Ebor Festival, York day one

Wednesday 19 August, York

The clock never lies. An apparently dazzling performance by the Charlie Appleby-trained Ghaiyyath, ridden by William Buick in the blue Godolphin silks, to completely boss the Juddmonte International Stakes and prove far two good for some quality opponents, was confirmed by the time of the race.

Although conditions were more rain-softened for the five year old son of Dubawi, which was making it four wins in a row, than they were for either of the top-notch last two winners – Japan (2019) and Roaring Lion (2018) – his time of 2 minutes 7.38 seconds was quicker than either.

Through the race all-the-way winner Ghaiyyath showed a striking cruising speed and increased the momentum in the closing stages, to the extent that although Kameko (4th) and Lord North (3rd) look set to mount major challenges, they were easily seen off. Magical kept on for second but never looked like winning.

They join star-names Anthony Van Dyck, Stradivarius, Enable and Japan on the list of quality horses beaten by Ghaiyyath in 2020; the Arc in which he was tenth of twelve last autumn is obviously a possible target though sticking to a mile and quarter in the Champion Stakes at Ascot might be an attractive alternative.

Buick was again able to use his favourite line: “This horse can do things that other horses can’t do.”

I admit I was one of those that wasn’t at all sure about Ghaiyyath earlier in the year – he seemed to struggle to string together a meaningful sequence – but now he gains friends every time he races now, and is quite probably the best racehorse in the world at the moment.

It was a fine opening day of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival and although the winning performance in the International Stakes stands out, that of Pyledriver to add to his Royal Ascot success in the Sky Bet Great Volitigeur Stakes was outstanding too.

The colt, a known relisher of rain-softened going, was luckless when finishing down the field in the Derby but bounced back magnificently with jockey Martin Dwyer to beat Highland Chief and Mogul, the favourite, despite conceding three pounds in weight.

He was the horse that was unwanted at the sales so the breeders put him into training with William Muir – in contrast two of his opponents cost more than three-million.

It’s a great story for British racing – big-race owners that aren’t sheikhs and/or billionaires with a trainer and a veteran jockey who are not regulars in the limelight.

Muir is one of flat racing’s greatest characters, ever-enthusiastic, and he arrived at the races full of confidence.

“It was a big call to come where and give three pounds,” said Lambourn-based Muir. “I was really bullish last night and my wife [Jan] said to be careful [in case of disappointment], but I knew he was improving.”

I hope he goes for the St Leger in mid-September though the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp is an alternative at about the same time, and then there’s the Arc.

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