GOODWOOD, ENGLAND // The Khalid Abdullah-owned Midday scraped home first in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes yesterday, fending off the challenge of the French raider Stacelita and Godolphin's Antara. Midday, who is trained by Henry Cecil, was bidding to become the third filly to secure back-to-back victories in the 1m2f contest and it all looked so easy three furlongs from home when the jockey Tom Queally eased out his mount and went for the line.
Midday's natural ability took her sailing past the tiring leader Barshiba, and she hit the front at the two-furlong pole. The Goodwood crowd began to applaud the four-year-old filly, as they looked forward to a repeat of her decisive, three-length victory over Rainbow View 12 months ago. Racing is rarely that easy, however. Now a year older and perhaps a little wiser, Midday suddenly began to idle in front.
Frankie Dettori, on Antara, scented blood, and with Christophe Soumillon aboard Stacelita, the two jockeys ranged up alongside Midday inside the final furlong. It is often said in sport that true champions can win in any manner, and Midday managed to summon up the required determination to put the race to bed by a length and a quarter. Stacelita won the battle for second, finishing a length ahead of Antara.
"She's just getting a bit lazy," said Cecil of Midday, having added a seventh Nassau triumph to his portfolio of 24 Classic victories. "She really wanted more of a pace and she therefore had to quicken up a lot, which doesn't suit her. She prefers to come gradually, and today she thought she had done enough when she hit the front. "She's a very good filly and I'm pleased for Prince Abdullah because he deserves everything that he wins."
Khalid Abdullah, who is a first cousin to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, also owns Workforce, the Epsom Derby winner, as well as Twice Over, whom Cecil trained to win the Coral Eclipse last month at Sandown. But it is Cecil's record with fillies that really stands tall, his CV including six 1,000 Guineas victories and nine Oaks. Cecil, 67, said patience is the secret to his success. "You've got to feel your way with them," he said. "You can't just say to them, 'Come to this race and run in it.' You've got to be patient."
Midday, who won the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita, in California, in November, will now go for the Darley Yorkshire Oaks on August 19 and, all being well there, another tilt at the Breeders' Cup, where Stacelita is also being aimed, is also on the cards. "It's fair to say that it is at the back of our minds," said Teddy Grimthorpe, Khalid Abdullah's racing manager. Saeed bin Suroor, the Godolphin trainer, was proud of Antara's run in third.
"There was a moment in the race when I thought she might close in on the winner," he said. "She ran a big race but she was just beaten by better fillies. She is a very solid filly and always tries hard. We will keep her at the same distance but there are no plans for her at the moment." Earlier in the day, Sea Lord, Friday's Golden Mile winner, was scratched from the Listed Thoroughbred Stakes due to being sore, but his absence paved the way for the first Khalid Abdullah winner of the afternoon when Critical Moment came from last to first under a well-judged ride by Michael Hills.
It was a close-run thing, though, because once Hills reached the front he had to battle off the fast-finishing Desert Myth, owned by Saeed Suhail and ridden by Ryan Moore. Godolphin's Long Lashes finished fourth. firstname.lastname@example.org