Visually, this was the most impressive performance by a two-year-old colt this year in Britain and there is every chance the horse can replicate the success of Atzeni’s 2013 Town Moor winner Kingston Hill, who finished second in the Epsom Derby before winning the Ladbrokes St Leger.
It was also Atzeni’s first win at the highest level since teaming up with Qatar Racing – and a breakthrough victory at the highest level in the UK for the ambitious Sheikh Fahad, who flew into Doncaster by private helicopter to witness the success.
Ladbrokes chief Mike Dillon said Elm Park is a 20-1 chance for the Derby and 16-1 for the St Leger.
With just eight runners, Atzeni decided to set the pace on his own terms and Elm Park pulled clear remorselessly when Aloft, William Buick’s first ride for Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O’Brien, briefly threatened.
The winning jockey even had time to ease down and acknowledge the crowd’s cheers before passing the post. It was a proverbial walk in the park – the winning margin was two-and- three-quarter lengths and Atzeni likened the race to a routine “piece of work” on the gallops.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “It’s great to get a Group One for the boss, even though I don’t officially start work until the New Year. The pressure is off. He’s very straightforward. He travelled nicely and I kept it simple, really. He’s a beautiful mover and he’s got a great attitude. He can only get better with age.”
Elm Park’s trainer Andrew Balding missed the race – he is in Australia where Side Glance was fourth in the Cox Plate – but his father Ian, who trained legendary 1971 Epsom Derby winner Mill Reef, was present and his exchanges with Sheikh Fahad were revealing as one of racing’s aristocrats came face to face with one of the Middle East money men investing heavily in the sport.
“I haven’t seen a horse go through the ground like that in my relatively new time in racing, he just glides through it. I think logically that the Derby is the target,” said the Sheikh.
“He didn’t handle the dip at Newmarket in the Royal Lodge,” said Balding senior as he pondered Epsom’s roller-coaster-like undulations and the contrast with Doncaster’s flat terrain.
“It’s your job to teach him!” replied the Sheikh.
Balding will. Five generations of Elm Park’s equine family have passed through his family’s historic Kingsclere stables in Berkshire and the horse was owned by a syndicate – including BBC rugby union correspondent Ian Robertson – until Qatar Racing bought a major share this year.
The Qataris assume full ownership next season, but that did not stop syndicate members embracing Sheikh Fahad and Balding senior making this comparison to his horse of a lifetime: “He’s got the right temperament this horse, which is so important.
“Mill Reef had it, of course, in spades. He had a wonderful temperament. This fella certainly has it as well. Andrew does this job better than I do, so I won’t be telling him how to go about next year.”
Balding was completing a double after Dungannon prevailed at this meeting for a second successive season thanks to a fine ride by champion apprentice Oisin Murphy, who was recording his 74th and final winner of the campaign.
Murphy, who has become Qatar Racing’s second jockey, flies out to Dubai tomorrow – and could fly on to Australia to ride Caravan Rolls On in the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday week if the horse makes the cut for his new employers.
The teenager said that the highlight was winning a Group race at Haydock on Kevin Ryan’s Hot Streak.
“The trainer says the horse will be even better as a four-year-old. You can take his word for it,” said Murphy. “I’d have liked to beat Paul Hanagan’s total of 82 when he was champion apprentice, but I’ve had a lot of seconds lately which has been frustrating.”
The Doncaster undercard saw Malton trainer Richard Fahey record a 6,074-1 four-timer courtesy of Withernsea, Tachophobia, Alquimia and Latenightrequest.
The first three named horses were ridden by 18-year-old Jack Garritty – his first career treble – while the latter was a slightly unexpected win for former champion jockey Paul Hanagan.
Top Notch Tonto, owned by Swanland businessman Keith Brown and trained at Malton by Brian Ellison, will not race again this season after finishing an agonisingly close second to the fast finishing Lulu The Zulu.
Great Habton trainer Tim Easterby’s Cheltenham Festival hero Hawk High returned to winning ways at Aintree under a canny Brian Hughes ride.
Mick Meagher, racing manager for owner Trevor Hemmings, said: “There is a race at Haydock he could go for in about three weeks.”