GOODWOOD // The Epsom Oaks second, Midday, emerged from a murky Goodwood sea fret to take the prize in the Group One Blue Square Nassau Stakes yesterday in a scintillating performance that defied the soft going. Her trainer, Henry Cecil, who was close to withdrawing the filly because of the going, said afterwards he couldn't bear to watch the 1m 2f contest.
But Midday, who was a distant seven-and-a-half-lengths third behind Michael Bell's Sariska in soft going at Ireland's Curragh recently, proved her ability to handle England's soft conditions under Tom Queally, beating a quality field in which John Gosden's Rainbow View was a well-run second and Bell proved he has strength in depth with fillies with a third from Moneycantbuymelove. The first three were three-year-olds, and they triumphed against the older generation.
It's never a good sign when the race caller, announcing progress in running, says "you're guess is as good as mine" over the loudspeaker as the field disappears into thick fog, but runners were not visible to the stands for all but the final furlong and a half. The turf, "good" all week despite showers, succumbed to persistent soakings and was yesterday revised to "soft" by the course clerk, Seamus Buckley, brother to Abu Dhabi counterpart, Pat.
"She hates soft ground and I was thinking of pulling her today," said Cecil. "I couldn't bear to watch the race and I dreaded ringing [Midday's owner] Prince Khalid Abdullah and saying, 'sorry sir, I did the wrong thing'." Gosden was happy with Rainbow View's run in second. "That was a good solid run," he said. "She had no chance with the winner who was simply better." The going triggered a slew of withdrawals but also paved the way for wet weather specialists to shine.
Another who handled the going better than her trainer expected was Eastern Aria, who, carrying joint-top weight, romped home for a fifth victory in the Bluesquarepoker.com Handicap for the Midlands-based Scottish handler, Mark Johnston, and a second for jockey Greg Fairley. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed is her owner, but Johnston did not think the filly was likely to join Godolphin. "She doesn't fall into the category of horses that might go to Dubai or join Godolphin," said Johnston.
"She doesn't make the grade of a Godolphin horse but she continues to progress and might surprise me." "She's a gutsy little thing and will always try her hardest and do what you ask her," said her jockey. Ryan Moore, who was vying with Frankie Dettori for champion jockey of the meet, landed the Blue Square Premier Stakes with an all-out ride on Prince Khalid's Zacinto, trained by Sir Michael Stoute.