Sunday 18 March 2018

Sussex thriller ends in Solow mission

Solow, ridden by jockey Maxime Guyon, on his way to winning the Sussex Stakes
Solow, ridden by jockey Maxime Guyon, on his way to winning the Sussex Stakes

Marcus Armytage

Solow may not quite have won yesterday's Sussex Stakes in the style of a 2/5 shot, but Freddy Head's grey gelding still beat the front-running Arod with a degree of authority after the race turned into a sprint.

It was Solow's fourth Group One success on the bounce this season, and he has unquestionably established himself as the best older miler in the world. While the margin of victory has decreased with each win, his trainer was inclined to put that down to the grey getting older, wiser and, perhaps, a little lazier. "At his age he is starting to know this business," Head said.

In the absence of top three-year-old miler Gleneagles, Arod - last year's Derby fourth - proved a worthy opponent and Peter Chapple-Hyam's colt did not go down without a fight in what turned out to be a decent renewal of the feature.

But Maxime Guyon, who took over from Olivier Peslier as first jockey to the Wertheimers, rode a superb race. He sat in second on Solow and kept the leader on a tight leash, never letting him build on his advantage and he was always ready to kick when Arod did.

For a brief moment, though, when Solow went past a furlong and a half from the finish, it looked as racegoers were in for a thriller as it seemed Arod might stage a comeback, but inside the last 100 yards the winner was always holding him and went on to score by a comfortable half-length.

Said Guyon: "We knew Arod would go in front. I wanted to take a good start just behind the leader. Even though I had no cover, Solow settles well. He's the best I've ridden. I felt he was always in control."

Head added: "My father won this race in 1960 with Venture. I was a boy then so it brings back many happy memories. It is always a bit special winning with a horse which is so good - and a bit more tense. He had problems at three, which is why we gelded him and his career never really started until last August.

"The plan is for him to have a vacation and then the QEII (at Ascot on October 17). The softer the ground the better for him. No horse is unbeatable and for a moment I thought the other horse might be tougher. One day it's going to stop, but let it go on for as long as possible."

Highland Reel, the French Derby runner-up but a flop in the Irish equivalent, redeemed himself in the Gordon Stakes for Aidan and Joseph O'Brien, beating Scottish by a length and a half.

For a while O'Brien Jnr was pinned behind Scottish by Atzeni on the third, Disegno, but Highland Reel had too much class and got out with time to spare as it happened. "It got a bit tough for a minute for him," the trainer said.

"We weren't sure he'd stay. Joseph felt he was not stopping, I thought he was a bit on empty so what you look at and what you feel are sometimes two different things. If he is to go for the St Leger it will be without another run but it is a little bit up in the air."

Having triumphed in the Vintage with Galileo Gold on Tuesday, it looked as if Sheikh Joaan would win the Fairmont Molecomb Stakes with King Of Rooks, but he had no answers for Tom Dascombe's Kachy.

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