DUAL Nunthorpe winner Mecca’s Angel is on course to round off a stellar sprinting career by beating Europe’s top speedsters in the prestigious Prix de l’Abbaye in France.
The flying filly – hailed as the ‘Angel of the North’ – will be retired to stud at the end of this season and there is every likelihood that Sunday’s Group One race will be her racecourse finale.
With favourable dry ground at the Chantilly, which is hosting the world famous Arc meeting while the Parisian track of Longchamp is redeveloped, trainer Michael Dods could not be happier with his stable star’s preparations.
Based at Piercebridge close to the border between North Yorkshire and County Durham, Dods says the David Metcalfe-owned five-year-old has shown no ill-effects since joining the greats by winning back-to-back Nunthorpes at York’s Ebor festival under big race jockey Paul Mulrennan, who lives in Boroughbridge.
“She’s come out of it really well. Paul sat on her yesterday and is very pleased with her,” Dods told The Yorkshire Post last night. “It’s a tough race, but we are happy with her and she takes her chance – there is some serious opposition but so, too, was the Nunthorpe.
“I have never been to Chantilly, but they tell me it’s a flat track and not as much of a draw bias as there is at Longchamp. She will be retired to stud at the end of the season.
“She’s entered in the six-furlong sprint at Ascot on Champions Day next month, but we will just wait and see how she comes out of this race and make a decision afterwards.
“She’s our first Group One winner and she’s been a flagbearer for our yard for the last couple of years. She means everything to the yard and she has a massive following, not just in the North but the whole country.
“It also helps that Paul knows her so well. He’s ridden her from day one – he’s been on board for nine of her 10 career victories – and he gets on very well with her.
“He’s a top class jockey and we are fortunate to have one of the best riders in the North. He comes into the yard twice a week and sits on all the horses in the yard. He’s a key member of the team.”
Potential rivals include the enigmatic Take Cover from the Bawtry stables of David Griffiths.
A gallant third in the Nunthorpe, the veteran was then unplaced in Ireland’s Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes on unsuitably soft ground – conditions in Chantilly should suit the South Yorkshire challenger.
Meanwhile, the Roger Varian-trained Postponed, winner of York’s Juddmonte International at last month’s Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival, will face a maximum of 15 rivals in Sunday’s showpiece Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly on Sunday.
The Grey Gatsby, trained at Kevin Ryan at Hambleton, will bid to come the first Yorkshire winner of the race, though Frank Gillespie’s horse of a lifetime has not won since landing the Irish Champion Stakes two years ago.
Freddie Tylicki, the 2009 champion apprentice when attached to Malton trainer Richard Fahey’s yard, is due to partner the German challenger Savoir Vivre.
Ireland’s champion trainer Aidan O’Brien confirmed jockey bookings for his three runners last night – Ryan Moore rides Breeders’ Cup heroine Found, Seamie Heffernan is on Highland Reel while Frankie Dettori has an eyecatching spare ride on Ascot Gold Cup victor Order Of St George.
Davy Russell faces a lengthy ban after his victory on Little Folke at Clonmel yesterday was overturned by a stewards’ inquiry.
Ireland’s former champion jump jockey, who had a spell riding for former North Yorkshire trainer Ferdy Murphy, was given a three-day ban for improper riding, but was hit with an additional 14 days for his conduct to the officials.
The rider left the racecourse without taking up his final two mounts of the day, a move that was referred to the Turf Club for further investigation.
Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Don Cossack is set to resume full training next month following a tendon injury.
However, trainer Gordon Elliott says the nine-year-old, ridden to blue riband glory by Bryan Cooper, will be retired if there is a setback.
“He’s going into his sixth week on the roads and the scans have been very good. I saw him last Sunday week and the legs felt good,” said the County Meath trainer.
“When a horse gets a ligament injury it’s day by day, but it seems to be going good and it’s all systems go. We’re under no illusions. If he’s not 120 per cent right at this stage, we’ll retire him – we’ll do the best thing for the horse.”