Magazine article The Spectator

Star Quality

Magazine article The Spectator

Star Quality

Article excerpt

Keeping thin enough to star in your sixties comes hard, and the recently sadly deceased George Melly once inquired of Mick Jagger why the rock supremo's face was so lined. 'Laughter lines, ' replied the Rolling Stone. 'Nothing's that funny, ' replied Melly. But, facial creases or not, Mick Jagger still pulls in the millions because he has star quality. On the racing scene we have been yearning for a British sprinter with enough star quality to beat off the Australian challenge and at last our cravings were satisfied when Sakhee's Secret took the six-furlong Newmarket July Cup last Friday, resisting the late challenge from the 2,000 Guineas second Dutch Art in Europe's richest sprint race.

British-owned and bred by the experienced Bridget Swire, British-trained by Hughie Morrison and even steered home by the British jockey Stephen Drowne, it was a sweet home victory after all the celebrated sprint successes in recent years by the likes of Choisir, Takeover Target and Miss Andretti from Down Under. We now have our own equine Lewis Hamilton.

It was an extraordinary success. Sakhee's Secret is only a three-year-old and he was not only tackling a Group One race for the first time, he was also running in his first Group race of any kind against horses who had amassed 28 Group victories between them. Not surprisingly with £375,000 on offer there were challengers from Germany, France and Ireland.

'Financial Advice' said the logo on Steve Drowne's breeches, and having admired Sakhee's Secret's powerful muscularity in the paddock I should have taken it. ('Looks like a four-year-old at least, ' said my scrawl in the programme) but I had committed ante-post to the Irish raider Dandy Man, who led much of the way and ran his usual good race to finish fifth.

Sakhee's Secret had won all his three previous races this season. But nobody could be sure quite how good he was. Sprinting at the top level is a rough-and-tumble game for hardened horses who have nearly all been there, done it and got the embroidered travelling rug. Jockey Steve Drowne said afterwards, 'He's short of experience. He's never been off the bridle at home, there's nothing else fast enough. But after we made the mistake of trying him over seven furlongs last year at Ascot he's been trained as a sprinter from the word go.

'In a Group One I thought there wouldn't be any problem settling him behind, they'd be going at such a pace, but after a hundred yards I had to get him covered because he might have run a bit free -- he's got so much speed. Once in behind he settled lovely. …

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