WILLIAM Buick’s verdict was succinct after The Fugue hit the highest note of all for composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber and his wife Madeleine in the Group One Darley Yorkshire Oaks.
Second in this race 12 months ago, and denied deserved victories in the Epsom Oaks and Breeders’ Cup after enjoying absolutely no luck in running, the winning jockey said emphatically: “She’s the best middle distance filly around. End of story.”
It was some script – Buick nearly missed his fifth Grade One win of another stellar season when he was caught up in traffic on the A1 and had to commandeer a helicopter – while the Prix de l’Arc Triomphe, and a return to the USA for the Breeders’ Cup, were muted as possible end of season targets for this fast ground specialist.
This £354,250 race was run at a hot tempo from the off; Jim Bolger’s Scintillula putting at least 15 lengths between the seven runners on another scorching Ladies’ Day on York’s packed Knavesmire.
Venus de Milo, from the all-conquering Aidan O’Brien yard, was the pacesetter’s closest pursuer, but Buick – a Northern Racing College graduate – was always oozing confidence on the John Gosden-trained The Fugue, who came to prominence when winning the Musidora Stakes on the same track in May last year and won stylishly by four lengths here. While his six rivals were hard at work in the home straight, the likable rider was almost motionless in the saddle before he asked The Fugue to win her race.
When he did in the vicinity of the two furlong pole, the answer was instantaneous and electrifying – two traits absent when the four-year-old ran a lifeless race in the Coral-Eclipse on her last outing and was last of seven behind subsequent Juddmonte International third Al Kazeem.
“I could feel she was going to do it from a far way out,” said an ecstatic Buick. “When you ask her, she is instant. She’s electric. She’s awesome from a jockey’s point of view. There’s nothing quite like it. I love her.”
Buick, who ventured in yesterday’s Yorkshire Post that The Fugue was back on song, embraced his equine heroine as he returned to the winner’s enclosure where he was greeted by the composer’s wife Lady Lloyd-Webber, a former top-class equestrian who bred this champion at her Watership Down Stud near Newbury.
“I would like to have ridden her,” joked Lady Lloyd-Webber as she was hugged by the winning trainer’s wife Rachel Hood.
She nearly did. Buick was among several jockeys who came to a shuddering halt on the A1 near Bawtry after a serious accident. While his driver remained with his car, he arranged for a pilot to land a small helicopter at a nearby hotel and fly him to York. It was a profitable day for the pilot who also rescued Ryan Moore from the same predicament.
Though Buick missed one ride, he was pitch-perfect by the time he mounted The Fugue, a near black horse more physically imposing than 12 months ago when outbattled by the classy French raider Shareta.
It also continued the jockey’s remarkable association with Gosden and the Lloyd-Webber family; his very first ride for them was a winning one when Dar Re Mi won connections £1.8m when landing the Dubai Sheema Classic in March 2010.
Significantly Lloyd-Webber was absent on that occasion and he missed yesterday’s race; he’s in Majorca finishing his latest West End musical ‘Stephen Ward’ which revolves around the Profumo scandal and the swinging 60s.
“Perhaps I’ll have to ban him,” said Lady Lloyd-Webber. “If William had not turned up, Rachel and myself might have tossed for the ride. There are two reasons she lost this race last year – a thunderstorm and half an inch of rain falling while she was running. Who cares now?
“Watership Down is a commercial stud and Dar Re Mi is in foal to Frankel ,but The Fugue will not be sold – and she won’t be back at the stud for some time.”
That will be music to the ears of Buick and Gosden, who says fast ground will determine The Fugue’s future targets after one of the most impressive Yorkshire Oaks performances in years.
“Due to the way the weather was in the spring it took her a long time to come to herself,” he said. “I thought she would trouble the colts in the Eclipse and I was devastated afterwards. She was very ill for 10 days.”
It has been some story, one worthy of a West End production now the stage is being set for even greater success with this fabulous filly, her champion trainer and a brilliant young rider. It is some cast.