ASCOT, England // The yellow and black colours of Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum flew proudly across Ascot's racecourse yesterday as his horses secured three victories. Toolain and Soraaya found the winners' enclosure within 35 minutes of each other, while Sheikh Ahmed rounded off the day in style when Yashrid scored in the handicap that closed the card. For good measure, his Yaa Wayl finished a creditable fourth in the 22-runner International Stakes, won by Castles In The Air.
Under a well-judged ride from Phillip Robinson, Toolain won the seven-furlong Listed contest from Galtymore Lad, trained and owned by Mick Channon. "Even before he raced we knew he had a lot of ability," said the winning jockey. "He did it nicely today. I gave him one flick, as I thought he was idling. He seemed to resent it, so I showed him the whip for real after that. He is a really good mover and is going the right way."
If Channon was disappointed at Galtymore Lad's defeat, he did not dwell on the loss for long as he sent out Soraaya under Ryan Moore to score a cosy victory in the Group 3 Princess Margaret Abu Dhabi Stakes. Channon trains around a dozen horses for Sheikh Ahmed, and famously looked after his Bint Allayl, who was heavily fancied to win the 1999 1,000 Guineas before fatally injuring herself on the gallops.
Bint Allayl won the Group 2 Lowther Stakes in impressive style on her final racecourse start 12 years ago and that six-furlong contest at York on August 19 was pencilled in for Soraaya. "I would like to think we will keep her to six furlongs," said Channon. "The Lowther and then the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket would be the logical steps to take." The Moyglare Stud Stakes is raced over seven furlongs at the Curragh on August 29, and is seen as a traditional stepping stone to the 1,000 Guineas the following season. But Channon added: "The Guineas is all about how they get through the winter. There's a long way to go before then."
It was a rollercoaster afternoon for the former England footballer, however, because in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the feature race of the afternoon, his stable flag-bearer Youmzain could not land a blow and finished third behind Cape Blanco and 11-length winner, Harbinger. Richard Mullen set a fearsome pace aboard pacemaker Confront, which had Youmzain, and then the heavily fancied Workforce, off the bridle three furlongs from the finish. But big-race jockey Olivier Peslier sent Harbinger into the lead as the field lined up in the straight, and from there the pair sauntered clear to break the track record.
"We wanted a fast pace," said Bruce Raymond, the racing manager of Youmzain. "He was going well, but all of a sudden the winner flew, and that was it." Youmzain will now head to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, where he has finished runner-up for the past two years, and will once again do battle with Harbinger, who also has been booked for a date in Paris on the first weekend of October. @Email:email@example.com