FIRST FOR OXX AS ROCK MAKES AMENDS
As frustrating as he found watching the Ascot Gold Cup, John Oxx enjoyed his view of the Artemis Goodwood Cup. At Ascot, the Curragh-based trainer's charge Saddler's Rock finished a close third. Today, the four-year-old and rider Johnny Murtagh made up for any previous disappointment.
Saddler's Rock was Oxx's first winner at Goodwood, though from only a handful of runners. "This is a lovely race to be the first, with all the tradition and history around it," he said. The two-mile race was first run 200 years ago.
At Ascot, Saddler's Rock had been beaten only three-quarters of a length by Colour Vision, who was third today with Askar Tau intervening. "Nothing went right for us that day," said Oxx. "It wasn't just one thing, it was three or four. If it had only been one thing we might still have won.
"They went no pace; I've seen horses canter to post faster. But today there was a good even gallop and I was happy the whole way today. Maybe we were in front a bit soon but we were taking no chances."
Saddler's Rock, normally the most relaxed of individuals, pulled uncharacteristically hard in the Gold Cup. "They went a crawl from the start," said Murtagh, "no pace at all. He got very keen with me and just when I thought I'd got him settled something clipped me from behind and that lit him up again.
"I didn't get my hands down on him until a mile from home, he pulled for a mile and a half. Then when they quickened he was caught flat-footed. I was actually surprised how close he got, and all credit to him for that. But it was a day that was disappointing."
Today's race went all to plan. "It was very straightforward," added Murtagh. "I had the two in front [Electrolyser and Chiberta King] to give me a lead at a good pace. I hit the front two out and he stayed on well. If anything, he was idling in front and when I stood up after the post he kept going up the hill, so there was plenty left."
Murtagh won the Goodwood Cup on the great stayer Yeats four years ago. "Yeats was special," said the rider, "but Saddler's Rock is getting there."
Saddler's Rock, from the last crop of the great stallion Sadler's Wells, has most of the autumn stayer's prizes pencilled in. "There's a good programme coming up," said Oxx. "There are races like the Lonsdale Stakes, the Doncaster Cup, the Prix du Cadran and the stayers' race at Ascot on Champions Day, though he wouldn't be running in them all.
"Faster ground is good for him, though he's beginning to handle softer a bit better as he gets older. He's just an ideal Cup horse, he has a great temperament and doesn't take much out of himself, then one crack from Johnny and off he goes."
TREGONING THRILLED WITH ASKAR TAU
Askar Tau bounced right back to his best when flashing home to take second behind Saddler's Rock in the Group Two Artemis Goodwood Cup, beaten a length. The seven-year-old developed into a high-class stayer in 2009 and finished fifth in this season's Gold Cup at Royal Ascot
His trainer Marcus Tregoning said: "It's frustrating because in a few more strides Askar Tau may have got to the winner and this trip is probably a bit short for him these days.
"It's a great run though and I am very pleased with him. He will head for all the big staying races now such as the Lonsdale Cup at York and the Doncaster Cup."
This year's Gold Cup winner Colour Vision, who was carrying a 4lb penalty, was beaten another three quarters of a length in third under Frankie Dettori.
Simon Crisford, racing manager to Colour Vision's owner Godolphin, said: "Frankie (Dettori) said Colour Vision didn't really handle the track but the horse tried his best and put up a good effort.
"Frankie (Dettori) felt between the five-furlong pole and three-furlong pole that the others just got away from him. Colour Vision didn't handle the track as well as we hoped he would.
"If he doesn't go to York, he will go to Doncaster but we will see."