Sky’s the limit for Stoute after York triumph

Snow Sky ridden by Ryan Moore (left) beats Brown Panther ridden by Richard Kingscote to win The Betway Yorkshire Cup.
Snow Sky ridden by Ryan Moore (left) beats Brown Panther ridden by Richard Kingscote to win The Betway Yorkshire Cup.
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A TRIP to warmer climes for Australia’s world-famous Melbourne Cup could be on the horizon for Snow Sky after Sir Michael Stoute’s charge won a stirring Betway Yorkshire Cup on the final day of York’s Dante meeting.

The ‘race that stops the nation’ was floated as a possible target by Stoute after Snow Sky, a slightly unlucky third in last season’s Ladbrokes St Leger, outbattled former footballer Michael Owen’s veteran Brown Panther – the winner’s five pound penalty for winning a Group One race last season proved decisive in the closing stages.

On a day that will long be remembered for North Yorkshire trainer Mark Johnston’s fabulous four-timer, this was a first win at the meeting for Ryan Moore who won last year’s Melbourne Cup on Perfectionist and his input will be critical when Stoute, and owner Prince Khalid Abdullah’s racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe, weigh up the options.

In a typically pesky post-race interview, Stoute suggested Snow Sky could drop back in trip after this success over one-and-three-quarter miles before nominating Australia’s premier race.

Yet, on this evidence, two miles at Melbourne on good ground will not prove a hindrance after the four-year-old battled past the gutsy Brown Panther to take the spoils by half a length.

“He had to dig deep, Ryan said he was in front a bit soon and he just looked about a bit, but I’m thrilled,” said Stoute, who was winning the race for a second successive season following Gospel Choir’s success 12 months ago.

“I think a mile and six is his limit, and he’s a very effective horse over a mile-and-a-half,” he said.

“I think I’d like to finish up in Melbourne, I think it would be worth throwing a dart.”

As for Brown Panther’s team, trainer Tom Dascombe and the aforementioned Owen were thrilled with their Dubai Gold Cup winner who now remains on course for the Ascot Gold Cup next month over a stamina-sapping two and a half miles.

“We’re thrilled, the penalty has just cost him in the end. The winner won on merit, he was given a great ride and is trained by a great trainer so he’s lost nothing in defeat,” said Owen. “It’s the Ascot Gold Cup next.”

The thrilling finish to the Yorkshire Cup created a stirring atmosphere on the Knavesmire – top-class racing at York remains as beguiling as ever and the executive will be pleased with the positive feedback to the new weighing room and spectator facilities.

The one quibble is that the meeting’s signature races were not better supported; there were just five runners in the Musidora Stakes, seven went to post for the Dante while yesterday’s main race attracted six horses.

It is certainly not down to prize money – York continues to excel in this field – but perhaps the continued close proximity of so many major Flat festivals at this time of year needs to be revisited.

Meanwhile, Silvestre de Sousa, no longer retained by Godolphin, was the beneficiary of Joe Fanning’s injury misfortune by riding all four of Middleham-based Johnston’s winners.

First up was Delizia in the Langleys Solicitors EBF Marygate Fillies’ Stakes at York who could not have been more impressive. However, the juvenile’s owner, Lady Caroline Lonsdale, is reluctant to send the two-year-old to Royal Ascot. “I didn’t expect her to win in that style,” said a slightly surprised Johnston. “I immediately said, ‘Queen Mary’, but Lady Caroline said she didn’t want to go to Ascot as she doesn’t like having runners there.”

Johnston and De Sousa returned to the winner’s enclosure 30 minutes later when Notarised cut loose in the Betway Jorvik Stakes before Indescribable took the Ralph Raper Memorial.

The aptly-named Yorkidding’s win in the finale completed a day to remember, even more so because York has not always been the happiest hunting ground for Johnston horses.

Meanwhile, Sperry led home a John Gosden one-two when getting the better of Yasmeen in the Longines Irish Champions Weekend Fillies’ Stakes. “I got there a bit too soon really, but she was one of few who had run and won over a mile so I was keen to let her stamina come into it,” said winning jockey James Doyle who then nominated the Coronation Stakes or the Sandringham as Royal Ascot targets.

In many respects, this result was emblematic of the week after Gosden won Wednesday’s Musidora with Epsom Oaks contender Star Of Seville before Golden Horn beat Jack Hobbs in Thursday’s Betfred Dante Stakes that celebrated the 70th anniversary of Yorkshire’s last winner of the Derby.

However winning owner-breeder Anthony Oppenheimer is still to be convinced of the merits of supplementing Golden Horn in the Epsom Derby, even though the three-year-old is 2-1 favourite.

He has always maintained that the horse will not stay the one-and-a-half mile Epsom trip and that the shorter French Derby is a more realistic proposition.

He said: “I think we’ll just have to talk about it, see how he comes out of the race, sit down and think about it. One must never make a rash decision in the moment. We’ll just see how he is now and ask the experts what they feel.”

As for Golden Horn’s jockey William Buick, he has volunteered to pay the horse’s £75,000 entry fee for the Derby – provided that he can keep the ride in the celebrated Classic.

Saltburn jockey James Reveley partners Vieux Morvan in tomorrow’s Grand Steeplechase De Paris at Auteuil – French jump racing’s most prestigious race.