PAUL Hanagan and Richard Fahey have always believed in the ability of Sands Of Mali and their faith was rewarded with an all-the-way victory for the Yorkshire outsider in the Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot.
An unlucky loser in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, the three-year-old made all in a superbly-judged ride by Hanagan, who had his rivals in trouble a long way out.
Hanagan’s relief was plain to see after this victory aboard a colt owned by Scunthorpe United chairman Peter Swann and the Cool Silk Partnership – the former champion jockey clearly hopes the victory will silence those who had mistakenly doubted his riding.
The highly-rated Blue Angel was second while Kevin Ryan’s consistent Brando was fourth, but Hanagan’s initial reaction was one of gratitude for Malton-based Fahey’s enduring support throughout his career.
“I can’t put into words what it means to win for Richard. He’s never left my side and always been there for me, so I owe him a lot,” he said.
“I quite enjoyed that! We’ve always thought a lot of Sands Of Mali and today he showed everyone what we’ve always believed.
“I was never headed and I couldn’t believe how well I was going with two furlongs to go. I just loved the way he picked up again when Harry Angel came to challenge him. I did think he was a very big price as I knew he would handle the ground. We’ve been saying for a while how good we think he is, so we’re really chuffed.”
As for Fahey, the trainer added: “It’s been very frustrating – he just got nailed at the Royal Meeting and things went pear-shaped after that.
“He’s always worked like a nice horse at home, and today he’s proven that he is. He’s had a couple of goes at Group One races and today it’s come good so I’m delighted.”
The rest of the card was dominated by John Gosden, who was confirmed as champion trainer thanks to three high-profile successes.
Two came under an inspired Frankie Dettori, who won long distance honours with Stradivarius before Cracksman made a truly stunning defence of the Champion Stakes in his last run before being retired to stud.
The most thrilling of the top races was the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in which Gosden’s decision to drop Roaring Lion back in trip to a mile was vindicated.
Even though this year’s most dominant middle-distance horse hated the soft ground under Oisin Murphy, his class saw him win a three-way finish and the colt will also begin a career as a stallion after a possible swansong in the Breeders’ Cup in America.
The horse is owned by Sheikh Fahad, whose business empire, Qipco, sponsor the meeting. He, and his entourage, became quite excitable as they watched the race in the Royal box with the Queen.
Of the Yorkshire runners, Lord Glitters was sixth for David O’Meara while it was a race too many for Karl Burke’s Laurens, who was eighth – the filly had nothing left to give under PJ McDonald.
But this was Murphy’s day. “I am delighted to win on their horse on the biggest day of the year,” said the 23-year-old, who has enjoyed a career-defining season.
“I didn’t really get to enjoy the race because it was nip and tuck in the final furlong and my fellow had little petrol left, but he stuck at it.”