x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Laa Rayb is unstoppable

Mark Johnston strengthened his bid for champion trainer at this year's Glorious Goodwood with a win in Friday's most valuable race.

GOODWOOD // Mark Johnston strengthened his bid for champion trainer at this year's Glorious Goodwood with a win in yesterday's most valuable race, the £150,000 (Dh915,421) Totesport Mile Heritage Handicap. Laa Rayb, the US-bred five-year-old, performed well in headgear for the first time, galloping to a convincing two-and-a-half length win for the jockey Jimmy Fortune, bringing Johnston's victories to four.

In a contest many thought would be dominated by runners in high stalls, Laa Rayb prevailed over his No 8 starting position to beat home runner-up, Jonjo O'Neil-trained Spectait under Jim Crowley and Docofthebay under Ryan Moore who performed out of his skin for trainer Jamie Osborne. His run was a consolation to Johnston who had three other badly-drawn horses, Lovelace, Crackdown and Dubai's Touch, in the contest.

"On paper each had a good chance," said Johnston. "We deserved one dream run from four badly-drawn horses." Godolphin followed up their win on Thursday with a second in the Group Two Richmond Stakes over six furlongs with Buzzword. Ridden by Frankie Dettori, the Pivotal colt appeared to get held up in traffic but once clear was sharp in pursuit of victorious Dick Turpin trained by Richard Hannon and ridden by Richard Hughes.

Earlier, William Knight's six-year-old Illustrious Blue, scored his sixth Goodwood win for in-form jockey, Crowley in the day's opening 1m 4f Group Three Coutts Glorious Stakes; his first course victory since May 2007. They pipped the Moore-ridden favourite, Warringah, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, drawn alongside, while Mick Channon's Halicarnassus was third under Tadhg O'Shea. "He's a dude of a horse," said Illustrious Blue's jockey, Crowley. "Everything went well - he was always going to get there."

Meanwhile, connections of two fillies in the 1m 1f Group One Bluesquare Nassau Stakes will this morning be praying for very different weather conditions. Barry Hills's yard will be doing a rain dance for Epsom Oaks third, High Heeled, who is only likely to run if there are significant showers, while Henry Cecil, who prepares Epsom Oaks second, Midday, is hoping Goodwood is not doused in further downpours.

With the going returning to good yesterday, there was, nevertheless, fear that overnight showers could create ground a little too sticky for Midday. She showed her dislike of soft going while labouring to a seven-and-a-half-length third in the Irish Oaks when the Curragh's track was termed 'tacky'. "The ground would be fine for her at this stage, but if it rained again we may not run her. Everything's going well at the moment," said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to the filly's owner, Saudi Arabia's, Khalid Abdullah.

stregoning@thenational.ae