THEY said it would be a one-horse race. They were wrong.
They thought the withdrawal of Aidan O’Brien’s champion three-year-old miler Gleneages two days ago would leave Solow to fly solo in the Qatar Sussex Stakes, the £1m race of the week at the Qatar Goodwood Festival. But they reckoned without Arod.
This was no procession, like it was for Frankel when he became the first horse to defend the Sussex Stakes crown three years ago. Far from it. But even so, Solow showed what a special horse he is in a thrilling renewal of the track’s flagship event.
Solow justified 2/5 favouritism when fighting off 6/1 chance Arod to win by half a length. The Freddy Head-trained gelding was only the fifth ever winner of Goodwood’s most valuable event trained in France and clinched victory on his first ride at the course for jockey Maxime Guyon.
“He didn’t have the best of runs - he was always in the open and saw a bit of daylight - and he is getting a bit lazy with age too. He does exactly what he needs to,” said Head, who was also having his first winner at Goodwood.
“It wasn’t a very fast-run race and they kind of sprinted too, so there was no way that he could make any distances but he is a hell of a horse. He is kind and you can put him anywhere. He saw daylight all of the race - usually we like to have him covered a bit - but he was always well-balanced and never got into any trouble with the ups and downs.
“Maxime rides him very well - he is very confident and knows no stress - and he is a great rider for his young age. Maxime said that he was always confident that he was going to win but I wasn’t certain. The rest developed into a bit of sprint, they didn’t go a fast pace, so the winning distance was never going to be huge - that’s why he won by half a length
“I remember my father winning this race (in 1960 with Venture) very well. I was a kid then and I was following all of the horses in the stable. I remember Venture, he was a very good horse.
“I love coming to England and I like going abroad, to America for the big races. When you have a top-class horse, that is what you should do. You train for that.
“Solow’s next race will be in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot and the softer the better for him. I don’t think he’ll run before and he’ll have a well-deserved vacation afterwards
“This horse’s career really only started in August last year. He is by Singspiel out of a mare that won over two miles so I always assumed he wanted longer distances. I thought there was something wrong with him, he was working so well in the mornings, I decided to step him back in trip and the rest is history. Since then he’s won a Group Three, a Group Two and four Group Ones, he’s pretty special.”
Guyon added: “He is unbelievable, he has won four Group Ones this year, it’s crazy. It’s easy to ride him - he doesn’t pull and it’s very, very easy. Just after his turn of foot, when he takes the lead, he stops a little bit so that’s why I don’t win easy but win good.
“We didn’t go very fast but he is very relaxed and has a very a good turn of foot. If you have cover, you have cover but, if you don’t, you don’t. I waited a little bit with him. For the jockey, he is the best.
“In Dubai, he won very easy and before Ascot, we didn’t know if he would beat the horse from Hong Kong (Able Friend). After Ascot, all the world knows that Solow is the best over a mile. I think he is the best horse in my career.”
So it wasn’t the Solow-Gleneagles duel on the Downs that Goodwood wanted, but it was still a great showdown, albeit involving another challenger.
Arod, always a classy performer, produced the best effort of his career to finish a half-length second after a well-judged front-running ride by Andrea Atzeni. It was only in the last half-furlong that the winner overcame him, leaving his connections convinced that he would have won on fast ground.
The Teofilo colt runs for Qatar Racing Limited.
“Andrea is certain he’d have won on fast ground,” said Qatar Racing’s manager David Redvers. “The ground was just that bit dead for him. But it was a proper run.”
Arod, fourth in last year’s Derby, has blossomed since being dropped back in distance. His efforts this year have included a close third to Night Of Thunder (sixth today) in the Lockinge Stakes, followed by two confidence-boosting victories in a Group Three at Epsom and a Group Two at Ascot.
“I’ve never lost faith in him, not from day one,” said trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam. “But the faster the ground the better for him. You saw the way he quickened at Ascot but he just can’t do it on this dead ground, it just blunts his speed.
“He doesn’t have to run from the front, but today we knew if he was behind Solow he wouldn’t get past, so we had to take the race to him and take our chance.
“He has run a great race and done everything I asked him. He has got a lot more grown-up and is happier at home. He is really filling out and I think he will be still better as a five-year-old.”
An international campaign is planned for Arod, with the top mile races in France possibilities and a step up to 10 furlongs in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley in Australia in October on the longer-term list.
e is in the Prix Jacques le Marois but that is only two weeks away,” said Chapple-Hyam, “so I would say he will probably wait for the Moulin but it has to be somewhere with fast ground. The Breeders’ Cup is at Keeneland this year, but although he does go round a turn I think that would almost be too tight a track. He’s well-balanced but he is a long-striding horse.”
Gabrial defied odds of 50-1 to finish third.
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