Just about the most unfortunate of the top-class horses gained belated Group One reward yesterday as Mukhadram slipped away from his rivals in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.
Trainer William Haggas could not disguise his delight at witnessing the five-year-old's success following near-misses in events such as the Prince of Wales's Stakes, Dubai World Cup and Coral-Eclipse at Sandown 12 months ago, when he was hampered by winner Al Kazeem.
Mukhadram often attempts to dominate from the start of races, but yesterday he had Somewhat to do the early leg-work for him. Jockey Paul Hanagan found the race unfolding perfectly as he kicked clear with more than two furlongs remaining and still retained a two-length advantage over Trading Leather by the post.
Loading article content
With much of the pre-race build-up having centered on the possibility of rain - which fell again earlier in the afternoon - it proved a little too wet for 5-2 favourite The Fugue. The mare was still able to salvage sixth place having been last turning for home.
It was, however, perhaps neither wet enough, nor far enough, for Investec Derby runner-up Kingston Hill and he could not quite make up the ground to catch Somewhat in third.
Haggas hopes to transform Mukhadram (14-1) into a blue-chip stallion prospect for owner-breeder Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum. "I'm absolutely thrilled to bits, he so deserves to win a good race," said the trainer. "He was unlucky last year, he probably wasn't the winner, but the winner lay over him and it cost him second.
"He ran great in the Prince of Wales's again [finishing in fourth behind The Fugue] and we thought he was stronger this year. He has stamina in his pedigree, he's a resolute galloper, and I'd like to ask Sheikh Hamdan if I can run him in the King George. It's three weeks away and we'll enjoy the moment first. We've always believed in him and I'm thrilled for everyone that he's gone and done it today.
"I have always wanted to have a go at the King George, I thought if he was going to improve a bit it would be at a mile and a half. I'd love to give the King George a go."
Hanagan was similarly satisfied with the result. "If there is a horse that deserves that, it's him. He's been second in the Dubai World Cup and could have been second in this last year, I'm just so pleased for the horse. Everyone at the yard has done a fantastic job with him, I'm chuffed to bits. I could put my children on him, he's A1, a pleasure."
Jim Bolger was much more pleased with the run of last year's Irish Derby winner Trading Leather, after he was beaten at the Newmarket Guineas meeting. The first two could now meet again at Ascot.
"I'm delighted with his effort after the Newmarket debacle," he said. "We'll look at the King George and later on the Arc and the Irish Champion Stakes."
The Fugue's rider, William Buick, identified the ground conditions as a reason for her difficulties. "The ground has become loose and she doesn't like it, simple as that," said the jockey. "It was that last shower that did it. She ran well in defeat and she'll be back."
Roger Varian had been pacing the course beforehand. He had pulled Kingston Hill out of the Irish Derby last week and left it very late before giving the go-ahead yesterday. "Frankie [Dettori] thought he felt like a mile and a half horse running a very good race at a mile and a quarter. The ground was fine," said Varian.
"He has run another fine race. At some point we are going to have to focus on his autumn campaign, that's where his strengths will lie on the ground."
The 2000 Guineas winner Night Of Thunder was another disappointment, never getting into the race and beating Verrazano home only.