Rough Sussex – Smoother Nassau at Goodwood
This week saw the annual flat racing extravaganza of races over five days at Goodwood in Sussex. It is said by many, that the racecourse itself is scenically, one of the most beautiful in the UK. The Goodwood Festival, as this race meeting in July is known has three Group 1s among the list of races including the Goodwood Cup, about which we wrote a couple of days ago. The other two are also prestigious races, The Sussex Stakes over a mile and the Nassau Stakes for fillies, over 1 mile 2 furlongs.
Goodwood itself is an extraordinary course, over hill and into dale as it wraps itself around the undulations of the Sussex Downs. There are several parts to the course, all of which somehow manage to come together in the four furlong straight. Goodwood House is the seat of the Duke of Richmond and there has been racing at the course since 1802. Goodwood was the first racecourse ever to use an official starter for all races using a flag start system as with National Hunt racing.
The Sussex Stakes (Group 1) was first run as a two year old race in 1841, but in the early years always seemed to be short of runners. It stayed as a two year old contest for 37 years, and 25 of those years, the race was uncontested and there were fourteen years when only one runner was entered each year, so the result was a walk over. Since then, the race has been for 3 year olds and up run over 1 mile. The only horse ever to have won the race on more than one occasion was the great Frankel who won in 2011 and 2012. The most successful jockey to master the extraordinary course was Sir Gordon Richards, and he won the Sussex Stakes no less than eight times between 1928 to 1952. In 2015, The Sussex Stakes, along with the rest of the Glorious Goodwood meeting had a massive injection of sponsorship capital from Qatar which was to last for ten years. The meeting is now officially known as the Qatar Racing Festival.
This year there were seven runners including two Two Thousand Guineas winners from 2020; Siskin from Ireland, trained by Ger Lyons and Andrew Balding’s Newmarket version Kameko, the former starting as favourite. There were others of note who had shown that they are on particularly good form including Marcus Tregoning trained Mohaather, and the Aiden O’Brien trained Circus Maximus.
The race started to a clean break with Kameko and Circus Maximus taking the early lead. Into the straight, the race became a very messy affair with Frankie Dettori ridden Wichita keeping the on form Mohaather in on the rail. Finally, Wichita ran out of steam which allowed Mohaather to come though. He ran like a demon with Jim Crowley in the saddle to win by ¾ of a length from Circus Maximus with Siskin in third. Unusually, Mohaather was not the fanciest bred horse in the race. He is by Showcasing out of an Inchinor mare. The colt, who is not very big was brought as a yearling by Hamden Al Maktoum.
The fillies version, the Group 1 Nassau Stakes was first run in 1840, and like the Sussex Stakes has a rich history. More recently, the Nassau has become the main event for ‘Ladies Day’ when fashion and racing come together. It is a race which started life as a mile contest for 3 year old fillies only, but in 1900, the race was extended to be run over 1 ½ miles. Soon afterwards in 1911, the distance was changed again to 1 mile 2 furlongs and included the 3 years olds as before but also allowed older females to join in the fray. Since 1975, Henry Cecil made the race his own – he sent out Roussalka to win twice with Lester Piggott on board and Midday who won on three consecutive times. Sir Michael Stoute has also had several winners of the race with Islington, Russian Rhythm and Favourable Terms. The top jockeys since 1975 have been Kieran Fallon and Tom Queally, both who have won three times.
Last year the winner was Deidre, who was sent over from Japan, and she took her place in the race again this year. She was one of seven runners. Before the off, this race looked a very close contest with no less than five of the seven runner being tipped as victors. Fancy Blue from Donnacha O’Brien and his father’s Magic Wand were well thought of as well as Nazeef from John Gosden and Queen Power from Sir Michael Stoute. Deirdre was also thought to be able to retain her crown.
Frankie Dettori took Magic Wand into the lead from the start and Ryan Moore on Fancy Blue soon tracked him in this seven runner race with no obvious front runner. However, the race continued at a decent pace and once into the straight, Frankie kicked on, but clearly there was not a lot left in the tank for Magic Wand as Fancy Blue soon cruised past with Jessica Harrington’s, One Voice, (who was not particularly fancied before the off) coming with a late run to take second behind the dominant Fancy Blue. If there was an unlucky runner in this contest, it would have to be One Voice as she was rather hemmed in on the rail for longer than jockey Tom Marquand would have probably wanted. So Fancy Blue added to the successes of first season trainer Donnacha O’Brien with his first runner in the UK being a Group 1 victor. At only just 22 years of age, it would appear that there is another successful O’Brien trainer!!