EVEN though York’s four signature races eluded local trainers after Nakeeta won a thrilling Ebor for Scotland, the grounds for optimism remain strong in the county.
Mark Johnston’s Threading and Tim Easterby’s Wells Farhh Go were among the potential stars of the future to emerge as genuine 2018 Classic prospects after winning Group races for juveniles before the under-estimated Sands Of Mali provided Malton trainer Richard Fahey with a long overdue first victory in the Gimcrack Stakes.
The colt, owned by Scunthorpe United chairman Peter Swann, stepped up considerably on his Nottingham success three weeks ago to land the historic Group Two prize.
Paul Hanagan was always handy on Sands Of Mali in this six-furlong test and maintained the gallop all the way to the line to hold off Invincible Army.
The fact that Hanagan’s hardest task was pulling up victor suggests Sands Of Mali will have no difficulty stepping up in trip when he matures over the winter.
“He’s a bit inexperienced, but he pinged the gates and showed a great cruising speed. He took some pulling up,” said the jockey. “I think this year is just a bonus with him, he’s only going to improve.”
As for Fahey, it was a welcome change of luck in the Gimcrack after previously fancied runners were beaten – multiple Group One winner Ribchester, victorious in Royal Ascot’s Queen Anne stakes this year, was only second in the corresponding contest two years ago.
Fahey said: “That’s brilliant, I’ve been second in it three times I think, even with Ribchester, so I’ve been desperate to tick it off my list.
“I couldn’t believe it when he got beat first time, but that’s racing. I know he was 14-1, but he didn’t know that, we’ve always really liked him. This is a big deal for us, I’m chuffed.”
He went on: “He’s in everything, like the Middle Park and what have you; it looks a big shout entering these horses when they’ve only won a maiden but you have to do it.”
The total attendance of just over 80,000 spectators at York’s four-day meeting – down on last year – did not do justice to a meeting that saw Sir Michael Stoute’s Ulysses win the Juddmonte International and the fantastic filly Enable turn the Yorkshire Oaks into a one-horse race under Frankie Dettori before the Italian was denied Nunthorpe Stakes glory by Marsha for the veteran trainer Sir Mark Prescott.
They were worthy champions before Nakeeta won the Ebor, Europe’s richest Flat handicap, for Scottish trainer Iain Jardine and apprentice jockey Callum Rodriguez.
The six-year-old just missed the cut for last year’s renewal when stablemate Shrewd finished second, but patience paid off as Nakeeta edged out the favourite Flymetothestars.
Jardine said: “He’s come close so many times he deserves this, I’m so glad he’s won one. He came from a different parish. He’s a hold-up horse and needs cover. When the favourite came at him, I knew he’d stay on strongly.
“He’s been unlucky in the past, but it all worked out. We were second in the Ebor last year with Shrewd. Nakeeta missed the cut last year and ran in the two-mile race at the meeting instead and was second. I’ve been training six or seven years now and it is days like (this) why we do it.”
Rodriguez is the fourth successive young rider to win the Ebor following Louis Steward (Mutual Regard), Litigant (Oisin Murphy) and Heartbreak City (Adam McNamara).
From Lancaster, he spent Thursday evening with his North Yorkshire-based jockey coach Phil Kinsella studying the form and watching previous runnings of the one-and-three-quarter- mile race. The homework, and hold-up tactics, paid off.
Rodriguez was recording the 41st winner of his burgeoning career. Number 42 came 90 minutes later when his mount Holmeswood dead-heated with the Ben Robinson-ridden Intense Romance in the finale. Both horses were trained by Darlington’s Michael Dods.
A delighted Rodriguez, who had recorded his first double at Thirsk earlier in the week, said after his Ebor triumph: “It’s unbelievable, it’s been a great year for me. I moved to Michael Dods in March and my career has gone from strength to strength.
“Mr Jardine has been a good supporter of mine and we’ve spent a lot of time with this horse over the last couple of months, going up on my Sundays off and riding out.
“We know he stays two miles and likes a strong pace to aim at, we thought the Ebor would suit him down to the ground.
“He’s better coming through horses; when he gets to the front he doesn’t do a lot and I still probably got there a bit too soon.”