London// The difference between success and failure in sport is almost always about the finer detail and Paul Hanagan hopes that the idiosyncrasies of Sandown Park can help Mukhadram overturn a previous narrow defeat to Al Kazeem in Saturday's Eclipse Stakes.
Hanagan appeared to judge the sectional times to perfection in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot last month as he looked to steal the Group 1 race from the front aboard Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid's four-year-old colt.
Mukhadram was a good three lengths clear with three furlongs to go before James Doyle, on Al Kazeem, became the first jockey to wise up to Hanagan's tactics and kicked home in pursuit.
Al Kazeem ran down Mukhadram to win by a neck, with The Fugue, who also challenges today as the only filly in the seven-runner line-up, almost four lengths back in third. Saeed Manana's Miblish, who was fifth, also runs Saturday.
The field is completed by Aidan O'Brien's Declaration Of War and Mars, as well as Pastorius, the German raider.
Hanagan is likely to employ similar tactics, but whichever way the former British champion jockey decides to ride his mount he feels that Sandown's steeper incline at the finish will make it harder to be scythed down so close to the winning line a second time.
"I could feel in the last half a furlong that my horse was wearing down and I had a pretty good idea of who was coming up to me and obviously it was James," Hanagan said. "As you can imagine I have watched that race again and again and quite honestly I don't think I could have done anything differently to have won that race.
"I felt Mukhadram rally and battle when James and Al Kazeem came up to us and I'm just really proud.
"Mukhadram is a very uncomplicated horse. People have said that I will make the running on him but absolutely I have options tactically. If something else goes a real gallop then I'll be happy to let them go."
Sheikh Hamdan has not won the 10-furlong race since Elmaamul struck for Willie Carson and Dick Hern, the trainer, in 1990 following on from Nashwan's success for the same connections the season before.
Hanagan has yet to register his first victory at the highest level for the Minister Of Finance and fully believes he can finally repay the faith entrusted in him.
"I've ridden several Group 2 and Group 3 winners for him. He doesn't put me under any pressure about it and I'm just trying to do my best," said the jockey.
Unfortunately for Hanagan, Doyle also feels that Sandown will aid Al Kazeem. Although the five-year-old bay displayed a good turn of foot at Ascot, he has the stamina to stay an extra two furlongs.
Sandown's long, uphill finishing straight can be punishing and the 25-year-old jockey was also confident he had the horse for the job.
"I think Sandown will suit my fellow; a longer straight and an uphill finish will suit him a bit better," said Doyle. "You can set him alight, put him to sleep, you can ride him wherever you want to. He'll switch off and relax which is a great help to me."
LITTLE MIKE READY TO RUN AGAIN
Little Mike makes his belated racecourse appearance in the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park, New Jersey, having overcome a minor injury sustained in the Dubai Duty Free at Meydan Racecourse in March.
The Breeders' Cup Turf winner came to Dubai with a huge reputation that was first dented with an eighth-place finish behind Hunter's Light in Round 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge.
Little Mike then added to the miserable record of American turf horses in Dubai when 11th to Godolphin's Sajjhaa.
It was a run which flabbergasted trainer Dale Romans, who won the 2005 Dubai World Cup with Roses In May, but it subsequently emerged that the six-year-old gelding had wrenched an ankle in the race.
"Fortunately the X-ray was clean and it took a week or so for him to get over it," Romans said. "When he arrived back in America he went to WinStar Farm for a fortnight and then resumed training.
"Sure it was a long way to go to run how he did, but Sheikh Mohammed [bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai] lays it all on so it didn't stink for us financially."
Little Mike faces seven rivals in the 11-furlong contest at a course where he has won twice before.
Romans sees the United Nations as a stepping stone for a defence of Little Mike's Arlington Million title next month in a build-up towards a repeat bid at the Breeders' Cup in Santa Anita in November.
Little Mike will be ridden by man of the moment Joel Rosario, the Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup-winning rider.
"Joel is top of the heap in America right now and I don't think anyone is riding any better," Romans said.
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