Persistence finally received its reward here on Wednesday as Lightning Spear and Oisín Murphy, who had been beaten in all 14 of their previous starts together in Group One events, burst through a gap a furlong out and seized control of the Sussex Stakes. After so many failures and one agonising near-miss this year, this was, at last, a race that went entirely to plan for one of the most consistent horses in training.
It unfolded just as Murphy thought that it would and for Lightning Spear’s jockey this was a moment to savour after their short-head defeat by Rhododendron in the Lockinge Stakes in May, when they traded at 1-9 in running on Betfair.
“We’ve had so many close encounters with this success and Group Ones are what Flat racing is all about,” said the jockey from Killarney. “I did a speed map and it worked exactly as I’d thought, except I thought we’d be in single file. I expected [the second-favourite] Expert Eye to take a tow and Beat The Bank to sit where he did [near the pace] so it worked out as I’d planned. Everything went right.
“I didn’t think I’d won [at Newbury], I said it to everyone, but no one likes to be second, especially right on the line. I just had to get over it, the next day was a new day and the last two months have been really good.
“I never, ever get nervous before Group Ones, before the Derby and that I like making fun of the other jockeys, but I was nervous today and down at the start I was trying to hide it. What a horse and what a training performance.”
As Murphy had suspected, there was little pace in the early stages and Andrea Atzeni, riding the previously unbeaten favourite, Without Parole, felt obliged to take up the running much further from home that he would have wanted. Without Parole was beaten well over a furlong out and while Expert Eye was still travelling smoothly at this stage he could not respond when Murphy quickened ahead on Lightning Spear.
David Simcock, who took over from Olly Stevens as Lightning Spear's trainer at the end of the 2015 season, was blinking back tears as the seven-year-old returned to the winner's enclosure.
“He looked good today and did everything properly,” said Simcock, whose wife, Jenny, rides Lightning Spear at exercise every morning.
“Oisín has grown up with the horse, he is a very confident jockey and he was very patient waiting for the gap. This year, if we are honest, there probably hasn’t been an outstanding horse in the mile division and so it has been his time. Eventually, you come across a year when things go your way and everything pans out perfectly.”
Sheikh Fahad al-Thani, who owns Lightning Spear via his Qatar Racing operation, was not here to see his long-awaited Group One win, but David Redvers, his racing manager, confirmed that the current season will be Lightning Spear's last on the track.
“He’s one of the best-looking horses in racing, he’s won a stallion-making race and he’s by [outstanding sire] Pivotal,” Redvers said. “Fair dues to the Simcocks and the boss, they were patient and it has paid off.”
Lightning Spear's 9-1 defeat of Without Parole and Expert Eye was a good result for the bookmakers and they had even more to celebrate when Feel Glorious, unplaced in two previous races, took the fillies' maiden at 125-1 for the trainer George Baker, who was celebrating his birthday.
“I thought she was a bit of a certainty,” Baker said, before conceding that a finish in mid-division would have left him delighted. “I can’t pretend I told all her owners to get on at 125-1, but it’s a fantastic win at our local track. What more could I ask for.” - Guardian service