Gleneagles’ absence throws Golden Horn as Arabian Queen shocks racing world

a shellshocked Frankie Dettori blamed rain-softened ground for Epsom Derby hero Golden Horn’s surprise defeat to rank outsider Arabian Queen in the £850,000 Juddmonte International – the richest horse race ever to be staged at York.

Jockey Silvestre de Sousa celebrates with the trophy after riding Arabian Queen to victory in the Juddmonte International Stakes during day one of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival at York Racecourse.

He said his previously unbeaten champion colt was too keen in the early stages of a dramatic race and then could not accelerate out of testing ground to repel the 50-1 filly who was providing champion jockey-elect Silvestre de Sousa with his biggest win of 2015.

This was, arguably, the greatest upset in the rich history of the 10-furlong Juddmonte since the first renewal in 1972 when Roberto lowered the colours of the previously invincible Brigadier Gerard.

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With dual 2000 Guineas winner Gleneagles withdrawn from the race after prolonged rain turned the going to ‘good to soft’ for the opening day of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival, the race looked to be a formality for the John Gosden-trained Golden Horn.

Yet the deployment of a pacemaker by the Golden Horn team actually played into the hands of the winner who was given an easy lead into the home straight and who was never headed in a thrilling tussle.

A crestfallen Dettori said Golden Horn’s late withdrawal from the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot two-and-a-half weeks ago because of heavy ground was another factor in the shock defeat that simply had not been foreseen by the great and good of racing who had gathered at York to hail one of the modern greats.

“The horse was more keen than usual today,” said Dettori. “He was going to the King George and missed it so came here a bit fresh today. I was expending a lot of energy trying to hold him and he couldn’t use his turn of foot in that ground at the end.”

However, this should not detract from the significance of the result for winning connections. Owner Jeff Smith has previously enjoyed great days on the Knavesmire thanks to his iconic horses Persian Punch and Lochsong; an overcome trainer David Elsworth masterminded the career of the legendary steeplechaser Desert Orchid who lost the 1990 Cheltenham Gold Cup to a 100-1 outsider and Brazilian-born de Sousa now stands on the verge of his first jockeys’ championship.

Elsworth, one of the country’s most respected dual-purpose trainers, was so overcome with shock that he bolted to the car park to gain his composure – he last won the International in 1990 with the brilliant In The Groove while his last success at the highest level, National Hunt or Flat, was Absalom’s Lady win in the 1994 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.

Arabian Queen had not triumphed in three starts since a victory at the Epsom Derby meeting, but Elsworth never lost faith in his horse. “She’s a filly of the highest class. She’s tenacious and loves to battle,” he said. “If we hadn’t turned up today, they would be hailing the favourite as the best horse since Frankel. She’s certain to stay further, her dam (Barshiba) won over a mile and five furlongs. It took me three years to work out her best trip, but I worked this one out a bit quicker.”

As for Smith, he, too, was pleased that his judgment had been vindicated. “She’s a filly on an upward curve. I’ve been boring people with the basic observation that before this race, no one knew whether the three-year-old fillies were as good, better or whatever, than the three-year-old colts as they’d never met,” he said.

“We’re right up there with the fillies, improving, so why not run here? It’s tough to compare different horses. We’ve had Lochsong and Persian Punch win big races here. She’s bred for a mile-and-a-half so we are in the (British Champions) Fillies And Mares at Ascot, so that would probably be it for the year.

“Next year? Possibly the Arc.”

Ebor Festival: Page 18