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York challenge on the agenda for Sussex heroine Alcohol Free

Alcohol Free is set to take on the colts again next month after overcoming Poetic Flare in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

Successful in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, the Andrew Balding-trained filly attempted to make all in the Falmouth at Newmarket last time out but had to give best close home to Snow Lantern, who took her on again.

Champion jockey Oisin Murphy was determined to delay his challenge on this occasion and made sure he played his hand late.

After a slow early pace, Century Dream injected some speed into it a long way from home and caught a few rivals on the back foot.

Kevin Manning set off in pursuit on 11-8 favourite Poetic Flare and on entering the final furlong hit the front – but Jim Bolger’s 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes hero was soon to face a bigger challenge, as Alcohol Free (7-2) quickened impressively and went on to win by a length and three-quarters.

Snow Lantern, who could have run in the Nassau Stakes over 10 furlongs later in the week, made up plenty of late ground to claim third, the same distance away, completing a one-two-three for the three-year-olds against their elders.

Oisin Murphy salutes the crowd after winning the Sussex Stakes
Oisin Murphy salutes the crowd after winning the Sussex Stakes (John Walton/PA)

Balding said: “Maybe we got lucky with Here Comes When (winner in 2017), although that was hugely rewarding, don’t get me wrong.

“But this filly has already won two Group One races, so it was lovely to see her cement her place at the top of the tree.

“It’s a privilege, it really is. Just watching her at home in the mornings is demoralising for the other horses, we have to keep swapping the lead horse because she’s just so good. She’s hardly blowing afterwards, it’s just effortless for her.”

He went on: “I was awful (watching the race), I was calling Oisin all sorts of names! It was a rough race and I’m sure there were hard luck stories, but I think she was easily the best horse on the day.

“It’s just lovely to see her do that because we’ve always believed in her, it’s no easy task coming and taking on the colts and the older horses and to do it in that style is just fantastic.”

Looking to future plans, Balding suggested the daughter of No Nay Never could be seen on the Knavesmire next month.

He said: “We had a long debate yesterday, Mr (Jeff) Smith and I, about spending five grand of his hard-earned (money) keeping her in the Juddmonte (International).

“It’s a mile and a quarter, it’s a big ask, but as Jeff said, she’s won Group Ones already.

“We’ve got nothing to prove, but it’s a possibility she may turn up there.”

He added: “She doesn’t need too much (training), she doesn’t even need training to be honest, she does it all herself.

“She’s always been very good, right from the start, we ran her on one bit of work when she went to Newbury and absolutely hosed up.

“She’s been the victim of bad draws whenever she’s run and I think she probably could have won more – in the Guineas she’d have been placed if she was drawn in the middle or on the far side.

“There is trepidation with taking on any of those horses, Poetic Flare and Snow Lantern as well.”

Smith last won the race in 1984 with Chief Singer, while he has also tasted Goodwood glory with the likes of Lochsong and Persian Punch.

He said: “This filly is something else, the way she has won that, it’s simply incredible.

“I’m thrilled to pieces, and what a wonderful job Andrew and the whole team have done.

“She’s a champion. There’s no question in my mind, she’s the real deal.”

Murphy paid his tribute to both the filly and the team behind her.

The rider said: “I can’t thank everyone at Park House enough. Alcohol Free really can be a handful in the mornings. Cassia has to deal with her every day and deserves a medal because she can be really tough work.

Oisin Murphy celebrates with Alcohol Free
Oisin Murphy celebrates with Alcohol Free (John Walton/PA)

“Anyone who follows me on Instagram will see that, when I go to tack her up, she looks like she is going to bite or kick me. Then when you get near her, she is quite the opposite. She is a special character.

“Alcohol Free is so, so talented and what a thrill I got from that. I’ve won this race before on Lightning Spear and last year it all went wrong on Kameko. Day to day, you have to just keep kicking.

“She thrives on racing, and she felt super on Saturday – we only went four furlongs, but I was full of confidence to be honest, particularly when the rain came.

“Jeff Smith has been an incredible supporter of horse racing for a long time. I don’t know how many employees there are at Park House Stables, but they all play their part and this will mean the world to them.”

Manning felt ground conditions had not played to the strengths of Poetic Flare.

He said: “It was the same story as in Paris (sixth in French 2000 Guineas), and we were running a little bit behind the bridle, while on good ground he travels into his races. This ground has blunted his speed.

“I felt he was spinning on the ground and going up and down on one spot, though to give him credit he dug very deep and fought back when the filly went past him.

“The ground was tacky and holding, and there was no bounce in it.”

Una Manning, Bolger’s daughter, added: “Poetic Flare has lost nothing in defeat. He loves his racing, loves his work. He’s an easy horse to deal with and to travel. Bringing him over here wasn’t going to be any sort of disadvantage to him even if the ground didn’t turn out like he wanted.”

Of Snow Lantern, Richard Hannon said: “I’m delighted with her run, it was a good, sound effort. She hit a flat spot, but the way she stayed on suggests she might want a mile and a quarter.

“The ground was a little bit sticky, but she showed she handles it, while she doesn’t have much to find with the winner.”

Poetic Flare still improving as Bolger eyes Sussex redemption

Poetic Flare is bidding for a third Group One in an already busy season in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

Jim Bolger’s colt has already won the 2000 Guineas and the St James’s Palace Stakes, as well as finishing a close second to stablemate Mac Swiney in the Irish Guineas.

It was his Ascot performance which had the ratings gurus purring, though, as he won by more than four lengths in what was his fourth run in a little over six weeks.

“Poetic Flare has been very well since the St James’s Palace Stakes,” said Bolger.

“We’re very happy with his work, and he seems to be improving further. I was expecting and hoping for him to win at Ascot, but possibly not as spectacularly as he did.

“He’s only had a break in as much as he hasn’t been racing, but he’s a horse who I have to keep moving, and so it hasn’t exactly been a holiday. He’s very well, and I couldn’t be happier with him.”

Poetic Flare’s sire Dawn Approach lost only to Toronado in the Sussex in 2013, a reverse that still seems to rankle with Bolger, and he would love to make up for it in the latest Qipco British Champions Series event.

“Dawn Approach was a really good horse on good ground or faster, and the day he was beaten by Toronado in the Sussex Stakes it was officially good to soft,” said the County Carlow trainer.

“It was moving on top, so he never really got a hold of it. He didn’t like it.”

The deluges which turned the Goodwood going heavy for the start of this year’s meeting may not be in Poetic Flare’s favour either – but his trainer is not fretting.

Bolger added: “It was fast ground when Poetic Flare won at Ascot, and it might well be that he’s better on that better ground, but he seems to handle all going and he’s pretty good on soft too.

“My preference would be for good ground, but I’m not much given to worrying anyway. Whatever it is, I’ll take it. I’m very happy with my horse, and I don’t worry too much about anybody else’s.”

Poetic Flare may have most to fear from the two fillies, Alcohol Free and Snow Lantern.

The latter came out on top in the Falmouth Stakes, having finishing behind Alcohol Free in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Snow Lantern flew fast and late to win the Falmouth
Snow Lantern flew fast and late to win the Falmouth (Tim Goode/PA)

Snow Lantern’s trainer Richard Hannon decided to stay at a mile rather than go up in trip for the Nassau later in the week. Jamie Spencer replaces the suspended Sean Levey in the saddle.

Hannon said: “Snow Lantern looked a very good filly in the Falmouth, and she was probably at her strongest at the line, so I don’t think the longer trip in the Nassau would have been any problem.

“But we are sticking to a mile for now, because we know she is very good at the trip.

“The ground was a big factor too, because she showed she could handle the soft when she ran so well in the Coronation Stakes, and one or two others might not be so good on it. It’s a hot race, but it would be a very nice one to win if we could.”

Andrew Balding said of Alcohol Free: “She’s a high-class filly, and I’m really looking forward to it.

“It looks like conditions should be ideal. It’s a very strong race, as it should be.

Alcohol Free won the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot
Alcohol Free won the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot (David Davies/PA)

“The turning track seemed to suit her really well when she won at Royal Ascot, so I think Goodwood will suit her really well.

“At Newmarket in the Falmouth it wasn’t the plan to make the running, and she rather set it up for the others. Hopefully if there’s some sort of pace to aim at she’s got a fairly electric turn of foot. I’m really excited about her.”

The Charlie Hills-trained Tilsit is progressing nicely and took the Summer Mile comfortably enough last time out

“His Group One defeat in France at the start of the season was frustrating, because he was in front just before the line and just after the line,” said Hills.

“I was really pleased with his subsequent win in the Summer Mile at Ascot – he did it in great style. He’s probably come out of Ascot the best he’s come out of any race – he’s in great form.

“He won a Group Three at the meeting last year, so we know he handles the track.”

Aidan O’Brien, who declared Battleground a non-runner on Monday, is still represented by Lope Y Fernandez and Breeders’ Cup winner Order Of Australia.

“We are looking forward to Lope Y Fernandez and we think he’s come forward again since Ascot (second to Palace Pier),” said O’Brien.

“We are very happy with him. He’s very straightforward and is progressing well.

“Order Of Australia has come out of his win at the Curragh very well, and the Sussex Stakes is a race which could suit him. He’s a hardy older horse who likes fast ground, and a mile is probably his trip – he gets it very well.”

Poetic Flare tops bill as 10 bid for Sussex Stakes

Poetic Flare is the star attraction among 10 contenders for the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

Jim Bolger’s charge has been kept busy since claiming Classic glory in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May – finishing sixth in the French Guineas and runner-up in the Irish Guineas before his sensational victory in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The son of Dawn Approach is a red-hot favourite to add to his Group One tally when he faces his elders for the first time on Wednesday.

Aidan O’Brien, who has saddled five previous winners of the Sussex Stakes, this year runs Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Order Of Australia and Queen Anne runner-up Lope Y Fernandez. Battleground, who won the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood last summer, was initially also declared for Ballydoyle but is a non-runner after a bad scope.

The two fillies in the field are familiar rivals Alcohol Free and Snow Lantern. Andrew Balding’s Alcohol Free came out on top when the pair met in last month’s Coronation Stakes, but the Richard Hannon-trained Snow Lantern turned the tables in the Falmouth three weeks ago.

Hannon has a second string to his bow in Chindit, who finished fifth behind Poetic Flare in both the Guineas and the St James’s Palace, while Tilsit is stepped back up in grade by Charlie Hills after winning Ascot’s Summer Mile.

Andre Fabre’s French raider Duhail, Simon and Ed Crisford’s Century Dream and Space Traveller from Richard Fahey’s yard also feature.

Guineas winner Poetic Flare stands tall in Sussex Stakes

Poetic Flare will face a maximum of 11 rivals in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood on Wednesday.

Jim Bolger’s 2000 Guineas hero has already run five times this season, but appears to be thriving on his racing judged on his sensational performance in last month’s St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

With star older miler Palace Pier withdrawn as expected following unsatisfactory blood results, Poetic Flare is a red-hot favourite to add to his Group One tally next week.

Aidan O’Brien retains a strong hand, with Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Order Of Australia and Queen Anne runner-up Lope Y Fernandez confirmed along with two other stablemates in Battleground and Wembley.

There are two top-class fillies in contention, with Richard Hannon’s Snow Lantern and the Andrew Balding-trained Alcohol Free potentially renewing rivalry. Alcohol Free came out on top in the Coronation Stakes, but Snow Lantern reversed the form in the Falmouth at Newmarket.

Hannon could also call upon Chindit, Charlie Hills is set to saddle Summer Mile winner Tilsit and Duhail could be sent across the Channel by leading French trainer Andre Fabre.

Century Dream (Simon and Ed Crisford) and Space Traveller (Richard Fahey) are the other hopefuls.

Bolger eyes first Sussex Stakes with Poetic Flare

Poetic Flare will bid to go one better than his sire Dawn Approach, for trainer Jim Bolger, in Goodwood’s Qatar Sussex Stakes next week.

Bolger’s colt has won three of his five starts in a hugely successful three-year-old campaign so far – which has included victory in both the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, emulating his sire in the process.

If he prevails again on day two of the Goodwood Festival, Poetic Flare will be providing his trainer with a first victory in the Sussex Stakes – in which the County Carlow yard’s 2013 Guineas hero Dawn Approach had to settle for an honourable second in his Classic year.

The British heatwave is likely to leave conditions at Goodwood no slower than good next Wednesday.

Bolger said: “He handles soft ground but he’s better on good ground.

“He is very well balanced, so I don’t think Goodwood holds any problems for him.”

Poetic Flare has inherited many of Dawn Approach’s characteristics.

“He’s a heavyweight in every regard and is over 500kg,” said Bolger.

“He’s a very easy horse to manage, because he knows his job and he thrives on racing.

“He has a great appetite for eating and for working – he’s just like his sire Dawn Approach in every way.”

“He has one more bit of work to get through and will then arrive at Goodwood on Monday.

“It’s a very special race and a race I’ve not won before.”

Group One options for Tilsit after Summer Mile win

Tilsit is set to have a second crack at the top level after taking the Group Two Summer Mile at Ascot on Saturday.

The Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood on July 28 and the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville on August 15 are the two races Charlie Hills has in mind as possibilities for the next port of call for the lightly-raced four-year-old.

The Juddmonte-owned son of First Defence was having only the seventh start of his career when accounting for Century Dream by three-quarters of a length.

He had almost got off the mark on his first try in Group One company when collared close home by Skalleti in the Prix d’Ispahan at ParisLongchamp on his previous run.

“It was very exciting to win a Group Two with him. We were a little bit concerned about the ground before, but he looked pretty good. And it was a great run in France,” said Hills.

“We’ve got a few options. Obviously he’s in the Sussex Stakes and 18 days later you’ve got the Jacques le Marois. We’ll have a look and see where we are and what the ground is like in two weeks’ time.

“He’s come out of the race very well.”