Outsider Sole Power grabs the prize in Nunthorpe

IRELAND'S amazing run of fortune in the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival came to an almost unbelievable climax yesterday when Sole Power, a 100-1 shot whose only previous successes had been on the all-weather in Dundalk, waltzed off with the spoils in the Group One Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes.

Irish raiders had taken the Juddmonte International and the Totesport Ebor Handicap itself but if they were going to take the last major race of the meeting then everyone knew it would be Starspangledbanner, the 6-4 favourite to win his third Group One contest of the summer for Ballydoyle.

Not even trainer Edward Lynam and jockey Wayne Lordan were convinced the three-year-old had the quality to challenge the best sprinters in Europe but they knew he was better than a 100-1 no-hoper.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The early pace injected by Rose Blossom seemed to surprise Johnny Murtagh on Starspangledbanner but Borderlescott, the pride of Yorkshire seeking to win the great race for a third time, was quickly out of the stalls and gave his many supporters a fleeting hope of success.

But once Sole Power, racing up the centre of the course, hit his stride the contest was over, although Starspangledbanner did come through on the stand rail with a late burst which earned him second place with Borderlescott far from disgraced in sixth place.

Lynam said: "We were hopeful but we didn't think he would win; if he had finished fourth we would have been pleased.

"He is immature but we thought this race would suit him as he can be very keen and he needs a big field to get him to settle. They go too slow for him in the sprints in Ireland but he broke the track record at Dundalk."

Lordan, who had missed the winning ride in Wednesday's Ebor on Dirar due to his commitments with Tommy Stack, added: "I didn't think I had much of a chance – it's hard for a three-year-old against older horses – but they went very quick and he picked up.

"I hoped I'd finish somewhere in the middle but it has worked out much, much better than that."

So the Festival came to an anti-climatic end for all bar a small group from Ireland but there were plenty of memories to carry us through the long months before we return to Knavesmire for the next festival in May.

We will treasure the moments, good and not so good, which made this another Ebor meeting to savour, moments like the realisation that Jamie Spencer had ridden virtually the perfect race in producing Dirar at exactly the right time and in the perfect position to win the Ebor.

Spencer had appeared to be almost in dereliction of duty as he allowed the field to saunter away in the opening mile of the great handicap but he had confidence in the little five-year-old whose previous run on the Flat had brought success at Ayr for his adventurous young Irish trainer Gordon Elliott.

Sure enough, when the leaders approached the furlong pole, there was Spencer, calm as you like, ready to urge Dirar to his moment of glory; it was pure racing magic.

Not far behind Spencer's ride of the week in terms of professionalism came Aidan O'Brien's exemplary training feat in having Rip Van Winkle in perfect order to take the spoils in the best race of the meeting, the Juddmonte International.

"Rip" has chronic foot problems and has never been entirely predictable; plenty of patience – an under-rated quality for a trainer but one with which O'Brien is well endowed – is required to get him to the start ready to run to his vast potential and the use of lightweight, "stick-on" plates seems to have helped.

O'Brien and his team had him just right on Tuesday and Johnny Murtagh provided the finishing touch, producing Rip Van Winkle at the line to deny Prince Khalid Abdullah victory in the race his stud farm has so admirably supported for 22 years, his Byword and Twice Over finishing second and third in the Festival's best race.

Local hero of the week had to be Wootton Bassett, perhaps the best two-year-old in any Yorkshire yard this year and one who may fulfil the Group-race ambitions of his trainer Richard Fahey.

Wootton Bassett did not exactly follow the plan in winning the valuable DBS Premier Yearling Stakes on Thursday, Fahey having – understandably given the difference in prize money on offer – persuaded the owners to miss the Gimcrack in favour of the sales race.

Paul Hanagan was briefed to settle his charge before coming late on the scene; instead Wootton Bassett exploded from the stalls, found himself in front and simply ran the rest into the ground; it was a stunning performance.

Rather less impressive and certainly the major disappointment of the week was the favourite Sariska's refusal to race in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks.

Midday confirmed her status as one of the best fillies in training and she will take all the beating when she returns to the Breeders' Cup later this year.

We will never know whether Sariska would have beaten her on the day but instinct suggests Midday would have prevailed had the naughty girl consented to race.


1.45 Mount Athos (8-1 co fav): Overcame waywardness to record third win of year.

2.15 Rio De La Plata (7-1): Travelled strongly throughout under Frankie Dettori.

2.50 Yaa Wayl (5-1): Took lead over a furlong out and scored by half a length .

3.25 Sole Power (100-1): Supplied one of the biggest shocks of the season.

4.05 Moriarty (12-1): Winning spare ride for Johnny Murtagh.

4.40 Hawk Mountain (8-1): Some consolation for Thursday's villain, Jamie Spencer.