Image reproduced with the kind permission of Newmarket Racecourse
The Jeff Smith filly Dancing Star brought memories of Lochsong’s 1992 Stewards’ Cup victory flooding back as she landed this year’s Qatar Stewards’ Cup a shade cleverly at Goodwood this afternoon.
The annual cavalry charge down the Goodwood hill and straight took place with a field of 27 runners.
The field split into two with Red Pike and Ridge Ranger up with the early pace, tracked by Dancing Star on the far side, while Swift Approval and Hold Tight were also not far behind and led the stands side group.
Ridge Ranger had the overall lead at the two furlong pole with Red Pike, while Orion’s Bow came to challenge and Dancing Star and David Probert moved closer on the far rail.
With around a furlong and a half to race, Ridge Ranger came under pressure as Dancing Star joined her on the far side, while in behind Red Pike was keeping up the gallop still and Orion’s Bow continued to close.
Dancing Star was in front before the furlong marker as the long-time front pair faded and Orion’s Bow was left to give chase.
However, the three year old filly, the last horse to scrape into the race, found plenty for Probert and increased her advantage in the final furlong as Orion’s Bow’s sequence of victories came to a halt.
At the line Dancing Star was a shade over a length clear with Orion’s Bow narrowly holding on to second place from Raucous and Growl, with that trio virtually inseparable.
The Andrew Balding trained daughter of Aqlaam has done nothing but improve this year. She had won a valuable handicap at Newmarket’s July Festival just over three weeks ago and this victory took her tally to four victories from five starts in 2016.
Andrew’s father Ian had trained Lochsong to win this contest off a light weight, in those same Smith silks in 1992 and that filly went on to become a hugely popular Group 1 winning mare.
Dancing Star is from the same family, with her grand-dam, Lochangel, being a half-sister to Lochsong. She was always travelling kindly for her jockey, David Probert, and accelerated away from the field in the final furlong in the style of a very good horse, recording a one and a quarter length victory from runner-up Orion’s Bow.
As owner and breeder Smith explained after the race, Dancing Star’s victory was very much a family affair for his Littleton Stud operation.
“This is a grand-daughter of Lochangel, who is a half-sister to Lochsong,” said Smith. “Lochsong won this when she was four and I think she was the last filly to win the Stewards’ Cup, so we are keeping up a good family tradition.
Trainer Andrew Balding was delighted for Smith and was also very impressed with the winner’s performance.
“She has won it so well,” said the trainer. “We had a good draw but you have got to be impressed and she is a very special animal. I am feeling very blessed and very lucky not only to have a filly as good as her but also to get into the race. I think it was a little more luck than judgement there – we just crept in – and to get the draw, everything fell into place.
“Dave gave her a lovely ride and I am so thrilled for Jeff. He is such a good supporter and a great man to train for. I am delighted for the whole yard – the whole team deserve it.
“We have had a lot of the family. Her dam was quite good but had an awful habit of hanging and throwing her race away. She is a pretty good broodmare, so we are not disappointed now.
“She has improved a huge amount from two to three and has improved all year. The whole family have done it and she is a year ahead of Lochsong already.
“I can’t remember how long David has been with us, but he is older than he looks. He is a solid and very good jockey. He might not be the height of fashion but he doesn’t let me down very often, so I am delighted for him.”
‘Chances like this are rare and it’s great to get one’ was the gist of comments by a delighted jockey David Probert after he landed today’s £250,000 Qatar Stewards’ Cup on Dancing Star.
Probert produced the Andrew Balding-trained filly – who is owned and was bred by Jeff Smith – with a perfectly-timed run to beat Orion’s Bow by one and a quarter lengths, with Raucous a nose behind and Growl a head further back in fourth. It was a sharp contrast in fortune or Probert in comparison with day one of the Qatar Goodwood Festival, when he took a heavy fall on the way to post for the Weatherbys Private Bank Handicap.
He bounced back from that incident to ride a winner on Perfect Star, also trained by Balding, the following day, and today’s win was among the rider’s career highs.
The beaming jockey said: “She’s improved so much this year, run by run. She’s grown into such a nice filly, and I was so glad she crept into the race [at the bottom of the handicap].
“She had speed all around her which helped and she took me into the race so well. As a three-year-old against older horses she had a tough task, but she’s done it so well.
“I was praying to the gods on Thursday that she would get in, she got a good draw, and she’s shown us what she’s got. She’s a lovely filly in the making. Andrew thinks a lot of her, and she is now following in the footsteps of Lochsong [also owned and bred by Smith] so hopefully she can keep going forward and be a better filly next year.
“These sort of opportunities don’t come along often and to win such a prestigious handicap, and when it all comes right, is unbelievable. I’m grateful to Mr Smith for giving me that opportunity.”
Dandy Nicholls was pleased with the run of second-placed Orion’s Bow who finished a length and a quarter behind the winner Dancing Star in the Qatar Stewards’ Cup, Europe’s richest sprint handicap.
Orion’s Bow travelled well throughout the famous six-furlong handicap but was unable to repel the devastating run of Dancing Star, with Nicholls unable to celebrate his fourth Qatar Stewards’ Cup winner.
Nicholls said: “I’m really proud of him. He has done the owners and everybody proud. Barry [McHugh, jockey] has given him a marvellous ride. We have obviously been beaten by a very useful horse so we have no complaints at all.
“I thought we had won and then I see this thing [Dancing Star] appear! You would’ve liked to have won but that is life.”
Asked about the rapid improvement of his horse this year, in which he had won his lprevious five starts, said: “I wish I knew, I honestly don’t know. Confidence is a great thing in life and he has gained a lot of confidence throughout the season when he has been winning.
“You can see after that you wouldn’t even think he had been in a race and that means a hell of a lot with sprinters because they can get revved up and wound up and lose the race before the start.
“He’s got a very good young rider [Barry McHugh] riding him who is riding with a lot of confidence and that means ever so much and they get on really well together. Where we go is always tied into the handicappers’ hand and we understand that.”
Nicholls also looked inwardly at how he has evolved as a trainer. He commented: “I’ve learnt more. The calibre of animal is so important. You can’t win a Stewards’ Cup with a horse that has run in sellers. I’ve always strived to come down to Goodwood, York and Newmarket with my horses. Our yard is on the upgrade, we have new owners and new investors and everything is good.
“I never disbelieved our stable wasn’t a proper force. The owners wouldn’t even have thought of bringing Orion’s Bow down here unless we felt we had a proper chance. We had a live chance, I’ll go and congratulate Andrew Balding, he is a good trainer, he has a good horse but it might not beat us everyday.”
Harry Herbert, chairman of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, was delighted with the performance of the William Haggas-trained Raucous who came with a late rattle to finish third, a nose behind Orion’s Bow in second. Herbert remarked: “It was a fantastic effort from a three-year-old.
“It’s not easy and in many ways he lacks experience that those big powerful sprinters have got but he is improving rapidly this horse. We were delighted with him. We just missed out on second. We’ll see what we do now.”
The son of Dream Ahead’s future lies in Australia where he will continue his racing career for his four-year-old season and beyond. Herbert said: “He might have one more run in this country before he heads to Australia because he is part of something called the Melbourne Syndicate where horses start in Britain and race here and then head down to Australia for their four-year-old campaigns and stay down there permanently.
“He is a grand horse and William has trained him to perfection. He always said he would get better as he gets older and that is what we are seeing. Physically, he is so much stronger now and he will be very interesting down in Australia as he may stay bit further down there, even today, it looked as if he would get further. Jim [Crowley, jockey] was impressed with him and said for an inexperienced horse that he might just have got taken off his feet early on and then he has done all his best work at the end but it was a very good performance.”