THE Johnny Murtagh-trained Sonnyboyliston took his earnings to well over €1 million with his second-place finish in the $2.5 million Red Sea Handicap in Saudi Arabia last Saturday.
Owned by the Kildare Racing Club, Sonnyboyliston collected €440,000 for connections last weekend in Riyadh. This can be added to the €350,000 he earned for winning the Ebor at York last August and the €285,000 he collected for winning the Irish St Leger in September.
Ben Coen’s mount was sent off the 5/1 second favourite for last Saturday’s event, run over 15 furlongs on turf. The five-year-old looked to have every chance turning into the home stretch but could not match the kick produced by the front-running Stay Foolish.
Godolphin’s Siskany, the 7/4 favourite, gave chase but tired close home, allowing Sonnyboyliston to claim second spot inside the final furlong, passing the post over four lengths behind the Japanese-trained winner.
Siskany took third, a place ahead of Joseph O’Brien’s Baron Samedi, who earned €100,000 for his owners, LECH Racing Ltd. The Tony Mullins-trained Princess Zoe raced prominently for a long way before fading back to 10th spot.
Stay Foolish, a consistent seven-year-old, had been fifth in the Hong Kong Vase last December. His trained Yoshito Yahagi said: “I knew he was training well so we had some confidence before the race. It is a great day for Japanese racing, proving how strong it is. Looking forward, I hope we can go to Australia for the Melbourne Cup later in the year.”
Ben Coen said of the runner-up: “He ran well off top weight after not having a run in nearly five months. I’m very happy with him. He jumped and got a nice position, travelled around well and hit the line well, so I am looking forward to the rest of the year with him.”
Stay Foolish was one of four winners on the day for jockey Christoph Lemaire, the French 42-year-old who is champion jockey in Japan. All four of his Saudi winners were for different Japanese trainers on a day when Japan confirmed its status as a global racing superpower.
Lemaire first win came aboard the favourite Authority in the $1.5 million Neom Turf Cup. This is the race won a year previously by the Willie Mullins-trained True Self.
Authority came to Saudi Arabia as a three-time Group 2 winner in his own country, and having finished second to the champion Contrail in the Japan Cup. The five-year-old by Orfevre went to the lead the moment the gates opened and was never threatened, winning the 10-and-a-half-furlong race by a length and a quarter.
In second came Kaspar, a German Group 2 winner who is now trained locally having been bought for €85,000 at the Arqana Arc Sale last October. European raiders Ebaiyra, Harrovian and Grocer Jack filled the next three places.
US raider Channel Cat took a horrible fall two furlongs out, after appearing to collide with the weakening Pyledriver. Thankfully both horse and jockey Joel Rosario walked away from the incident.
Lemaire said of his winner: “I had the best horse in the race. I set the pace the way I wanted, without any pressure. Then he used his long acceleration and did the same he used to do in Japan. The ground is firm, which we wanted.”
Winning trainer Tetsuya Kimura indicated that Authority would now go for the Sheema Classic in Dubai.
The Japan-Lemaire golden run continued when the filly Songline battled well to hold off American hope Casa Creed and the Richard Hannon-trained Happy Roamance to win the $1.5 million 1351 Turf Sprint over six and a half furlongs.
Trained by Toru Hayashi, the four-year-old filly was returning to the winner’s enclosure having won a Group 2 in Tokyo in October. Hayashi said: “This is the greatest moment of my career. I have been training for only four years and it is my first time racing a horse outside of Japan.”
The Joseph O’Brien-trained Thunder Moon finished last of the 14 runners.
Lemaire’s final winner of the day came in the Riyadh Dirt Sprint which saw a facile victory for Dancing Prince. The Keisuke Miyata-trained six-year-old made all the running and won by almost six lengths from the consistent Good Effort, trained in Britain by Ismail Mohammed.