THERE was some high-class action at Newbury last Saturday, but the horse most people wanted to talk about before and after racing was Roger Varian’s Sakheer, who was sent off a hot favourite at 4/5 for the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes.
Those skinny odds were the result of a visually stunning win in novice company at Haydock, and Sakheer did not disappoint upped in class, looking a potential superstar in posting a three-and-a-half-length verdict over Rousing Encore (Richard Fahey/Paul Hanagan), with the winner’s stablemate Charyn (Tom Marquand) a fast-finishing third, a further three-parts of a length away.
Having tracked long-time leader Shouldvebeenaring, Sakheer merely had to be shaken up briefly to assert and gave the impression that an even stronger contest would show him in a better light.
The winner was sporting the silks of owner Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, whose horses – including St Leger winner Eldar Eldarov – run under the KHK Racing banner.
This was a fourth consecutive winner on the card for the resurgent David Egan, who has overcome mid-season tribulations to gain that classic success and who is on the crest of a wave at present, a comment which applies equally to Roger Varian, who completed trebles at both the televised meetings, and saddled seven winners in all on the day, some by proxy, of course!
“His work has always been very good,” said Varian of the winner. “We thought he would win first time, but he ran into a smart filly at Windsor. He then won well at Haydock, and he looks good. How good, I don’t know, but he is possibly the best of my two-year-olds.
“He has size and scope, he’s very exciting and I think he’ll stay seven furlongs or a mile. He in the Middle Park [not declared], but it’s very soon. He would need supplementing for the Dewhurst, but I think those two races are probably the ones on the table.”
On the Alert
The Group 3 Legacy Cup (formerly the Arc Trial) over a mile and three furlongs went the way of the Hughie Morrison-trained Stay Alert (David Egan), with the three-year-old filly overcoming trouble in the straight to forge ahead late, winning by a neck and the same from Fancy Man (Richard Hannon/Pat Dobbs) and Dubai Future (Saeed Bin Suroor/Martin Harley) at odds of 5/1.
Stay Alert had won the Listed Abingdon Fillies’ Stakes here in June and was showing improved form here on her return from 11 weeks off the course.
That came on the back of her only disappointment to date, when failing to settle when behind Free Wind in the Lancashire Oaks. She was dropped in from the widest draw here and settled better as Fancy Man set just a fair gallop.
She moved smoothly into contention around the home bend and would surely have been much more impressive but for finding herself pocketed by rivals as she made her move up the far rail.
The winning filly eventually found daylight with a furlong to go and picked up in taking fashion to pick up a couple of rivals who had got first run.
Morrison has ambitious plans for Stay Alert, whose only defeat in three course runs came when second to subsequent Prix de Diane winner Nashwa here in May. “The plan was to have a blow here and then go to Ascot next month for the Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes,” said the winning trainer.
“I was disappointed with her in the Lancashire Oaks, but she didn’t run her race. She was very free, and it wasn’t her day.”
Roger Varian landed the middle leg of a Newbury treble when Mitbaahy took the Group 3 World Trophy by a neck from Teresa Mendoza (Ken Condon/Martin Harley), with favourite Manaccan (John Ryan/Pat Dobbs) finishing best to be beaten a nose for second having had to wait for a run.
Mitbaahy was also well supported late in the day and was the punters’ second choice at an SP of 9/2.
Manaccan was perhaps unlucky not to follow up his recent Doncaster win, coming from a similar position as the winner, but having to wait a split second longer for the gaps to appear.
He was catching the leaders in the final 100 yards, but wasn’t quite doing it fast enough, albeit running with great credit.
Mitbaahy himself dwelt at the start – not for the first time – and did well to overcome that handicap, finding plenty to get the better of a good duel with the runner-up, who travelled well and perhaps found herself in front a tad soon in the circumstances. The front three deserve credit for putting three and a half lengths and more between themselves and the rest of the field.
Manaccan has shown improved form since tongue-tied and kept to five, and this was arguably another career-best from the son of Exceed And Excel. He should carry that progress forward next year and could take high rank at the minimum trip.
THERE were two Irish-trained winners at the Perth meetings.
Gordon Elliott was on the scoreboard with odds-on Happy D’Ex (1/7) in the two and a half mile mares’ novice hurdle, the KTDA Racing-owned daughter of Saddler Maker coming home two and a quarter lengths clear under Sean Bowen. The Greek gave the duo a second winner on Thursday with a facile 27 length win. The handicap hurdle over two and a half miles on Wednesday went to the Stuart Crawford-trained Curious Times (17/2), this time under James Bowen.