JOCKEY JAMES DOYLE could not have been more effusive in his praise after the Yorkshire-trained Yalta’s commanding performance in the Group Three Victoria Racing Club Molecomb Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.
Running over the minimum trip of five furlongs for the first time, the Mark Johnston-trained colt was an emphatic three length victor over his more fancied stablemate The Last Lion.
Yalta, victorious at Pontefract before slightly disappointing runs at Royal Ascot and Newmarket, has a number of eyecatching entries, including the Group Two Gimcrack Stakes at York’s Ebor festival next month.
“It was a proper performance,” enthused Doyle after this eyecatching Group Three success.
“He was first out of the gate, he got into a nice rhythm and was pricking his ears in front, so I was saving plenty, although I was going a good clip.
“I thought it would take a quick one to catch me as he was going through the gears nicely.
“I had a slight worry as I dropped my rein a furlong out, which isn’t ideal in a sprint like this, but luckily we got it together and he finished off well.
“The drop back in trip and the quicker ground has obviously helped.”
As for Middleham-based Johnston, his only surprise was the finishing order.
He said: “We’ve been a bit devastated when he (Yalta) got beaten the last couple of times as we thought so much of him early on.
“He had shown tremendous speed in his races, but I was amazed. I know what The Last Lion is like and to be leading him by three or four lengths when he had not even asked him I knew the writing was on the wall at halfway.
“It is obviously disappointing for the owners of The Last Lion. They didn’t expect it and we didn’t. We thought The Last Lion was the out-and-out five-furlong horse but he has been put in his place.”
A thrilling renewal of the Qatar Sussex Stakes, the centrepiece of the meeting, saw Aidan O’Brien’s The Gurkha get the better of Galileo Gold.
Frankie Dettori looked set to make all on Galileo Gold, the 2000 Guineas winner, before his great rival Ryan Moore extricated himself from an unpromising position on The Gurkha who had won the French Guineas earlier in the season.
They fought out a thrilling finish with the aforementioned Doyle finishing fastest of all on Ribchester for Malton trainer Richard Fahey.
“I was delighted with him. He’s a horse with loads of pace and I just wish they’d gone a touch quicker on the day, but he’s run a blinder,” said Fahey.
“He’s still a big baby in his mind and he’s still learning. James had to switch his legs coming down the straight and in another four strides he would have won.
“At least he’s progressing the right way and we feel he’s improved a lot. Things are going to get better and better for him.”
Meanwhile Michael Bell is confident Big Orange will put up a staunch defence of his crown in today’s Qatar Goodwood Cup.
Just as he did 12 months ago, the five-year-old heads for the Sussex Downs off the back of a front-running victory in the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket.
He was even more impressive three weeks ago than he was last season and Bell feels his imposing gelding - who ran an excellent race to finish fifth in the Melbourne Cup last November - is improving with age.
“Visually it was a career-best at Newmarket last time and the handicapper agrees - he’s on a career-high mark now of 117,” said the Newmarket handler.
“You could argue he should be a little bit higher on some form lines. It was a good effort and he certainly does not look to have gone backwards. He didn’t lose much weight and obviously there was no travelling involved. It makes it much easier when you are playing at home.
“We are the highest-rated in the race and he deserves to be favourite provided the rain stays away. He’s very effective on fast ground. The bigger the horse, the longer they take to fill their frame, just like a human. He will probably be at his optimum physically as a six or seven-year-old, but then it’s a question of whether the engine is as good.”