GOODWOOD // Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid's successful summer continued yesterday when his colt Finjaan accelerated to a final-furling victory in the first Group Two race of the Glorious Goodwood Festival, the Betfair Cup. It was also a moment to savour for the trainer Marcus Tregoning, who celebrated his first win since his virus-struck Lambourn yard reopened for business.
Tadhg O'Shea was given the Finjaan ride when Sheikh Hamdan's jockey, Richard Hills, elected to ride the UAE owner's other horse, Ouqba, trained by his father, Barry Hills. There was disappointment for the Sir Michael Stoute-trained favourite, Main Aim, who set off smartly under Ryan Moore but couldn't sustain his pace, finishing last, and Mike de Kock's JJ The Jet Plane, who was seventh and second last after stepping down in class and up in distance.
Ouqba, who was sixth, never seemed to settle while, conversely, Balthazaar's Gift, the runner-up, seemed to find more pace as the race progressed, finishing very strongly under Adam Kirby for trainer Clive Cox and owner Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa. Dandy Nicholls's Regal Parade was third. O'Shea, who rides in Dubai during the winter, said he had always known he was on a good horse. "I knew he had class," he said. "I'd ridden him in the 2,000 Guineas and I knew he was good. I had him handy and he was racing well so I was confident he'd go when I asked him. I'm pleased for myself but to be honest I'm more pleased for Marcus, who's had such a frustrating season."
Stoute may have missed out on the Betfair Cup but the magic touch he displayed at Ascot on Saturday when Conduit led home his historic 1-2-3 in the King George VI and Queen Stakes did not desert him. His aptly-named colt, Harbinger, won the Group Three Betfair Gordon Stakes yesterday - a popular St Leger trial and the race that Conduit won in 2008. Ridden by Moore, Harbinger was convincing when the field finally made a break for the line in what proved to be a slowly run, muddled mile and a half.
He led home Firebet, who, despite sporting the design of a lucky shamrock on his quarters, could not catch the son of Dansili. The former Godolphin charge, Urban Poet, racing for Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed and trained by Mark Johnston, was third but needed a faster pace. Johnston was not happy. "That was a mess and it staggers me that you can have top jockeys being silly at the early race, going at a canter. They should have got on with the job."
Harbinger's achievement in Group Three company was impressive considering he suffered a muscle injury after his maiden May win and had not run since. "We got him here as soon as we can," said Stoute. "He's not really tuned and there's improvement in him yet. He's lazy at home but he's a lovely horse and I loved the way he travelled." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org