IT was doubles all round for Andrea Atzeni after Farraaj’s victory in the John Smith’s Cup saw him become the first rider to win successive renewals on different horses in the York race’s illustrious 55-year history.
Now established as one of the top riders in the country, the Sardinian-born jockey then toasted his success by partnering Take Cover in the John Smith’s City Walls Stakes and providing Bawtry trainer David Griffiths with one of the most important victories of his burgeoning career.
Both winners are set to return to York for tougher assignments – Farraaj could be back for the Group Two Sky Bet York Stakes on July 26 while Take Cover holds an entry in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, the sprint highlight of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival.
Despite being burdened with the second highest weight – 9st 11lb – and the widest draw of all, the no-nonsense Atzeni had the Roger Varian-trained Farraaj smartly out of the gates and was soon tracking the pace-setting Zain Eagle with the Queen’s Bold Sniper not far behind.
Approaching the last half-mile, it looked like Zain Eagle and Tom Eaves might have slipped the field after injecting some pace, but Farraaj responded to Atzeni’s urgings and got on top late in the day to prevail by a length-and-a-half with Bold Sniper – owned by the Queen – never closer than third.
“He’s a good horse on his day, he just needs rock-hard ground. There was no pace in the race, which was unusual for a race like this,” said Varian’s assistant, David Eustace.
“From stall 22 we knew he had to go on and Andrea gave him a great ride, got him in the box seat and Zain Eagle gave us a good tow into the race. For a second, I thought he might not get to him as they don’t come back in this ground.”
Atzeni, who prevailed on the William Haggas-trained Danchai 12 months ago, said: “It’s a great race to win and he’s a lovely horse. I was drawn really wide but he jumped really well and I managed to get a good position. He’s a good horse on his day and the key with him is the ground – he has to have it fast.”
In front of nearly 30,000 spectators, Atzeni came in for the ride on Take Cover when his intended mount Eton Rifles was a non-runner due to the fast ground and always had sufficient in hand to deny G Force.
A winner at York last season, Take Cover ran with credit in the King’s Stands Stakes at Royal Ascot and is likely to line up in the King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood before heading to the Nunthorpe.
“I’m chuffed to bits. He’s a seriously fast horse,” said Griffiths, a former tutor at the Northern Racing College, who has 24 horses in training. “Hopefully, we can kick on now. I think he’s a Group One horse.”
After Hot Streak and Astaire proved no match for the redoubtable Slade Power in the Darley July Cup at Newarket, Hambleton trainer Kevin Ryan enjoyed swift compensation when Flaming Spear made an impressive debut in the John Smith’s Median Auction Maiden Stakes at York.
“He’d been showing the right signs at home and it was just a case of education. We’ve always thought a lot of him,” said Ryan’s son and assistant, Adam. “There was a big crowd and it was his first day at school, but once he got rolling he lengthened out and galloped straight to the line.”
It was Ryan’s third successive win in this race after Astaire in 2012 and The Grey Gatsby last year.
French Derby hero The Grey Gatsby was well beaten in sixth as Andre Fabre’s Gallante produced a shock in the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp.