TRAINER Ger Lyons insists he “wouldn’t have a clue” as to whether ‘horse in a million’ Mustajeer has what it takes to claim the Melbourne Cup following his victory in the first £1m Sky Bet Ebor at York on Saturday.
Having finished fourth in the prestigious handicap last summer, the David Spratt-owned six-year-old was carefully prepared for a second shot at Ebor glory and ran out a decisive winner in the hands of Colin Keane.
Speaking on Racing TV’s Luck On Sunday programme, the leading Irish trainer said: “The plan for yesterday was set in motion when he finished fourth last summer. We thought, ‘they’re making this a £1m race, it would be rude of us not to go over and have a go at it’.
“Very seldom in our game does it work out. If you gave me fourth place money before the race, I’d have took your hand off – that’s not being pessimistic, it’s just realistic. To see him win as he did was just phenomenal. All the stars aligned and we won the first £1m Ebor.”
Mustajeer is now bound for pastures new, with owners Australian Bloodstock snapping him up with a view to a tilt at the Flemington showpiece on the first Tuesday in November.
Spratt retains a share and Kris Lees has been appointed as his new trainer.
Far from disappointed at the prospect of losing his charge, Lyons is proud of what he managed to achieve at York. “He heads down to Australia to some new owners. As I said to them yesterday, the pressure is on them – I’ve done my job,” said the trainer who did not even travel to Knavesmire for the race.
“I wouldn’t have a clue (if he can win a Melbourne Cup). Braver and bigger men than me have tried and failed, and better horses than this guy have tried and failed.
“I just think it’s the most expensive bumper in the world and you need a lot of luck. If our guy has the luck, good luck to him, but I won’t lose any sleep over it.
“He’s won an Ebor. The plan was the Ebor, the Caulfield Cup and the Melbourne Cup and, as I said to his new owners, if he collected any one of the three it’s job done.”
Keane and Mustajeer were always within striking distance from a prime draw in stall two, biding their time before taking over from Ben Vrackie and Frankie Dettori and going clear in the final furlong.
Red Galileo – given a fine ride by rising star Cieren Fallon – was the final challenger, staying on into second ahead of Desert Skyline, with Raymond Tusk fourth.
Meanwhile, Hamish looked a promising young stayer in the making as he won the right to run in next year’s Ebor with victory in the Sky Bet Melrose Handicap.
It was a popular winner – Hamish was bred by owner Brian Haggas, a proud Yorkshireman, and trained at Newmarket by his son William and daughter-in-law Maureen.
The trainer was at Goodwood, from where he said: “He was very brave and I thought he did well to win.
“He is bred to get that sort of distance. He did well, as I thought the ground might be a bit fast for him, but we got away with it.”
Hamish was ridden by James Doyle, who completed a double when Shine So Bright just denied John Dance’s six-time Group One Laurens, and set a new course-record time, in a thrilling renewal of the Sky Bet City of York Stakes on a sun-drenched Knavesmire.
Doyle, a late replacement for the injury-sidelined champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa, led throughout and held on by nose as Laurens, the Yorkshire horse of the year, edged ever closer.
It took a photo-finish to settle the two protagonists – conceding weight to the winner, and dropping back in trip to seven furlongs, both counted against Laurens, and her jockey PJ McDonald.
However, Leyburn-based trainer Karl Burke was phlegmatic in defeat, saying: “The better horse won on the day.”
Next month’s Matron Stakes at Leopardstown, which Laurens won last year, is the five-year-old’s next target. She will be retired at the end of this season for a career as a broodmare.
The win of Forest Of Dean confirmed Frankie Dettori and John Gosden, the jockey and trainer behind superstar horses Enable and Stradivarius, as the week’s leading jockey and trainer respectively.
And there was a second Ebor festival win of the week for locally-based rider Phil Dennis, a rising star of the weighing room, when Que Amoro took the finale for trainer Michael Dods.
North Yorkshire rider Joe Fanning, 48, became only the second current Flat jockey – alongside Frankie Dettori – to reach the 2,500-winner milestone when Universal Gleam prevailed at Redcar on Saturday night.
Fanning, who trails Dettori by almost 700 winners, has ridden more than half of his winners for Middleham’s Mark Johnston.