.”

In St Mark’s Basilica’s absence, O’Brien will rely on Love in the feature event on the opening day of York’s Ebor Festival.

Mishriff had the dual Classic-winning filly almost two lengths behind him when the pair finished second and third respectively in the King George at Ascot three and half weeks ago, but Egan still has huge respect for last year’s 1000 Guineas and Oaks heroine.

Love winning last year's Yorkshire Oaks
Love winning last year’s Yorkshire Oaks (David Davies/PA)

“Love is a very special filly. Although she did finish third last time, her previous form is not to be overlooked,” Egan continued.

“She was an unbelievable filly at three and looked like a real superstar and I still think she is.

“She was a great winner at Royal Ascot. She possibly underperformed in the King George and we have to give a weight allowance to a filly that’s very, very good, which is not going to be easy.

“We saw with Enable how strong these top-class fillies can be against the colts.

“Love is definitely going to bounce back and give us a good race.”

Further strength in depth is added by a clutch of quality three-year-olds, with Egan particularly interested to see how Andrew Balding’s Coronation Stakes and Sussex Stakes winner Alcohol Free fares on her first start over a mile and a quarter.

He said: “I think the most exciting horse to look at from a spectator’s point of view would be Alcohol Free. She’s stepping up to see if she does stay the trip.

“There were a lot of questions about whether she’d stay the mile, but she went to Royal Ascot and proved she did. The camp there are taking a gamble to see if she stays another two furlongs. It will be exciting to see if she does.”

While wary of the threat posed by several of his rivals, the talented rider has plenty of confidence that Mishriff can provide him with a first Group One success in Europe.

“Everything has gone smoothly – his preparation has been good,” he added.

“I was really pleased with how he progressed from the Eclipse to the King George. I thought the King George run was a fantastic run, finishing behind an absolute monster in Adayar, giving him so much weight.

“We don’t need to give the three-year-olds as much weight in the Juddmonte and I think dropping my lad back to a mile and a quarter will only play to his strengths.

“If Mishriff can improve as much as he did from the Eclipse to the King George, he’s going to be hard to beat.”

Tis Marvellous again in Shergar Cup Dash

Tis Marvellous got the Rest of the World team and Danish jockey Kevin Stott off to a flying start with a narrow victory in the opening race of the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot.

The Clive Cox-trained gelding was a 9-2 joint-favourite to record a second win in the five-furlong Shergar Cup Dash, having struck gold for Hollie Doyle and the Ladies Team in 2018.

After tracking the pace-setting King Of Stars for much of the race on the far side of the track, Tis Marvellous moved powerfully to the lead inside the final two furlongs and briefly looked set to score decisively.

However, both 6-1 shot Desert Safari and the other joint-favourite Magical Spirit flashed home in the group that raced nearer the stands side, and there was little to choose between the trio passing the post.

After a brief wait, the judge confirmed Tis Marvellous had held on by a short head from Desert Safari, with Magical Spirit the same distance further away in third.

Stott said: “I thought I would try to get a nice lead and see if he (King Of Stars) could take me there, and he took me the furthest.

“I sat on him as long as possible. He’s a gentleman of a horse who made my job easy on that nice, soft ground.”

Cox was delighted to saddle a winner, saying: “We’ve been lucky at this meeting, many times. It’s a fun day, and as long as the owners are behind and enjoy it, that’s what it is all about. It’s good prize-money – what’s not to like?”

Just Hubert and Nicola Currie after winning at Ascot
Just Hubert and Nicola Currie after winning at Ascot (Steven Paston/PA)

Just Hubert led home a one-two for the Ladies Team in the Shergar Cup Stayers.

Ridden by Nicola Currie, 11-1 shot Just Hubert raced on the pace throughout the two-mile contest.

The five-year-old was strongly pressed in the final furlong by the hat-trick seeking Call My Bluff – on whom Currie’s French team-mate Mickaelle Michel was closing all the time, but William Muir and Chris Grassick’s charge clung on by a short head.

“I decided to try to make it into a test of stamina from the turn for home, and throughout the race the more I tried to take a pull the quicker he went,” said Currie.

“There’s a great buzz in the weighing room, and everyone is right behind it.”

Currie came close to completing a double in the following Shergar Cup Challenge, but was narrowly denied by Ireland’s David Egan and 18-1 shot Graphite.

Terry Kent’s grey went by the Currie-ridden HMS President – but the latter fought back admirably, and there was just a head between the pair at the line.

Egan said: “I’m pleased for the fact we needed the points, but just as much for Terry Kent. He was assistant to Roger Varian, who I’ve ridden for for a long time.

“As a boy, I grew up watching the big overseas jockeys ride in the Shergar Cup. My horse was very brave, and it means a lot to me.

“Looking up at the crowds there, it’s fantastic to see. Ascot, although it’s about great horses, it’s also about the great crowds, and at least we’ve got them back.”

Dashing Roger in the Ascot winner's enclosure
Dashing Roger in the Ascot winner’s enclosure (Steven Paston/PA)

Shergar Cup debutant Cieren Fallon claimed a first winner on the afternoon for Britain in the Mile, with Dashing Roger coming out on top.

Fallon, whose father Kieren won the Alistair Haggis Silver Saddle as the event’s leading rider in 2003 and was on the winning team in 2001 and 2002, drove William Stone’s 5-1 chance to a one-and-three-quarter-length success over Young Fire.

“I was on the best horse in the race,” he said.

“He broke well and gained a comfortable position – and when I gave him a squeeze he really picked up, putting the race to bed in a matter of strides.

“He was off a low mark at the start of the year, and hasn’t stopped improving.

“It’s good that David and I have each ridden a winner, because we go back a long way.”

State Of Bliss and Nicola Currie at the Shergar Cup
State Of Bliss and Nicola Currie at the Shergar Cup (Steven Paston/PA)

Currie notched her second winner aboard State Of Bliss in the Shergar Cup Classic, a victory which confirmed she would take the Alistair Haggis “Silver Saddle” Trophy as the day’s leading rider.

Star Caliber led his rivals a merry dance for much of the race, but was beginning to tire inside the final two furlongs and ultimately faded.

Mark Johnston’s 9-2 shot State Of Bliss stayed on best under the Currie drive to prevail by three and three-quarter lengths, with his stablemate Annandale beating 100-30 favourite Star Caliber to the runner-up spot.

Currie said: “It’s been a fantastic day, and this horse is a typical Johnston straightforward ride

“They went a really hard gallop, and my job was to fill him up because I knew he would keep finding. I wanted to get him rolling, and he got better and better as the race developed.”

The Irish team dominated in the concluding Shergar Cup Sprint, with team captain Joe Fanning and Mitrosonfire (17-2) pipping Crazy Luck and team-mate Tadhg O’Shea to top honours.

The victory completed a double on the day for the Muir-Grassick training combination, while Currie’s third place aboard Royal Scimitar confirmed the Ladies team as the overall winners of the Shergar Cup.

Fanning said: “I had to come from further back than I wanted, but he kept going for me.”

Egan looking forward to Juddmonte assignment with Mishriff

David Egan is relishing the prospect of a rematch between Mishriff and St Mark’s Basilica in the Juddmonte International at York on August 18.

Egan was aboard when the pair met in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown in July, where Aidan O’Brien’s French 2000 Guineas and Derby winner came out on top in impressive fashion, with Mishriff edged for second by Addeybb.

St Mark’s Basilica was in receipt of 10lb that day – and the John and Thady Gosden-trained Mishriff again had to concede weight when clashing with Derby hero Adayar in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on his latest run.

Beaten just under two lengths over a mile and a half, Egan was pleased with the run but expects Mishriff to be better suited by returning to 10 furlongs on the Knavesmire, with the three-year-old allowance reduced to 7lb, too.

He said: “I think the plan is the Juddmonte, dropping back to a mile and a quarter should play to his strengths.

“I thought he ran a fantastic race over a stiff mile and a half at Ascot, but probably just got outstayed by a horse giving him 11lb.

“Obviously we probably won’t be taking on the Derby winner in the Juddmonte, but maybe we might take him on again later in the year.

“It’s an exciting feeling, we’ll probably have to take on St Mark’s Basilica. Mishriff was a little bit ring-rusty the first day at Sandown, so it would be nice to have a go at him again.”

Mishriff struck Group One gold over 12 furlongs in the Dubai Sheema Classic earlier in the year, adding his huge haul in the Saudi Cup previously, and Egan hailed the Make Believe colt’s adaptability.

He added: “He’s such a versatile horse. Over the mile and a half you have to ride a bit more of a race on him to make sure he relaxes and settles early because he has got a good turn of foot. He showed that turning into the straight at Ascot, he loomed up on the outside looking like he was going to win the race.

“He’s a very versatile horse with a lot of attributes that a Group One horse like him needs.”

Dash delight for Williams and Egan with Mokaatil

Mokaatil was a surprise 25-1 winner of the World Pool “Dash” Handicap for trainer Ian Williams and jockey David Egan.

The five-furlong contest was as fast and furious as ever, with Son And Sannie blazing the early trail down the middle of the track before his stride just started to shorten reaching the final furlong.

Mokaatil was just hitting top gear at that point and once he assumed the lead, he stretched right out to win by a length and a half.

Only Spoofing took second, with Stone Of Destiny third.

Egan said: “It’s a lovely way to break the duck. It’s my first Dash, so it’s brilliant.

“It’s been a little while coming. I’ve been riding here since I was a 7lb claimer without managing to come home in front, so hopefully they’ll come like London buses from now on!

“He’s a horse that’s been running over six and seven furlongs. He was able to jump the gates well and get a position without me having to put him under too much pressure for the first half of the race. He went way past the line and he’d have no trouble going back up to six.”

Williams admitted he was not certain the Epsom five furlongs would suit his charge, who has also won over six in the past.

He said: “It was a bold move really and we weren’t sure we’d done the right thing, but when the rain came that was going to help him a bit and he’s put up probably a career-best performance, which was great.

“The gentlemen that own him enjoy their racing and we spoke today about coming here and enjoying the moment, see how we go, and they’ve walked away with the winner of the Dash. It’s fantastic, we’re all happy.”

He added: “David did a very good job of getting an early position, he kept him in the race when he could have been taken off his feet and, to be fair, he finished very strongly, like a horse who does stay a bit further.

“I just thought if we were running over this sort of trip, he’s going to want every bit of help he can, he’s not going to be pulling too hard so (the blinkers) worked a treat today.”

“I’d love to say this has been in the book for the last six months and it’s a big plan, but I think we’ve been very fortunate with the way the race has been run and he’s run very well, so we’ll take him home and see what we do next – and what the handicapper does next.”

Williams and Egan made it a sprint double as Ejtilaab landed the closing Cazoo Handicap over six furlongs.

Sent off the 3-1 favourite, the five-year-old fended grabbed the lead in the shadow of the post to beat Muscika a neck, on a day that also saw Egan partner 50-1 shot Mojo Star to second place in the Cazoo Derby.

Williams said: “It was a smart enough display. A friend of a friend said run this horse over six as he will really enjoy it.

“They went very hard up front and I was confident from about two out that he would pick them up as you knew he would stay.

“It is a tough race to win this race. It is a bit strange this ground today and I don’t know how the form will hold up, but you can do no more than win.

“There is the Stewards’ Cup, but I was thinking more of an Ayr Gold Cup for him as he will get his ground and it will be a test of stamina with a horse that can hold a position early on.

“I’m used to winning three-mile chases around Newton Abbot on a Saturday and I’ve now won two races on Derby day, which is something else and quite exceptional.”

Third Realm states Derby case with impressive Lingfield verdict

Third Realm threw his hat into the ring for next month’s premier Classic at Epsom with an impressive display in the Novibet Derby Trial at Lingfield.

Fourth on his sole juvenile appearance at Kempton in November, the son of Derby hero Sea The Stars made a successful reappearance at Nottingham last month to earn himself this step up to Listed class.

Ridden with restraint for much of the near mile-and-a-half journey by David Egan, the 14-1 shot was switched wide to mount his challenge rounding the home turn and quickly reeled in the leaders to grab the advantage.

The giant 6-5 favourite Adayar did his best to close the gap, but Egan always looked in control in front and Third Realm was ultimately good value for the winning margin of a length and a quarter.

Varian said: “It goes without saying we’re delighted with that performance today.

“We thought he’d run well. It’s the nature of the business that you’re cautiously optimistic when you’re going from a maiden to a recognised trial, but it isn’t a surprise – he’s a colt we think a lot of.

“He won nicely at Nottingham. I was worried about the ground, to be honest, but I thought if he handled conditions he’d be well up to running a nice race.”

Paddy Power reacted to the victory by cutting the winner to 10-1 from 100-1 for the Cazoo Derby at Epsom on June 5.

Varian added: “I’ve yet to speak with the owner (Sheikh Mohammed Obaid), so we’ll not set anything in stone just yet and most importantly we need to see how the horse comes out of today’s race.

“He ticks a lot of the boxes (for Epsom) in that he’s won a recognised trial, it looks like he’ll get the trip and he’s won on good to firm ground at Nottingham and in pretty testing conditions today.

“He’s a neat, well balanced colt who ought to handle the undulations of Epsom.”

Magical Mishriff digs deep in Sheema Classic

Mishriff delivered another brilliant performance to win the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan.

John Gosden’s colt, already a winner of the world’s richest race in the Saudi Cup at Riyadh last month, displayed versatility as well as the highest class by switching back to turf here and winning on his first attempt at a mile and a half.

Mishriff had to do it the hard way too, challenging down the outside after being last of the nine-strong field exiting the back straight, and then proving his stamina as well as his acceleration to hold off two Japanese challengers Chrono Genesis and Loves Only You in a driving finish.

For Gosden, and son Thady who now shares their British trainer’s licence, it was a second big win in under an hour on the Dubai World Cup card – following Lord North’s success in the Turf.

Mishriff, who won at 4-1, had a neck to spare from Chrono Genesis at the line, with Loves Only You and Oisin Murphy another neck back in third.

Gosden junior was quick to pay tribute to winning rider David Egan.

He said: “They were two absolutely flawless rides (here and Saudi) from David – brilliant.

“It sounds sycophantic when you’re sitting next to him. But he obviously made a decision, when he didn’t break as well from that draw, to drop him in. You have to have a pretty cool head to be able to do that in that race.

“Over a mile and a half for the first time, if you try to send him to the lead to get him up there, there’s a pretty significant risk you’re going to end up setting him alight – and the race would be over before it really started.

“So David obviously made the correct decision to drop him in and switch him off and strike when he did.

“He’s a very versatile horse, and a brilliant and tough horse as well – and he definitely wasn’t for beating today.

“We’ll take him home and see how he is, and he’ll tell us what he’d like to do in the very near future.”

Put to him that the yard is in great form since the training link with this father was made official, Gosden smiled: “It’s a wonderful start.

“I think I’ll probably have to retire now!”

Egan is enjoying every moment with the Prince Faisal-owned Mishriff.

He said: “I was able to get a pitch at the back of the pack. I didn’t bounce him out of the gates, like I did in Saudi. I did more of the complete opposite – I was very relaxed going out.

“He jumped slowly, which was ideal, and I was able to slot across and have someone on my inside and get a smooth run up the middle of the track.

“He showed a good turn of foot to cruise up there from that position. I thought he was really tough in the last 100 yards – another horse could have easily thrown in the towel. He showed a lot of grit and just about got the mile and a half.”

He added: “I’m just thankful to everyone around me for putting me in the position to be able to ride such a champion in Mishriff.

“He’s so versatile – he can run over any trip on any surface. Any trip for Mishriff, he’s taken it all in his stride. So we’ll take on any trip, and any horse.

“Coming off the Saudi Cup win, maybe some would say the pressure was more immense (for me) – because he had more of a chance and he’s stepping up against top-class horses here.

“But I felt pretty cool – which I probably needed to be, to get him to relax and switch off in the first half of the race.”

Egan counting down the hours to Mishriff in Sheema Classic

David Egan has hailed Mishriff’s versatility as the four-year-old prepares to tackle 12 furlongs for the first time in Saturday’s Longines Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan.

The four-year-old has made his second trip to the Middle East in just over a month for the Group One feature, having landed just short of £7.3million when winning the Saudi Cup – the world’s most valuable race – in Riyadh last month.

That was his second visit to Riyadh, having finished second in the Saudi Derby last February, while he achieved Group One gold in the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly in the summer before adding a Deauville Group Two to his haul.

Egan believes Mishriff’s ability to travel is testament to the strong constitution of John Gosden’s charge.

He said on Tuesday: “It’s fantastic to be connected with such a versatile, top-class horse. I saw him out on the track today, he looks well and hopefully he can do the business on Saturday.

“Mr Gosden (said) ever since he’s been back to Newmarket, he’s been full of beans and raring to go again, so they decided to make the trip back out to Meydan and I get to sit on him tomorrow, so I can kind of gauge where he’s at in comparison to Riyadh, but everything’s looking good so far.

“It’s not easy (to travel). He did all his intense training in the snow in Newmarket and it’s not easy to do, to be able to acclimatise him so quickly and turn him around to win the richest race in the world. It’s a hard thing to do and it just shows you what a versatile horse he is.

“Every time he’s run, he’s travelled. I know he went to Ascot and Newmarket (last year), but he went to France twice, to Riyadh twice and now on to Meydan, so it’s a credit to the horse and Mr Gosden’s team.”

Mishriff’s thrilling Saudi Cup win from American ace Charlatan came over nine furlongs on dirt in Riyadh, but he faces a totally different test at Meydan, running over a mile and a half on turf.

While the Prince Faisal-owned Make Believe colt is obviously no stranger to turf, he has yet to run over further than an extended 10 furlongs – but Egan thinks victory this weekend could open more avenues, including a possible crack at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in the autumn.

He said: “It’s a lot of money (on Saturday) but it’s not the be-all and end-all. It’s going to be a long season for Mishriff now. I’m sure going for the Sheema Classic rather than the Dubai World Cup was something Prince Faisal and Mr Gosden thought a lot about before deciding which race to go for.

“Obviously they have in the back of their minds how he’s going to be campaigned for this season, whether he sticks to a mile and a quarter or even drops back in trip or steps up to the mile and a half.

“If things all go well on Saturday, there’s a lot of options – maybe even the Arc at the end of the year could be the main target, but we’ll get Saturday out of the way first.”

Mishriff is the highlight of five rides for Egan at Meydan, with the jockey having picked up a fine spare aboard Joseph O’Brien’s Prix de la Foret third Speak In Colours in the Al Quoz Sprint.

Egan added: “I’m a lucky lad, I’ve got some good rides and hopefully they can all run a good race.”

Monday Musings: Saudi Success for Mishriff

In the latter half of last week’s missive I took you back to June 1989, writes Tony Stafford. Today I’m going another year, all but two days, and the eve of day one of Royal Ascot. The feature and only Group 1 event of the day, and in those days carrying more than double the prizemoney of the Group 2 Queen Anne and Prince of Wales’s Stakes on that afternoon, was the St James’s Palace Stakes.

I’d gone on the Monday evening down to Holland Park Road in leafy West London with trainer Geoff Huffer and I remember there was much discussion about whether Persian Heights, whom Geoff trained for Prince Yazid Saud (son of King Saud, the Ruler of Saudi Arabia in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s) should take his place in the field.

Until checking back I’d forgotten the reason for what was in effect a summit meeting as it entailed something of a gamble. Persian Heights had made his seasonal reappearance as recently as the previous Wednesday at Newbury, when he won a conditions race by an easy four lengths.

Obviously it was going to be a risk and I’m not quite sure why I was there, but there I was. Also in the house that evening was Tony Nerses, nowadays the brains behind Kuwaiti Imad Al Sagar’s bloodstock interests, but in those days the secretary for Prince Yazid.

Mr Sagar, with his then partner Saleh Al Homaizi, also a Kuwaiti, won the 2007 Derby with Authorized, trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam; and that victory has provided Tony with a great advertising vehicle. Whenever his boss has a non-home-bred winner, it’s always accompanied with “purchase Authorized by Tony Nerses”.

At some time later that evening, mid-discussion, Geoff and I crossed the road to another of the grand houses in that select enclave – God knows what they would be worth now!  I did look, you wouldn’t want to know!

There we met one of Prince Yazid’s fellow Saudi Arabian Royal family members, Prince Abdul Rahman Abdullah Faisal, and blow me down when on Saturday night his horse Mishriff, trained by John Gosden and ridden by 21-year-old David Egan, exceeded all previous expectations by winning the world’s most valuable race, the Saudi Cup, from the American-trained second favourite Charlatan, in turn ridden by one of the world’s most celebrated and successful jockeys, Mike Smith.

I’m delighted for the Prince who goes sometimes as Prince A A Faisal but more often as plain – well not so plain, just look at the Garrards of London-made all-gold trophy that’s almost as tall as its recipient – Prince Faisal. At home he needs the initials, there’s a bit of competition for that first name among the family.

They were all friends and indeed relatives with the late Prince Ahmed bin Salman (late son of the present King Salman) of Thoroughbred Corporation fame. He won the 1999 Derby with Oath, four Triple Crown races in two successive years without managing to get all three together as well as umpteen other major races around the world.

Even before 1988, when they were very young men, Yazid and Ahmed were partners together in several good horses, often high-class sprinters trained by Bill O’Gorman running precisely in those two first names.

Well to cut a circuitous route slightly shorter, the decision was made. Persian Heights ran and won comfortably and, while never really graduating any further in his own career, he did leave an indelible mark on the thoroughbred breeding world by being the sire of the great stayer Persian Punch.

Winner of 20 of his 63 career starts for trainer David Elsworth and owner Jeff Smith, only four times did he step below stakes class and he won on all those four occasions. Sixteen stakes wins is right up there and I know from experience that Mr Elsworth never likes to worry about winning a small race when a tilt at a much bigger target is in his sights.

I bought Prince Yazid a few horses after my own first trip to Saudi Arabia in the late 1990’s to race in France where he was based at that time and I later lost touch. I know on returning home, he was in charge of arrangements for the Hajj where Muslim  pilgrims travel to the Holy City of Mecca, a journey they are required to make at least once in their lives.

Prince Faisal meanwhile was breeding some top-class horses to run in his purple, grey epaulettes colours from his prolific broodmare Rafha, winner of the 1990 Prix de Diane for Henry Cecil. The best was easily Invincible Spirit, a sprint-bred son of Green Desert who won seven of 17 starts for John Dunlop but turned into a phenomenal stallion for the Irish National Stud.

Initially standing at a cost of €10k, as his accomplishments increased so did his fee and, at its height from 2016-9, he commanded an investment of €120,000. Down to €100k last year it has taken another little trim to €80k, but his shareholders who took the initial risk won’t be complaining. After all that’s not bad for a 24-year-old!

Kodiac, his half-brother by top Classic sire Danehill, didn’t measure up as a racehorse. I met the Prince at Newmarket on a July Saturday in 2003 and we had a cup of tea together before his colt’s juvenile debut. He was optimistic before the race and was happy afterwards about his third place finish.

Four wins came from his 24 career starts, none in stakes, but Tony O’Callaghan, the shrewd boss of Tally Ho Stud, bought him and quickly turned him into the world’s most consistent and prolific sire of two-year-olds. His fee, originally €5,000, has been at a high of €65,000 for the last three breeding seasons and the now 20-year-old shows no sign of slowing down as neither does Tony.

It was remarkable that the Prince was so astute to secure the services of the then 20-year-old David Egan as early as he did in his career. Egan travelled to Riyadh for the meeting last year when Mishriff, on his three-year-old debut, finished second in the inaugural Saudi Derby.

Mishriff then returned to Europe and won a Listed race at Newmarket under Egan, but wins in the French Derby and a Group 2 at Deauville were unavailable to the jockey with the Covid travel ban in place. Ioritz Mendizabal and then Frankie Dettori were the happy recipients of Egan’s misfortune. He ran his only disappointing race, again with Dettori in the saddle, when unplaced behind Addeybb at the Champions meeting at Ascot in October on what Gosden has described as the worst ground at any UK meeting he can recall.

Saturday’s victory, on his first run since – this time Dettori was on an unplaced stable-companion – carried the astronomic winner’s prize of £7.29 million, so a nice windfall in percentage terms for Mr Gosden – whose handling of this home-bred colt has been masterful – and Egan. His opportunistic and unflustered riding has to be taken in the context of the opposition and importance of the day. How proud his father John, in the crowd and still a potent jockey in his 50’s, must have been.

Mr Sagar was in Riyadh for the weekend as was Hollie Doyle principally to ride his gelding Extra Elusive – who seemed not to enjoy the dirt surface – in the big race. To show in just how high regard she is held, she got the ride on the Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old mare True Self in a ten and a half furlong turf race and they won comfortably. Hollie’s share of the £439k first prize will keep partner Tom Marquand happy down in Sydney while he waits out his quarantine.

While the top two were from the upper end of racing’s hierarchy – the runner-up was a $700,000 dollar buy and ran for Bob Baffert - the third horse home has a much more proletarian heritage.

The five-year-old Great Scot was originally prepared for sale by Rachael and Richard Kempster of Kinsale Farm near Oswestry, Shropshire, and was led out unsold as a yearling for 2,500gns at the mixed Ascot sale. The Kempsters also got a less than brilliant result at the same venue when offering some disappointing Raymond Tooth horses also raised on their farm.

Unlike them Great Scot went on to race for a syndicate of owners – the Empire States Partnership and was originally trained by Tom Dascombe. Seeing the names involved at the time of that yearling sale, I suspect some footballers possibly associated with Michael Owen, who owns Dascombe’s stables, might have been involved.

He won four of 11 races, getting up to a rating of 111, so I expect they got a nice windfall when passing him on. Next time he appeared it was in last year’s Saudi Cup where he finished only 12th of 14 at 100/1 running off the boat as it were.

The latter part of last year was much more fruitful  with wins by 12 lengths and then three lengths before a four-length success in a £78k Listed race last month.

Intriguingly – I hinted there was a Prince Faisal or two – Great Scot is owned by Prince Faisal Bin Khalid (so son of a previous King) and trained by Abdullah Mushrif. Confused? You will be. When the Empire State Partnership people realise that yesterday’s run, still at 66-1 despite the three spectacular wins, earned this Prince £1,459,000 they will no doubt take a moment from watching the football on telly. As for the Kempsters, who run a very nice efficient farm where Punjabi has spent his retirement, they can congratulate themselves for their part in the story.

On the domestic front, Saturday also featured the reincarnation of Goshen, incidentally a son of Authorized, in Wincanton’s Kingwell Hurdle. Beaten three times since his last-flight fall in the 2020 Triumph Hurdle and in those defeats, showing little sign that he was still a smart performer, he slaughtered his field by 22 lengths, surely ending Song For Someone’s Champion Hurdle hopes.

More interestingly, as the ground dries out will the connections of Honeysuckle, so impressive last weekend at Leopardstown, start to think that maybe the mares’ race over an extra half mile will provide less of a gamble. Faster ground and two miles suits Goshen and almost certainly Epatante. Decisions, decisions!

Mishriff upsets Charlatan to land Saudi Cup glory for Gosden and Egan

Mishriff powered home to wear down American ace Charlatan and land the world’s most valuable race, the $20million Saudi Cup in Riyadh.

The John Gosden-trained colt, owned by Prince Faisal, made his stamina tell over the nine furlongs after the two US heavyweights, Charlatan and Knicks Go, had gone head to head in the early stages.

David Egan was able to stay on their heels as the star pair turned for home.

Knicks Go dropped away, leaving Mishriff to gradually reduce Charlatan’s lead and get up in the closing stages. Great Scot finished third.

Gosden said from his Newmarket base: “It was a wonderful performance. He showed a lot of grit and courage, and he was able to go the pace of the American horses. It was great.”

Now proven on dirt as well as turf, having won the French Derby last year, Mishriff would appear to have all the world’s biggest races open to him.

But Gosden was keen not to be drawn on future plans, adding: “One race at a time.”

The champion trainer was also quick to pay tribute to his team behind the horse and his preparation.

He said: “What a brave horse, thank you to Prince Faisal and the whole team. It’s down to them and a brave horse, in what was a truly-run race and certainly he had to have a lot of courage never mind ability.

“His owner-breeder Prince Faisal always wanted to come back for the Saudi Cup (after finishing second in the Saudi Derby last year) and the horse had a perfect year bar getting stuck in a bottomless bog at Ascot (in the Champion Stakes), which was really specialist ground. Otherwise he has a superb record.

David Egan tries to take in Saudi Cup success
David Egan tries to take in Saudi Cup success (Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Mahmoud Khaled)

“The team here at Clarehaven have done a great job with him – it’s not easy to get a horse ready in the winter, with the snow and the ice.

“Any time you take on Bob Baffert with a horse of that class (Charlatan) you are pleased if you can get there, so full marks to my team.”

Reflecting on the race, Gosden said: “You do need to break well and get a decent position, David rode a positive race and in the end basically outstayed the American horses. It wasn’t a crazy pace, I was impressed the two American jockeys were containing their horses. You have a world-record miler there (Charlatan) and Brad Cox’s horse (Knicks Go) and they kept the rhythm right.

“There are very few horses who can switch surfaces like that, but I’ve always been told by the top American jockeys and Frankie Dettori that this is the best main dirt track in the world. I think that’s very much proven today – that a turf horse can actually switch to it and put in a big performance. This is a superb track.

“I think he will stay (further), in the end he nailed them because he could go the pace and then just see it out to the end – and that’s a hard-run mile and a furlong.

“I’ll see, we’ll all make decisions together as to how he is and what plans, and discuss it all with Prince Faisal. Take it a step at a time. After a flight like that and training in the winter, we’ll how the horse is for the next 10 days, two weeks when we get back before we start making any grand plans.”

Circumstances meant Egan missed out on Mishriff’s last three races last year, including his victory in the French Derby, where Dettori was in the saddle. However, as Prince Faisal’s retained rider he was back in the plate.

Egan, 21, said: “I can’t believe it. He’s an absolute champion. It’s unbelievable.

“It wasn’t meant to be (not being able to ride in French Derby). That’s racing. It was during the coronavirus pandemic as we all are now.

“I’d like to thank Saudi Cup for putting on such a great event in these tough times and making everything as Covid safe as we could be.

“I’m just delighted to get back on board Mishriff and win it for all the team.”

It’s only when you go past the line you realise what a big deal it is

He went on: “Last year he was a horse that jumped slow. He chased down the Japanese horse in the Saudi Derby and finished second. I always thought if he jumped on terms I would have nearly won last year.

“He has matured through the year and Mr Gosden had him primed for today. He’s been training well on the track. He seems to enjoy the track here. He’s very relaxed in the mornings.

“He jumped as well as he’s ever done. I squeezed him along for the first 50 yards and I was surprised how well he was going down the back straight. I was on Mike Smith’s (riding Charlatan) heels.

“The only worrying sign I got was when they started quickening, but once we got into the straight I knew I was going to mow them down. Thankfully the line came in time for us.

“Ever since he was second here last year I’m sure it was on Mr Gosden and Prince Faisal’s mind to come back here. With this race in Prince Faisal’s back garden, it was a no-brainer. He’s taken on some top-class horses from all round the world and he’s proved how good a horse he is and how much he has matured mentally and physically.

“With the amount of prize-money on offer it’s a huge deal, but going into the race I didn’t feel any pressure. It was just like going into any normal race.

“It’s only when you go past the line you realise what a big deal it is.”

Egan dedicated the triumph to his father John, also a jockey, who was on hand to witness the success.

“It’s so special dad being here,” he said.

“If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be the rider or the person I am today. He’s done everything he can to hep me in my career, pushed me and trained me hard and this one’s for him.”