Even though the colt was a full brother of the legendary Frankel, and had been trained by Lady Cecil’s husband Sir Henry before his death from cancer in June last year, Noble Mission never quite managed to scale racing’s great heights.
This all changed seven days ago when the five-year-old outfought Al Kazeem at Ascot courtesy of a power-packed James Doyle ride to win his third Grade One race of an unforgettable summer and provide Lady Cecil with the biggest win of her training career.
Lord Grimthorpe, who is owner Prince Khalid Abdullah’s racing manager and also the chairman of York Racecourse, told The Yorkshire Post that “the change of tactics came up at the beginning of the year”.
“Noble Mission had had one race at Newbury and was just touched off by Cubanita,” said Lord Grimthorpe.
“We then took him to Sandown for the Gordon Richards Stakes and the going was soft. It was a very small field including Telescope who was having his first run and had had a couple of minor setbacks. It was possible that Sir Michael Stoute’s horse would need the race. The main players were having their first start of the year.
“On that ground, and with the advantage of a run under his belt, we thought it would be better to try and set forcing tactics and make them catch us. That is what happened.
“We then pretty much repeated them at Chester and won the Huxley Stakes, although Sheikh Hamdan’s horse Ektihaam did take us on. Having been successful twice, you did not need to be Archimedes to work out that this was the best way to run the horse. It was a collective decision between the trainer, the jockey and myself. Prince Khalid also likes his horses to run prominently.”
The results speak for themselves. Noble Mission galloped away with the Group One Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh.
Though pipped on the line at the end of the mile-and-a-half Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in France, Noble Mission was later awarded the race following the disqualification of first past the post Spiritjim, who tested positive for a prohibited substance.
Second in a Group One race in Germany, the stamina-sapping conditions at Ascot last weekend for this 10-furlong test played to the strengths of Noble Mission. Before leaving the back straight, most of his rivals were in trouble and it was clear to see why Prince Khalid had secured Doyle’s services in preference to Frankel’s rider Tom Queally – this is a jockey who is only going to improve with more big race experience.
“It’s also a combination of Noble Mission maturing physically and mentally,” added Lord Grimthorpe at the end of a season which was also lit up by the electrifying performances of the recently retired Kingman, who won four Group One races.
“No decision has been made about the future. It will be Prince Khalid’s decision but Lady Cecil and the team have done very well at Warren Place.
“It’s justification of their faith in the horse and their endeavour.”