Tuesday 27 September 2016

Fast-learner The Gurkha has myriad of options after Sussex thriller

Published 27/07/2016 | 19:06

The Gurkha (purple and white)
The Gurkha (purple and white)

If history is anything to go by more Group One glory looks a formality for The Gurkha after he joined an illustrious roll of honour to provide trainer Aidan O'Brien with a fifth success in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

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After finishing second in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, The Gurkha filled the same berth on his first try over a mile and a quarter on ground softer than ideal in the Eclipse at Sandown, a race the Ballydoyle handler, by his own admission, felt was a risk.

Having failed to catch English Guineas winner Galileo Gold at the Royal meeting there was to be no chance of that happening again as Ryan Moore placed his mount on the heels of the Hugo Palmer-trained runner who was sent straight to the front under Frankie Dettori.

With little change in the order for much of the mile contest it was not until the final furlong that matters began to really unfold, with Dettori attempting to kick on and claim a third Group One win of the campaign aboard the son of Paco Boy.

Although the move found out Irish Guineas hero Awtaad it failed to shake off the attentions of The Gurkha and impressive Jersey Stakes winner Ribchester, who after being forced to come wide for his run began to build a head of steam.

Having witnessed some epic battles in previous renewals racegoers were treated to another grandstand finish as Moore, having drawn his mount level with Galileo Gold, forged on through the tightest of paths close to the rail, turning the tables on his Ascot conqueror by a neck, with the fast-finishing Ribchester a further short head back in third.

O'Brien said: "He's very fast - he's all speed. Sandown (in the Eclipse), in soft ground, over a mile and a quarter up the hill just dragged him a bit, but Ryan gave him a masterful ride today.

"He's a very strong traveller, he handles fast ground very well and quickens very well.

"He's very courageous as well, which is why he ran as well as he did when we took him out of his comfort zone in Sandown.

"I think he'd go back and get a mile and get a mile and a quarter, but he's probably a miler.

"It has been tough on him. We were worried coming here after Sandown, but the lads said he was thriving. I was worried because he's had such a big career crammed into a short space of time.

"He didn't race last year, but he's danced every dance since.

"He has a lot of options. He has the mile races in France (Prix Jacques le Marois and Prix du Moulin), he has the Champion Stakes and he has York (Juddmonte International)."

An almost certain rematch between the first and second looks to be on the cards if Newmarket handler Palmer has his say on matters.

"There's nothing between them really and I think it shows this generation are considerably ahead of the generation before them. I dare say there's going to be more matches to savour.

"We talked about a pacemaker but we decided against it and in the end we acted as the pacemaker.

"It looked like he'd won, but I could see Ryan going so well behind us. I thought he was actually going to win better than he did, but it's a real tribute to the talent and guts of my horse that he stayed there to finish as good a second as he did.

"The four obvious races are the Jacques le Marois, which is quite soon, the Moulin, the QEII and the Breeders' Cup Mile."

A Group One triumph is also believed to be within the reach of Ribchester given the positive comments of Richard Fahey.

He said: "I was delighted with him. He's a horse with loads of pace and I just wish they'd gone a touch quicker on the day, but he's run a blinder.

"He's still a big baby in his mind and he's still learning. James (Doyle) had to switch his legs coming down the straight and in another four strides he would have won.

"At least he's progressing the right way and we feel he's improved a lot. Things are going to get better and better for him."

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