Prix de Diane Longines (Group 1)
IT was a glorious muddle.
“A complete muddle of a race,” was the way winning trainer John Gosden chose to describe Sunday’s Group 1 Prix de Diane Longines, but none of Nashwa’s connections were complaining, not her owner-breeder, the Bahraini, Imad Al Sagar, not Gosden nor his son, Thady, with whom he shared the training honours.
And definitely not the triumphant jockey, Hollie Doyle, who inscribed her name in the annals of European racing by becoming the first female rider to land a Group 1 classic.
For once, the occasion was not lost on 25-year-old Doyle who, although unfailingly polite and accommodating, is usually the ultimate in self-effacing professionalism, refusing to celebrate her own gender or talent and preferring to move on to the next race, deflecting praise and insisting, “I couldn’t have done it without the owner/trainer/breeder/horse”.
Those endearing traits were again in evidence but the enormity of what she had achieved did seem to sink in quite quickly, partly because, for once, she had no other rides to worry about.
After a mounted hug with husband Tom Marquand, once he had caught up with her aboard seventh-placed Zellie, she was visibly moved by the warmth of the crowd’s reaction, later marvelling at the outpouring of joy towards a foreign interloper.
She then did well to hold it all together while cradling the trophy as God Save The Queen rang out over the podium. Special moments.
Nobody wanted to lead, not even Rosacea’s alleged ‘pacemaker’, Galla, yet the tempo was not particularly slow as those well drawn horses that had broken fast were loathe to give up their advantage.
Nashwa was keen, alongside Agave on her inside and Tariyana on her outer, but only moderately so and Doyle stressed afterwards that her mount was always relaxed.
Doyle kicked for home passing the two-furlong marker and a furlong later had only one serious rival in the unlikely shape of La Parisienne, a 22/1 outsider beaten in listed company on her previous start.
For a moment it looked as if history would be denied, but Nashwa battled on gamely when her lead was threatened and proved impossible to pass.
Rosacea did come through late for third having zigzagged her way up the straight but, given the margin to the front two was four and a half lengths, she was hardly unlucky and, as a filly who seems to need to be delivered late, she will always be something of a hostage to fortune.
André Fabre, who saddled four of the top five in the betting, could manage no better than Agave’s fourth, and Aidan O’Brien’s Toy, who at one stage looked likely to finish tailed off, ran a strange race to take ninth.
So the diminutive English woman, just five feet tall, was chased home by Gerald Mosse, Christophe Soumillon and Olivier Peslier, three of the most decorated French jockeys of recent times with an average age of over 46.
Mosse, to his great credit, was quick to offer his hand in congratulation a matter of strides after the winning post. La Parisienne is bred by the same man, Pierre Talvard, who was responsible for nurturing Ghost Buster’s, runner-up in the 1988 Prix du Jockey Club partnered by Gerald Mosse.
The ‘man in the white gloves’ may have learned a lot in the intervening 34 years and seems to be riding as well as ever this season, yet he still managed to fall foul of the stewards, picking up a 12-day ban for whip abuse.
Gosden senior, who was winning the race for the second time seven years after prevailing with Star Of Seville, suggested that Brexit had almost scuppered the victory. “I think Imad Al Sagar made the win possible by agreeing to fly Nashwa over here,” he said. “I told him that coming over by box is very complicated nowadays, you can get held up for hours at Customs, and in this hot weather that would have been too much.
“She had a hard race in the Oaks, so to do that just 16 days later was quite something and she deserves a holiday now. Maybe we will come back in the autumn for the Prix de l’Opera.”
With Royal Ascot’s most impressive winner, Inspiral, and the fearfully unlucky Cazoo Oaks second, Emily Upjohn, also housed at his Clarehaven yard, Gosden has an embarrassment of riches in the three-year-old filly division.