Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 18 February 2018

Markab sprints to glory

Ray Gilpin

Markab's rags-to-riches story continued when he raced to a decisive success in record time to land the Group One Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock.

Trained by Henry Candy, he was drawn 14 and with the field splitting into two groups Pat Cosgrave soon had him at the head of affairs on the stands side.

A 12/1 chance, he made all the running and stayed on well in the closing stages, despite drifting left, to hold the challenge of Lady Of The Desert, first home of the far side group, by one-and-a-quarter lengths.

Genki, who also raced on the far side, took third place, a further length adrift, with the favourite Starspangledbanner, who had led that group until the two-furlong marker, only fifth.

Markab's first success was gained at Maisons-Laffitte in March 2006 when trained by Freddie Head and his first win in Britain came in a £4,200 to-the-winner handicap at Kempton two years later. This was his seventh victory in all in Britain, and Candy said: "He is a very happy horse now and he is turned out every day -- he started off here [in Britain] in a seven-furlong handicap rated about 80.

"He has now won a Group One and it is incredible how some horses improve. I don't think he had quite got over his race at Ascot when he ran at Newbury last time, I thought he had but he hadn't. I didn't know which would be the best side to be but he was drawn this side so Pat made the most of getting the stands rails and I could not be more pleased.

"If he is all right he will go for the Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp, but if he proves to be a bit jointy after this he will have earned a break until next season."

Cosgrave was gaining his second Group One success, ironically the first having come on Borderlescott, who finished eighth today, in the Nunthorpe Stakes two years ago. "He had got jarred up at Ascot, but quick ground suits him and Henry had done a great job to get him back for today's race," he said. Martin Dwyer said of his mount Lady Of The Desert: "She has run a great race, I thought I was going to get the winner at one stage. She has proved to me she is a six-furlong filly and she has beat a lot of good older horses -- I don't know what Brian [Meehan] will do with her now."

Aidan O'Brien, whose Starspangledbanner finished fifth, said: "He is only flesh and blood and he had a season before he came to us. He had a tough race at York and he didn't have much time in between so we didn't really know how well he was. We didn't have time to do anything with him

"The [York] race has left a little bit of a mark on him. Looking at him today he was a bit tired. We will freshen him up and let him come back to his best. If the ground had been slow at Haydock we would have had an easy decision -- he wouldn't have been there. We let him take his chance and it wasn't the right thing to do in hindsight.

"He'll come back ."

Sunday Independent

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