Given that the authorities at York and the Victoria Racing Club in Australia have virtually twinned the Sky Bet Ebor Handicap with the Melbourne Cup, the victory of the Irish-trained 16-1 shot Mustajeer in the first £1 million running of the historic handicap could not have been better planned.
Part of the Ger Lyons-trained gelding, bought off Sheikh Hamdan for 50,000 Guineas in July 2017, has already been sold to Australian bloodstock interests and the five-year-old’s next start will be in the Caulfield Cup before he attempts to become the first horse to win both of the iconic staying handicaps on either side of the world.
Yesterday’s first part of the plan had been hatched a year ago when Mustajeer finished fourth in the Ebor and doubts about the distance proved unfounded when his jockey confirmed he was a “proper Cup horse” on dismounting.
“We thought about taking him to Sydney last winter when everyone else was in Melbourne,” said owner David Spratt, who has enjoyed great success buying the cast-offs of others at the horses-in-training sales. “But Ger said let’s keep him at home and he’d be more mature this year.”
Lyons, the former northern-based jump jockey, is now a leading trainer in Ireland and he was represented by his daughter, Kerri.
“He was trained for the race and the fact that he pulled it off is brilliant,” she said. “It doesn’t often work out like that. Everything went to plan and credit to David, he has a great record buying these horses. The horse can get a bit wound up before but we managed to keep a lid on him until the start.”
The winner, ridden by Colin Keane, came home three quarters of a length ahead of the 25-1 shot Red Galileo with Desert Skyline staying on into third, also at 25-1.
Silvestre de Sousa, the reigning champion jockey, will miss the thick end of the autumn after fracturing his collar bone in a shocking fall at Chelmsford on Friday night after riding at York in the afternoon.
De Sousa, retained by King Power, will not have felt any less sore after Shine So Bright, which he would have ridden, beat Laurens, the best filly trained in Yorkshire since Attraction, a nose in the Sky Bet City of York Stakes.
The Andrew Balding trained Shine So Bright is a pony-sized pretty boy but he certainly knows how to fight because Laurens came at him with everything inside the last furlong but he dug in for substitute jockey James Doyle to win at 6-1.
“She lost nothing in defeat,” said Karl Burke of Laurens. “Fair play to the winner, he just had the turn of foot on us on the day. She will probably go for the Matron Stakes [the race in which she beat Alpha Centauri last year] in Ireland next.”
Unless British Champions Day throws up something spectacular – it will not have the box office draw of Enable or, even, the blink and you miss it Battaash – this week’s York will go down as the best racing “festival” of the summer, eclipsing both Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood.
It attracted the half dozen best horses in the world, all of whom followed the script.
Not only did it attract the highest rated horse, Crystal Ocean, who was narrowly beaten in yet another thriller, by the best three-year-old middle distance colt, Japan, in Wednesday’s Juddmonte International but, on Friday, the best stayer in the world, Stradivarius, and the fastest sprinter Battaash, both excelled.
They were, however, overshadowed by Enable’s British swansong in Thursday’s Darley Yorkshire Oaks, a potentially awkward, four-horse contest in which Frankie Dettori made all and quickened fantastically to beat Magical for a fourth time.
This Flat season did not fully catch fire until Enable made her debut in the Eclipse in July and she has now accrued 10 Group Ones, the same as Frankel – and a fan base normally reserved for the great steeplechasers who are around for years.
She is now beautifully teed up to become the first member of the three Arcs club when she contests the 98th Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on the first Sunday in October where it will take a good one or awful bad luck to stop her.