YORK, ENGLAND // Silvestre de Sousa has taken the British turf season by storm this year, but the former Godolphin rider elevated his campaign to a whole new level when he guided Arabian Queen to a shock upset of Golden Horn in the Juddmonte International.
Connections of Golden Horn were expecting a showdown with Gleneagles, but heavy rain on Tuesday forced trainer Aidan O’Brien to scratch his dual Guineas winner prior to racing due to unsuitably soft ground.
If any of Golden Horn’s connections privately felt the absence of their main rival made things easier, they were mistaken because Arabian Queen fought off the fading challenge of Golden Horn and Frankie Dettori in the final 50 metres to prevail by a neck.
De Sousa has stoically and admirably picked up the pieces after his retainer as a Godolphin jockey ended in November, just eight months after he had partnered African Story to victory in the Dubai World Cup.
The Brazilian rider is now on course to win his first jockeys championship in England. Surprisingly, considering his association with Godolphin, this was his first ride in this four-day meeting’s feature race.
As De Sousa returned to the winners’ enclosure on board the only filly in the race, he was cheered raucously by the local crowd, who built a strong rapport with him during the days he rode for Mark Johnston in nearby Middleham before joining Godolphin.
“I never thought I would have won this race,” De Sousa said. “It means a lot and it is really my local track. It was an SDS special delivery.”
The Group 1 contest had been billed as the race of the season, and in many ways it delivered despite the bitter anti-climax provided by the withdrawal of Gleneagles.
It was the second time Gleneagles had been taken out of a race on account of the going in as many months. He also was pulled out of the Sussex Stakes, won by Dubai Turf hero Solow at Glorious Goodwood.
The dual Guineas winner is entered in the Irish Champion Stakes on September 12 and the Champion Stakes at Ascot on October 17. Both of those races could be staged on going on the easy side of good, which would leave only a trip to the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland at the end of October as the only other option bar retirement.
Golden Horn is also on a mission to find better going as summer turns to autumn.
Golden Horn was scratched due to soft ground at Ascot last month, when trainer John Gosden made an 11th-hour decision to take his Derby winner out of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
This time Gosden took a chance, but his stable flag-bearer suffered the first defeat of his career on his first start since he won the Eclipse Stakes at the beginning of July.
“Golden Horn was too fresh and keen and he did too much, too early,” Gosden said. “Frankie found it hard to settle him for the first six furlongs and he gassed himself out.
“He got in front, but I think we know now he’s definitely better on faster ground and the filly just outstayed him.
“It was a real pity it rained and a real pity Gleneagles didn’t run.
“You could see he was throwing his head about, and he simply burnt too much petrol.”
One horse who does not seem to ever run out of petrol is Storm The Stars, Sheikh Juma bin Dalmook’s colt, who powered to a gutsy victory in the Great Voltigeur Stakes 35 minutes earlier.
Storm The Stars had to endure a stewards’ inquiry after he wandered all around the Knavesmire under Pat Cosgrave, but when he was put under pressure by Joseph O’Brien and Bondi Beach he kept finding more to win by half a length.
Storm The Stars will now head to Doncaster in three weeks for the St Leger, the final Classic of the season, where he will once again face off against Bondi Beach.
It was a third victory in what has been a busy season for Storm The Stars, who has now run eight times.
“Whatever happens in the Leger, he’s had a fantastic year,” trainer William Haggas said. “He’s done us proud and I think there’s every chance he will stay in training next season. Put it this way, I’ll be putting a padlock on the door.”
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