Mecca’s Angel proves just too strong for Acapulco at Nunthorpe Stakes

It was a huge effort, but ultimately not quite good enough as Acapulco went down fighting on the Knavesmire on Friday.

Mecca's Angel, centre, holds off Acapulco , left, to win the Nunthorpe Stakes at York. Alan Crowhurst / Getty Images
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It was a huge effort, but ultimately not quite good enough as Acapulco went down fighting on the Knavesmire on Friday.

The American filly ran in to the rising star of the European sprinting scene in Mecca’s Angel on her preferred surface.

Leading by two lengths inside the final 200 metres of the Nunthorpe Stakes under Irad Ortiz, Acapulco looked on the way to rewarding the race sponsors and owners Coolmore with a landmark victory.

Jockey Paul Mulrennan had other ideas, however, and, on rain-softened ground that suited his mount and blunted the speed and power of her rival, he galvanised Mecca’s Angel to hunt down and overhaul the favourite.

At the line there was two lengths between the fillies, with the three-year-old Mattmu the same distance behind in third. Al Quoz Sprint winner Sole Power showed his old dash by finishing fourth in pursuit of a third victory in the Group 1 sprint.

Wesley Ward has made his name in Britain by plundering prizes at Royal Ascot, but having had victory snatched from his grasp he swallowed the defeat graciously on his first visit to this northern outpost.

“Second is a little tough to swallow — it is like kissing your sister,” he said. “I am very proud of her. She made all the running.

“The ground was a little soft today. It is something that she is not quite used to. She would prefer firm ground, but we have no real excuses.”

Ever since Acapulco first arrived in Britain ahead of her win in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, her rippling muscles and huge frame have courted significant ­attention.

Such is her precocity that the two-year-old daughter of Scat Daddy cost $750,000 (Dh2.75m) in the spring at the Ocala sales in ­Florida.

Ward has described her this week as “monstrous” and previously as having the appearance of a four-year-old.

Questioned about her size afterwards, Ward went on the record.

“She always has been a big, tremendous filly since the first time I saw her,” he said.

“The British Horseracing Authority has done hair samples from way, way back and she is as clean as a whistle as far as any steroids are concerned.” Where Acapulco goes now is up to the Coolmore syndicate, but with her preference for firm ground and 1,000 metres she is unlikely to return to Europe in the autumn.

That suits the Mecca’s Angel team just fine.

Mecca’s Angel showed she was a sprinter of huge potential when she broke the track record at Longchamp in May, and a return to Paris looks likely with the Prix l’Abbaye de Longchamp on the first Sunday in October the ultimate target.

The Flying Five in Ireland on September 13 will be the next port of call.

The four-year-old filly missed the King’s Stand Stakes at Ascot because the going was deemed too quick for her and she then struggled to deal with good ground when beaten by Stepper Point in Ireland in July.

“This vindicated why we didn’t run her at Royal Ascot,” said David Metcalfe, the owner. “I know people were disappointed, but it’s proved today why we didn’t run her, she needs to get her toe in. It wouldn’t have been the same winning at Ascot, this beats it, she’s the best I’ve ever had.”